Employees want to feel appreciated and recognised for the hard work they put in every day. And that requires more than just handing them their pay cheque at the end of every month. As an employer, you need to show appreciation for your employees throughout the year, and in more than monetary ways alone.
Although high salaries and hefty bonuses definitely help, your team craves further recognition. That’s why every company should show employee appreciation regularly and creatively.
Showing appreciation should be part of your company culture. Your DNA.
And before you start to worry: No, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Some simple acts of appreciation already make a world of difference. And not just for your employees. It will benefit your business in many ways as well (more on that in a bit).
So, to celebrate this year’s Employee Appreciation Day, you’ll find 20 employee appreciation ideas and gifts to help you get started below. From free, cheap, and inexpensive, to once in a lifetime experiences for you and your team.
Let’s dive in and make every day, employee appreciation day!
- What do we mean by employee appreciation?
- What is Employee Appreciation Day?
- Why it’s important to show appreciation to your employees
- 20 employee appreciation ideas and gifts
What do we mean by employee appreciation?
Before we get to those ideas to show employee appreciation, let’s quickly define what we actually mean by this.
Employee appreciation (or employee recognition) is about letting your employees know that you value the time and work they put into their jobs. And that can be as simple as a quick “well done” on Slack or a “good work today” before heading home. But just those small passing remarks alone are generally not enough.
Yes, they are certainly important. And research has repeatedly shown that employees crave constant feedback (both positive and negative) to feel recognised, appreciated, and valued at work. That’s why showing employee appreciation starts with regularly acknowledging their accomplishments by giving feedback to your team members.
Also see our guide on 10 ways to create a feedback culture in the workplace.
But when talking about showing employee appreciation below, we mean going above and beyond as an employer to express your gratitude in a special or unique way. Something that’s not just part of the day-to-day routine.
This can be a one-off thing, like giving an employee a personalised gift (see number 12 below), or an annual celebration, like on Employee Appreciation Day!
What is Employee Appreciation Day?
Employee Appreciation Day falls on the first Friday in March every year. It was originally created by Dr. Bob Nelson in 1995 to celebrate the publishing of his book about ways to reward employees.
Since then, companies have started recognising the day and using it to show their appreciation for their employees, often in a fun and original way.
When is Employee Appreciation Day 2022?
Employee Appreciation Day 2022 falls on Friday the 4th of March.
Why it’s important to show appreciation to your employees
Showing employee appreciation isn’t just “a nice thing to do”. It actually poses a lot of measurable benefits for both your employees and your business.
Here are the main benefits of employee recognition and why you should dedicate some time, effort, and (although not obligatory) money:
- Improved employee satisfaction: By showing appreciation for your employees, they will feel valued and empowered, resulting in a happier, more satisfied workforce.
- Increased performance and engagement: A more satisfied employee will be more engaged, which directly correlates to better business performance and results.
- Better employee retention: When employees feel seen and appreciated, they are more likely to stick around, resulting in improved employee retention.
- Strengthened company culture: Improved satisfaction, engagement, and retention all lead to a stronger, more positive company culture.
- Boost employer branding: Ultimately, the combination of all of the above is bound to give your employer branding a big boost!
Seeing these benefits also explains why employers (like you!) are actively looking for ways to show employee appreciation. Below, you’ll find twenty ideas to get you started.
20 employee appreciation ideas and gifts
Whether you’re looking for free or inexpensive employee appreciation ideas, or you don’t mind splurging out, this list includes ideas for any company size or budget.
From writing a public message of appreciation (#4) to providing health and well-being benefits (#16). Which of these will you introduce in your team?
1. Employee appreciation letter
Let’s start with a free-yet-effective idea: Writing an employee appreciation letter. This may sound somewhat formal (and old-fashioned), but it really doesn’t have to be.
An appreciation letter is basically a thank-you letter to recognise an employee’s hard work. This can be about their work on a specific project, or their performance in general.
By sending a (semi-) formal letter, preferably as a signed (Word / Google) document, you give the employee a more official form of recognition than a simple email or Slack message.
This will give the message a much greater impact and gives the employee a more tangible proof of recognition that they could even use as a letter of recommendation in their future career.
2. Hamper or gift box
In many countries, giving employees a hamper filled with treats is an end-of-the-year tradition. But it doesn’t have to be limited to the festive season. Instead, why not send hampers or gift boxes to your team on Employee Appreciation Day?
To make it more genuine and sincere, add a (handwritten) card in each hamper with a personalised message for each employee, complementing them on the specific impact they have had on the business.
Although not the most fun or personal employee recognition idea, it is definitely one of the most popular ones. Employees will always appreciate an added bonus to their pay cheque.
You can make this a regular occurrence, such as monthly or annually, or surprise your staff with a one-off bonus to mark a milestone achievement. A new product launch, hitting the 100-employee mark, or just for making it through another lockdown as a team!
4. Write a LinkedIn recommendation
This idea is similar to the employee appreciation letter. It is a slightly more official way of giving positive feedback to an employee.
By posting it on LinkedIn, you publicly show your appreciation for the employee, which will help them build their personal brand and showcase their worth as an employee to future employers.
And the best part of it (for you as an employer): It’s completely free and only takes a few minutes!
Do note that employees with different personality types may respond differently to such public displays of praise. For example, a rather shy team member might not appreciate the attention at all! In this case, a letter of appreciation as mentioned above would be more suitable.
5. Extra time off
Say you and your team have been working on a large-scale site migration for the last two months. Many team members have put in long days and worked overtime to get this project over the line.
To show your appreciation, why not give them some extra time off once the project is delivered? Give them the Friday afternoon off or add an extra day of annual leave to their holiday allowance, for them to use whenever they like.
This gift can be tailored to any type of business budget. Although generally not the most personal or unique idea, your employees will still appreciate getting this small token of appreciation.
You can keep it general and the same for everyone, or give every employee a different voucher for their favourite store or brand to add a more personal touch.
7. Brunch, lunch, or dinner
This idea works best for smaller teams, rather than large companies. Perhaps your sales team just hit their highest number of sales per month since the company’s founding?
Then why not reward them by taking them all out for brunch, lunch, or dinner!
8. Donate to a charity of their choice
There’s a good chance many of your employees are either actively involved in a charitable organisation, or there’s a particular cause or charity that they support themselves.
Let your employees pick their charity of choice and make a donation to it in their name. It’s a great way of showing you care about what they care about.
Time for some casual fun: Throw your team a company party!
Depending on your office, you can host the party at your workplace or, ideally, you take it off-site. It shows appreciation while also strengthening team building and company culture.
10. Training budget
Of course, not everyone cares about company parties or similar social events. What all employees (should) care about, however, is their career development and progression.
So to support them and help them grow professionally, why not give them a bonus in the form of a (larger) training budget?
By investing in their future, you show your appreciation, while getting more qualified and skilled employees in return. A win-win situation!
11. Awards ceremony (with prices, trophies, and a wall-of-fame)
Roll out the red carpet and put your best-performing employees in the spotlight. Handing out awards (and adding gifts) to celebrate certain achievements shows your appreciation and recognition.
Winning the Best Team Player Award will surely put a smile on your employee’s face and will function as a big morale booster. It also gives the employees an extra incentive to work towards throughout the year.
12. Personalised gifts
Rather than giving everyone the same thing, why not make it personal! Yes, this employee appreciation idea requires a bit more work on your part. But it will feel much more personal and meaningful to your employees.
For example, give the cooking enthusiast a new apron with their name on it. Or how about an engraved bike repair kit for that colleague who’s always cycling to work?
13. Pool office
This idea is a bit more creative (and yes, more expensive), but it will certainly do well with your employees.
Rent out an Airbnb or office space somewhere in a sunny location and invite the whole team to work remotely from there for a week. Enjoy the change of scenery and extra vitamin D!
14. Team building event
From pool office to pool table. Organise a team building event to give your team some well-deserved time away from the workplace.
Your options here are practically endless. Popular examples include board game afternoons, film nights, evening bowling, escape rooms, and laser tag.
For further inspiration and advice on how to include introverted team members as well, check out our guide on team building activities for introverts.
15. Hire a massage therapist
Show employee appreciation and surprise your team by hiring a massage therapist to come to the office. This idea works particularly well at the end of (or during!) a stressful period.
If your team is overworked, unwinding with a professional massage will help them de-stress. It also shows employees that you care about their physical and mental well-being.
As an extra bonus, you could even consider bringing in a mindfulness officer to encourage mindfulness in your workplace!
16. Health & well-being benefits
Speaking of well-being. Nothing shows that you care about and appreciate your employees like investing in their health and (mental) well-being.
Especially during the current pandemic, mental health at work is a big topic. Providing related benefits or gifts to your employees shows that you take their well-being seriously.
Examples include in-office yoga sessions, care packages, gym memberships, or paid-for subscriptions for meditation apps.
17. Hire a professional coach
Give your employees the opportunity to sit down with a professional coach to help them talk about their goals or career path.
Not only does work coaching increase employee productivity and motivation, but many employees are actually craving such professional support and guidance! Investing in their growth shows that you value your employees and that they excel both personally and professionally.
18. Office food & drinks
Good food always puts a smile on people’s faces. So why not order in some food (and drinks) as an in-office treat?
You can order pizzas, hire a catering service, or even throw a team BBQ in the office car park. It helps employees unwind and improves team bonding as well.
Or do what we do here at JOIN, and treat your employees to the occasional in-office brunch!
19. Team retreat
Go all out and take the entire company on a (mini) break. How far (literally) you want to take this depends on your budget, the size of your company, and how momentous the occasion is that you’re celebrating.
From a one-day hike through a nearby nature reserve and a night under the stars to a wellness weekend getaway, you decide how big you want this idea to be.
For example, one of my previous employers in Germany took the entire 100+ team to Las Vegas for a week. Now that’s something I will remember for the rest of my career!
20. Ask your employees what they want
Still not sure about how to show employee appreciation? Then why not simply ask your employees what they would like to get from you.
Either give them a set budget to work with, or leave it open and see what ideas they’ll bring to the table!
Do you need even more inspiration on how to show that you value and appreciate your employees? Then check out our separate article on corporate benefits your employees actually want.