You’ve got one of the best teams around, and they work pretty hard for you. But in the midst of all the hard work, it can be easy to forget to recognize your employees or show them your appreciation for that hard work.
It’s important to reward employees for a job well done, especially when many people may be struggling with the effects of pandemic fatigue. Recognition makes employees feel appreciated and it shows someone that their work matters. And a little workplace appreciation can go a long way toward boosting employee morale — maybe even more so in the current environment.
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Employee Appreciation Day is celebrated every year on the first Friday in March, but you don’t have to limit the recognition to a single 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.
Employee Appreciation Day Ideas for Any Budget
Free Employee Appreciation Ideas
1. Highlight the small accomplishments — whether it’s in a meeting, an email to the company, or some other creative way, it’ll help remind your employees of their value.
2. Consider implementing summer Fridays at your office. It’s a surprisingly inexpensive but impactful perk!
3. Make a point to be polite and friendly — something so simple can really go a long way.
4. Start an employee recognition newsletter that’s distributed to the entire organization. This could come out every month, every quarter, or every other week, depending on the size of your team or company.
5. Allow employees to choose a passion project. Having a project that they’re passionate about could help employees something to look forward to and gives them a chance to feel both proud and fulfilled through their efforts.
6. Implement an employee-of-the-month program, and allow employees to nominate their peers.
7. Give out fun awards that recognize people’s non-work contributions to the team. Think things like “Best Slack Reactions” or “Brainstorm Champion.”
8. Try thanking an employee in person or in real-time over a call or Zoom meeting, rather than through email or instant message. The gesture is more personal and will be a nice surprise.
9. Alternately, try sending handwritten thank-you notes for a job well done. It’s old fashioned, but getting some snail mail can mean a lot — especially during a time when maintaining connection is difficult yet so important.
10. Appoint a newer employee “Rookie of the Year" — this can help new team members feel special, more welcome, and valued by the team.
11. Start a suggestion program about how to improve the connection opportunities across the company. It will help your employees (both in-person and remote) feel heard.
12. Allow employees to have flexible schedules (even after the pandemic ceases). For example, be open to employees taking a midday break to go to the gym. It can boost productivity and encourage trust.
13. Similarly, you can reward your team with a no-meetings day. Not only does a clear schedule make people happy, but they might be even more productive without low-priority distractions and meetings.
14. Allow your team to log off early on the day before a holiday weekend. This is a pretty simple way to help make their day (and holiday weekend) even better.
15. Make an effort to be more vocal. If a colleague or team member praises another in a meeting, let that employee know. Spread the word that they are appreciated.
16. Develop an employee recognition program — it could involve a system that rewards points that employees can cash in for small rewards, like logging off early.
17. Make a point of saying “thank you” more often. It’s a simple phrase that can make a real difference in someone’s day.
18. Call out an individual’s big wins or achievements in company-wide meetings. A well-deserved round of applause from a large group is always in order.
Low-cost Employee Appreciation Ideas
19. Say it with greenery! Especially during a time where so many teams are working remotely, giving your employees a bright new desk plant can provide a nice boost.
20. Who doesn’t love some company swag? Consider the most sought-after items and reward your team with those to enjoy.
21. Give your employees a nice caffeine boost with a gift card to a local coffee shop. Even a small $10 gift card to show employee recognition can make someone's day.
22. Going out to grab coffee or to get some take out? Try treating an employee, too.
23. Four words: ice cream sundae bar! Remote teams can enjoy this too — simply organize an ice cream delivery (plus toppings!) for your employees, or have them pick out their own ingredients to enjoy a sundae with their coworkers over Zoom.
24. Take new in-office employees out to lunch on their first day (or more often, if the budget allows). You can do the same for remote employees with gift cards or by reimbursing them for having their favorite food delivered right to their door.
25. Survey your employees for any monthly subscriptions they’d be interested in receiving — magazines, news media, or even themed gift boxes centered around their specific interests. Something like this allows you to show your team your appreciation on a regular basis with something they’ll get the most out of.
26. Deliver a mid-week treat to your team. Waffle Wednesdays? Tuesday afternoon cookie platter? The possibilities are endless!
27. Celebrate when employees achieve big milestones, like the birth of a child or the completion of a personal passion project.
28. Celebrate small milestones, too — birthdays and work anniversaries. Mark your calendar so you don’t forget, and provide or send a treat to your employee, and/or have the team sign a physical or virtual card.
29. Organize a virtual pizza party. It’s an oldie, sure — but it’s a goodie for a reason.
30. Create an employee appreciation gift bag to distribute to team members. Get creative with small trinkets or candy you think your employees might like.
31. Stock your office with a variety of snacks and treats. It’s easier to be happy and effective when your stomach isn’t growling!
Bigger-budget Employee Appreciation Ideas
32. Give everyone on your team a small allowance for some desk upgrades. Things like standing desks or desk organizers can provide a nice change of pace.
33. Show your thanks by prioritizing the health of your employees. Have juices and wellness shots from a local company delivered to your team to promote workplace wellness.
34. Treat everyone to a fun company activity. Until things like bowling and laser tag are more feasible, try enjoying virtual karaoke or bingo for virtual team bonding via Zoom.
35. Survey employees for their favorite self-care products or services, and use that to provide your team with a curated self-care package to use at their leisure.
36. Plan a virtual happy hour or dinner for your team, arranging for the food and beverages to be delivered right to your employees. As an employer, it’s always nice to foot all or part of the bill if you can.
37. Surprise your team with a picnic lunch. Cater the food from a favorite local restaurant if you’re in the office, or let your remote employees order their favorite take-out meal — in-person and remote teams can both enjoy outside together (weather permitting) thanks to Zoom and other conferencing platforms.
Ready to think beyond Employee Appreciation Day for some long-term ideas? Consider these suggestions to boost employee happiness and retention:
38. Ask your employees for input about fun activities — what do they want to do?
39. Start a mentoring program in your office to boost employee development. Build one that truly reflects the needs and wants of your employees by sourcing ideas and input directly from your team.
40. Encourage and recognize those who participate in continuing education. It will benefit the employee and the company, and make those employees feel good about their efforts.
41. Work with your direct reports on growth plans — this can help clarify where they’re going in the company and what skills they can master next.
42. Develop a flexible parental leave plan. It shows you value your employees’ personal lives in addition to their work lives.
43. Consider offering unlimited vacation... and then encouraging employees to actually take some time off.
44. Plan a full staff appreciation day for your team using a few different suggestions from this list.
Beyond this list, there are many more ways that you can reward your team for their hard work, and you don’t need to wait for March 5 — you can show them your appreciation any day of the year.
This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.