Try These 35 Inexpensive Employee Appreciation Day Ideas

Posted February 25, 2019 by Justworks in Managing Your Team
Whether it’s Employee Appreciation Day or any other day you choose, taking a chance to reward your team for their hard work is always a good idea. Can you do it on a tight budget? Absolutely!

You work with one of the best teams around, and they work hard for you. But in the midst of all that hard work, it can be easy to forget to show recognition or appreciation.

It’s important to reward employees for a job well done. Recognition makes employees feel appreciated: you're showing someone that their work matters. A little workplace appreciation goes a long way toward boosting employee morale.

Every year, Employee Appreciation Day is celebrated on the first Friday in March, but you don’t have to limit the recognition to one day! We’ve rounded up a list of ideas you can use to show your team some love, on Employee Appreciation Day and beyond.

Update: Get our guide for more than 100 employee appreciation ideas that boost morale. You can download a free copy here.

35 Affordable Employee Appreciation Day Ideas

  1. Call out the small accomplishments — whether in a meeting, an email to the company, or some other creative way.

  2. Two words: sundae bar!

  3. Implement an employee of the month program, and allow employees to nominate their peers.

  4. Say it with flowers.

  5. Give everyone on your team a small allowance for some desk upgrades. Things like standing desks or a plants can provide a nice boost.

  6. Give a gift card to the local coffee shop to show your appreciation. Who doesn’t love a good latte? Even a $10 card can make someone’s day.

  7. Take new employees out to lunch on their first day (or more often, if the budget allows).

  8. Treat everyone out to a fun company activity like bowling, laser tag, or karaoke.

  9. Going out to get coffee or to grab take out? Treat a colleague, too.

  10. Put some board games in the breakroom or common area. It’ll bring a smile to your coworkers’ breaktime.

  11. Simply be polite and friendly. It goes a long way.

  12. Get your free copy of 109 ways to appreciate employees on a budget.

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  13. Plan a company potluck — it’s a fun break from work that encourages team bonding.

  14. Bring in a masseuse or manicurist for an office-wide treat.

  15. Have a pizza party. It’s an oldie but a goodie.

  16. Give out fun awards that recognize people’s non-work contributions to the team. Think things like “Best Lunch Buddy” or “Brainstorm Champion”.

  17. Have a mid-week treat. Waffle Wednesdays? Tuesday afternoon cookie platter? The possibilities are endless.


  18. Stock your office with a variety of snacks and treats. It’s hard to be happy and effective when you’re hungry.

  19. Actually thank a coworker in person, rather than through email. The gesture is more personal will be a nice surprise.

  20. Alternately, try sending thank you notes for a job well done. It’s old fashioned, but it means a lot.

  21. Plan company happy hours or dinners. As an employer, it’s always nice to foot all or part of the bill if you can. If your budget doesn’t allow for it, employees will still appreciate the fun event.

  22. Ask your employees for input about fun activities — what do THEY want to do?

  23. Appoint a “Rookie of the Year" to help a new addition feel welcome and valued.

  24. Start a suggestion program about how to improve your office. It will help your employees feel heard.

  25. Allow employees to have flexible schedules. For instance, be open to employees taking a midday break to go the gym. It can boost productivity and encourage trust.

  26. Similarly, you can reward your team with a work-from-home day. Not only does it make people happy, they may even be more productive without any office distractions or meetings.

  27. Celebrate when employees achieve big milestones, like the birth of a child or the completion of a marathon.

  28. Celebrate small milestones, too — like birthdays. Have a calendar so you don’t forget, get a treat, and/or have the office sign a card.

  29. Allow your office to leave early on the day before a holiday weekend. A simple way to make their day (and weekend) better.

  30. Consider implementing summer Fridays at your office. It’s a surprisingly inexpensive perk!

  31. Be vocal. If a colleague praises a coworker in a meeting, let that coworker know. Spread the word that they are appreciated.

  32. Have an employee appreciation program — it could even involve a system that rewards points that people can cash in for small rewards, like leaving early.

  33. Surprise your office with a summer picnic for lunch.

  34. Say “thank you” often. It’s a simple phrase that goes a long, long way.

  35. Call out an individual’s big wins or achievements in company-wide meetings. A well-deserved round of applause is always in order.

  36. Plan a staff appreciation day using a few suggestions from this list.

Bonus Ideas

Ready to think beyond Employee Appreciation Day for some long-term ideas? Consider these suggestions to boost employee happiness and retention:

36. Start a mentoring program in your office to boost employee development. Build one that truly reflects the needs and wants of your employees.

37. Encourage and recognize those who participate in continuing education. It will benefit the employee and the company, and make them feel good about it.

38. Work with your direct reports on growth plans, so they know where they’re going in the company and what skills they can master next.

39. Develop a flexible parental leave plan. It shows you value your employees’ personal lives, too.

40. Consider offering unlimited vacation... and encouraging employees to actually take time off.