You’ve got one of the best teams around, and they work pretty hard for you. But amid all that hard work, it can be easy to forget to recognize your employees or show them your appreciation for their efforts.
It’s important to reward employees for a job well done, especially when many people might still be struggling with the effects of pandemic fatigue. Recognition can make 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 with the current state of the world.
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Employee Appreciation Day is celebrated annually on the first Friday in March, but you don’t have to limit the recognition to a single day! We’ve compiled a list of ideas you can use to show your team some love on Employee Appreciation Day and beyond.
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Inexpensive Employee Appreciation Ideas
1. Give everyone on your team a small allowance for a few desk or work-from-home upgrades. Items like standing desks, desk organizers, or even a new coffee mug can provide a welcome change of pace.
2. Show your appreciation by prioritizing the health of your employees. Try having juices and wellness shots from a local company delivered to your team to promote workplace wellness.
3. Treat everyone to a fun company activity. If your team feels comfortable, try out things like bowling and laser tag. For those who’d prefer social distancing activities, try enjoying virtual karaoke or bingo for virtual team bonding via Zoom.
4. Survey employees to learn their favorite self-care products or services. You can use that to provide your team with a curated self-care package to use at their leisure.
5. Plan a virtual happy hour or dinner for your team, and arrange for the food and beverages to be delivered directly to your employees. As an employer, it’s always nice to foot all or part of the bill if you’re able.
6. Surprise your team with a picnic-style lunch. Cater the food from one of the team’s favorite local restaurants if you’re in the office, or have your remote employees order their favorite take-out meal. In-person, remote, and hybrid teams can all enjoy lunch outside together (weather permitting) thanks to Zoom and other video conferencing platforms.
Free Employee Appreciation Ideas
7. Highlight smaller accomplishments — whether it’s done in a meeting, an email to the whole company, or some other creative way, it’ll help remind your employees of the value they bring to the organization.
8. Consider implementing summer Fridays at your office. It’s an inexpensive but surprisingly impactful perk!
9. Make the effort to be polite and friendly to coworkers — something so simple can really go a long way.
10. Allow employees to choose a passion project. Having a project that they feel passionate about could help give employees something to look forward to, and provides a chance for them to feel both proud and fulfilled through their efforts.
11. Try thanking an employee in person or in real-time over a call or Zoom meeting. By doing it in real-time rather than through email or instant message, the gesture becomes more personal — and it’s a nice surprise.
12. Alternatively, try sending out handwritten thank-you notes for a job well done. Sure, it’s old fashioned, but getting some snail mail can mean a lot — especially at a time when maintaining connection is difficult yet still so important.
Staff Recognition Ideas
13. Appoint a newer team member “Rookie of the Year" — this can help new employees feel special, more welcome, and valued by the team.
14. Create an employee recognition program — you could develop a system that rewards points that employees can cash in for small rewards, like logging off early.
15. Call out an employee’s big wins or achievements in a company-wide meeting. A well-deserved round of applause from a large group is always in order.
16. Develop an employee-of-the-month program, and allow employees to nominate their peers.
17. Give out fun awards that recognize non-work contributions that people make to the team. Think awards like “Best Slack Reactions” or “Brainstorm Champion.”
18. Start an employee recognition newsletter that’s sent out to the whole organization. This could be sent out each month, quarter, or biweekly, depending on how big your team or company is.
Company Culture Ideas
19. Start a suggestion program that focuses on improving the connection opportunities across the company. By opening up the floor to employees, you’ll help them feel heard and valued for their perspectives.
20. Allow employees to have more flexible schedules (even post-pandemic). Consider being open to employees taking a midday break to go to the gym. Giving employees the flexibility to work in other activities into their day can boost productivity and encourage trust.
21. Similarly, you can try rewarding your team with a no-meetings day. A meeting-free schedule makes people happy, but they might also be even more productive without those low-priority distractions and meetings in the way.
22. Give your team the go-ahead to log off early on the day before a holiday weekend. This is a really easy way to help make their day (and holiday weekend) that much better.
23. Put in the effort to be more vocal about others’ accomplishments. If a coworker or team member gives kudos to another in a meeting, let that person know. It’s always a good idea to spread the word that they’re appreciated.
Gift Ideas for Employees
24. Say it with greenery! With so many teams still working remotely, having a fresh new desk plant can provide a nice boost.
25. Who doesn’t love a little company swag? Determine some of the most sought-after swag items your company makes and reward your team with those to enjoy.
26. 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.
27. Going out to grab coffee or to get some take out? Try treating an employee, too.
28. For new in-office employees, take them out to lunch on their first day! While it’s not quite the same, you can do something similar for remote employees by giving gift cards or reimbursing them for having their favorite food delivered right to their door.
29. 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.
30. 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.
31. Deliver a mid-week treat to your team. Waffle Wednesdays? Tuesday afternoon cookie platter? The possibilities are endless!
32. Celebrate when employees achieve big milestones, like the birth of a child or the completion of a personal passion project.
33. 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.
34. Organize a virtual pizza party. It’s an oldie, sure — but it’s a goodie for a reason.
35. Create an employee appreciation gift bag to distribute to team members. Get creative with small trinkets or candy you think your employees might like.
36.\ Do your employees have a pulse on pop culture? Consider getting their favorite celebrity to say thanks on your behalf with something like Cameo.
37. If you're returning to the office or integrating into a hybrid workplace setup, stock your office with a variety of snacks and treats. It’s easier to be happy and effective when your stomach isn’t growling!
Important Employee Perks
Ready to start thinking beyond Employee Appreciation Day for some longer-term ideas? Consider these suggestions to help boost employee happiness and retention:
38. Develop a mentoring program in your office to help boost employee development. Want to build one that truly reflects the needs and wants of your employees? Try sourcing ideas and input directly from your team to see the best results.
39. Encourage and recognize employees who participate in continuing education. This can benefit the employee and the company, while making those employees feel good about their efforts.
40. Collaborate with your direct reports on creating growth plans — this can help clarify their trajectory in the company, along with what skills they can master next.
41. Build a flexible parental leave plan. Doing so can show that you value your employees’ personal lives in addition to their work lives.
42. Consider offering unlimited paid time off... and then encouraging employees to actually take some time off.
When Is Employee Appreciation Day 2023?
Employee Appreciation Day falls on Friday, March 3rd, 2023. It’s the first Friday of every March.
Beyond this list, there are many more ways you can reward your team for their hard work. And you don’t need to wait for Employee Appreciation Day — you can show them your thanks any day of the year.
If you’re looking for the most impactful ways to take care of your team, it’s time to consider Justworks. As a Professional Employer Organization (PEO), Justworks offers small businesses access to big-company benefits and perks that help you hire and retain top talent. Learn more here.
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.