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38 Employee Appreciation Ideas for Every Team

Employee Appreciation ideas
Productivity
By Michelle Kruse | Read time: 11 minutes

There is a chance your employees are unhappy. Don’t worry, you’re not alone in this dilemma, 60% of workers report that their jobs stress them out. But what can you do to try and combat stress or unhappiness at work? 58% of employees said that giving recognition is how leaders could improve engagement. The point is, there are plenty of studies and statistics to show that employee appreciation is important. It might seem like an obvious concept, but chances are you could be doing more to appreciate your employees. 

Why Is Employee Appreciation Important?

 If the huge numbers above aren’t telling you how important appreciation is, then here is some more data. Another survey found that 69% of employees would work harder if they felt appreciated. This means taking the time to appreciate your employees could increase morale and productivity. What’s more, companies with recognition programs, that are highly effective at engagement, see a 31% lower voluntary turnover rate. That means employees are productive, happy, and sticking around for a lot longer when appreciated. Are you ready to show your employees how awesome they are? We’ve curated a list of appreciation ideas and recommend picking a few to start. Let’s take a look at 38 ways you could do it!

1. Employee of the Month

This might seem like an older practice, but many companies could benefit from it. Recognition on a regular basis for an employee, with perks as well, are easy ways to help boost morale. You could include a special parking spot or spotlight on social media to go along with the recognition 

2. Written Praise or Thank You Notes

Praising or celebrating employees for what they do is an easy way to show appreciation. You might even do it often in passing or during meetings. But what can really make that recognition stick is a written note. Write down your praise or thanks on a card or note to share with your employees. They’ll be able to see it when they’re feeling overwhelmed and remember that they are appreciated.

3. Work Anniversary

Incentives for yearly milestones can boost appreciation and a feeling of belonging. When you celebrate each year an employee has been with the company, it can help them to feel wanted. Take them to lunch, give them a gift card, or present them with company swag personalized for the achievement.

4. End of the Year Celebration 

Ringing in the new year or celebrating the holidays with employees can make the end of the year a lot more fun. Throwing parties, Ugly Sweater days, and ordering lunch can spread holiday cheer. Some companies take it a step further and extended holiday breaks or even run charity drives with their employees. No matter how you celebrate, you can make your employees happy at the end of the year.

5. Break Room Snacks

Offering snacks in the break room can be an easy way to help bring a smile to employees’ faces. After all, you’re not you when you’re hungry right? If your company already has a Costco membership or something similar then you can easily grab jumbo-sized boxes of snacks for cheap. Take it a step further and grab some fresh produce from your local farmers market like apples or peaches. 

6. Casual Days

If your office has a professional dress code then your employees may be wanting a casual day. Pick a day per week or month as a casual dress day. Employees can take the day to be a bit more relaxed and dress comfortably. It tends to make the work environment less stiff and can improve employee culture overall. Bonus points if you don’t go for a Friday, but instead liven up the week on a Tuesday or Wednesday.

7. Highlights on Social Media

Does your company have a social media presence? Pick a day per week or month to highlight an employee that’s doing a great job! They can submit a picture and you can post a small bit about them and what makes them great. This shows your customers and employees how much you appreciate the people who work for your company.

8. Bonuses

 Money talks and tends to make people happy. One quick and easy way to start implementing appreciation is giving out spot bonuses. These are for smaller sums and given out when teams or individuals reach certain goals. Spot bonuses are also usually given out ‘on the spot’ or when a win occurs.

9. Gym Membership Discounts

Teaming up with your local gym for a company discount is a great way for employees to feel valued. Showing employees your investment in their well-being lets them know that your care. Most gyms will offer this discount, but you might want to survey your employees to see which gym they prefer!

10. Retreats

Having a vacation is always a great idea, but retreats can help employees unwind and build bonds. Whether it’s a night in your nearby campground or a weekend stay in Las Vegas, these retreats can be beneficial. Take it a step further and plan some special activities like zip-lining or a museum trip together. Most importantly, make sure to have a fun time while respecting your employees’ space.

11. Birthday Holidays

When it’s your day to celebrate where do you want to go? Chances are it’s probably not to work. Employees are probably using PTO or just plain calling out for their birthdays already. Show how much you value employees’ time by giving them a paid floating holiday each year for their birthday. It’s a simple gesture that only requires they be gone one day out of the year, it’s an easy enough policy to put in place.

12. Trophy Time

Pick an object, it could be anything from an actual trophy to a stuffed version of your company mascot. That object is now a trophy to be given out by management to an employee when they embody a core value. Maybe someone in your office really pulls through to finish a project, now they get the trophy for a week. Take it a step further and include a photo of each trophy winner with the prize on social media.

13. Special Projects

 More work certainly isn’t a perk all the time, but for some, it can be. Celebrate an employee’s willingness to try new things by letting them pick a special project. New ideas and innovations are often in short supply when employees are afraid to share them. Encourage new ideas by allowing those with extra time to pursue new projects. Who knows, you might strike gold with a new idea!

14. Commute Assistance

One overlooked way to help out your employees is by offering a way to help with their commuting expenses. Purchasing gas cards, bus passes, or gift cards for ride-sharing services can be an easy way to support. This would be a great gift to include with an Employee of the Month type of recognition. 

15. Coffee Shop One on Ones

When review season comes up, or it’s time for a one on one, tensions and anxiety can get high. No matter how positive, nobody feels relaxed during an evaluation, but there are ways to take the edge off. Changing the location can make a big difference, especially if it’s a causal location like a coffee shop. Try this out for your next evaluation, just don’t try firing anyone off-site.

16. Wellness and Personal Incentive

A popular option with some corporations or larger companies is wellness-based incentives. Weight loss, quitting smoking, and other healthy habits are great things to reward employees for. By encouraging health and wellness you can show employees that you are invested in their well-being. Take it a step further and start walking, hiking, or jogging group with your employees. 

17. Break Room Boss

Give each employee a chance to rule the break room for a month, week, or another period of time. As the Boss of all things Break Room, employees can pick out the special decor, drinks, or snacks. Go down the list of employees alphabetically, by birthday, or include it in the Employee of the Month perks. 

18. Volunteer

Donate your time with your employees and help out your community. Join in with a fun run, serve meals in a kitchen, or help build a house. Giving back to your community gives great optics for your company and your team will feel great helping others. Take it a step further and run your own charity event together.

19. Dog Days of Work

The office can seem cold and unwelcoming at times. What better to liven it up than Bring Your Dog to Work days? When organized properly (one dog at a time) bringing furry friends to work can really liven up the mood. If a specific employee has a very relaxed pup then you could even have a regular visitor or office mascot. Take it a step further and invite a local therapy dog trainer (Yes, they will do this) to bring their trainees by!

20. Food Trucks

In-Office lunches are always a good time but way more work to set-up and clean after than they are worth! A nice way around this issue is by letting the food come to you. Hire a locally-loved food truck to stop by the office and serve lunch on you. If you want it to be a regular thing then work out a scheduling agreement with other nearby offices to host a variety of trucks.

21. Fun Hour

Pick a day per week or month (might we suggest Fridays?) to host games in the office. Employees can play ping-pong, board games, or have some responsible drinking games if it’s appropriate for your team. This is a popular choice in the ClockShark office and allows everyone to blow off some steam with healthy competition.

22. Standing or Active Desks

Sitting around for 8 hours a day can be exhausting and bad for your health. A great way that many are combating this is by breaking up the monotony of sitting all day with standing desks. Take a step further and offer active desks if your team is interested. These desks have a treadmill below and, while they are pricey, offer a great way to stay active while working. Some have even reported they help them to be more productive and energized! Not to mention that this is yet another way to show your investment in employees’ well being. 

23. Employee for a Day

Your employees are working hard all day. But have you become out of touch with what they’re doing? Pick a department per month or quarter and offer to complete an employee’s job for them. Let them supervise you, teach them your skills or help yourself course correct if you’ve forgotten how. This can be a great time to touch base and understand pain points with your team.

24. CEO For the Day

A fun confidence-building exercise for team members is letting them become the CEO for a day. Let them implement an office rule, lead a meeting, and give valuable input for the company. The employee will feel empowered by their ability to do the job and it may make them more invested in the company. Plus, you’ll be opening yourself up for innovative ideas and fresh eyes on a project.

25. VIP Parking Spot

If you’re located in a busy city then this tip is especially for you. Parking in the prime spot is a small thing but can definitely be convenient. Award a VIP parking spot to employees monthly, weekly, or when they achieve something! It’ll lighten the load, especially if you’re somewhere that parking is a nightmare. 

26. Suggestion Box

Some methods have been around a while for good reason, such as the suggestion box. When done right, a suggestion box can help employees express themselves anonymously. Maybe they wish they could work remote but are too scared to say anything, this is a great way to learn! While a physical box is great there are plenty online, anonymous services that let employees speak their minds.

27. Education and Cross-Training

Encouraging growth is incredibly important. At ClockShark, we made getting better every day a core value, so we’re a little biased. But to keep employees growing, you’ll need to give them opportunities to learn more. Let them explore their interests in projects or tasks and cross-train with other departments. Show them the ropes to an entirely different job type. One day they may repay the favor and become your next managerial promotion.

28. Low Maintenance Plants 

Plants are proven to increase happiness and produce oxygen, which can lighten up the room. Encourage this in the office by providing plants as gifts or rewards. Make sure the plants are a wanted gift by the recipient and not too high maintenance so they don’t end up stressing out the office. Here’s a great list of plants that are easy to keep alive in any office!

29. Mentoring

Junior employees will stay juniors if they aren’t learning. Encourage senior members of your team to teach juniors tips, tricks, or new systems. They’ll learn from each other and it’ll be easier to promote within instead of hiring externally. When employees feel supported in their interests they’ll be more likely to stay and pay it forward to future hires.

30. Acts of Service Auction

If you want to get really creative you can hold an Acts of Service Auction. Give your employees fake money (or real money and donate it to charity) for a special auction. They can place bids on services like car washes or free lunches from you. This is a bit of an out-there idea and won’t work for all, but you might try it out!

31. Desk Drops (Surprise Gifts)

Gifts are great to receive, and it might seem obvious to give them out around special events. But what if you start giving gifts as surprise desk drops? Once a month or quarterly, try placing surprise gifts on the desks of everyone or a well-performing department. It could be small like $10 Starbucks gift cards or it could be company specific apparel. No matter what it is, it’s nice to receive a surprise gift every once in a while.

32. Half Days

Shake up the monotony of your employees’ schedule by offering half days from time to time. When work seems slow, or even if it doesn’t, you can let everyone leave at lunch as they’ve always wanted to. This will allow a nice break in their schedule and will help them come back re-energized. 

33. Virtual Parties

If your workforce is mainly remote then it might be a nice change to have some virtual parties. Pick a time that is respectful of everyone’s time zones and order local takeout for the team members. Then hop on a video call at the right time and chat, eat food, even try and play some games if you can! This can be a great time for remote team members to see and say hi to each other. 

34. Escape Room

Plenty of major, and smaller, cities are full of escape rooms of different styles and difficulties. Find one locally and take your team out, it can be a great bonding experience. Puzzle-solving can bring your team together and help them keep that same energy at work the next day.

35. LinkedIn Recognition

Sure, you don’t want to think about your employee leaving for somewhere else. But the truth is, growth happens and supporting your employee’s growth is the right thing to do. Show your employees how much you support them by writing a LinkedIn Recommendation. Just like a physical card they can look and appreciate the written praise, but this way they can also show off their recognition online.

36. Haves and Needs Board

It sounds obvious, but your employees need or want things. Maybe it’s a new car or the last generation’s smartphone. And some of your employees, well they have those things and want to get rid of them. Put up a bulletin board in the break room. Attach two types of paper forms for “I Have” and “I Need” employees can put them on the board appropriately. This is also a great way for every parent in the office to share their kid’s candy or wrapping paper sale they have around the Holidays.

37. Health Fair

Promoting health and wellness is great on its own. But you can jump-start the movement by hosting or co-hosting a health fair nearby. Gather a variety of doctors, trainers, and nutritionists to work a booth and educate employees. They’ll gain some valuable knowledge and know how much you care about their well-being.

38. Office Resource Library

Support your employees’ willingness to learn by purchasing learning materials for them. When they’ve finished the book you can start carving out a resource library in your office. Whether it’s a bookshelf or an entire room, you can always provide some great knowledge for your staff.

employee appreciation

Employee Appreciation Week

We’ve given you a lot of ideas and there’s plenty to think about for appreciating employees. But it can be daunting to get started on one or a few of these. An easy way to kick things off is with a dedicated Employee Appreciation Week. Technically there is an official National Employee Appreciation Day in March. But it is never too early or too late to kick off some serious employee recognition with a whole week of it. Here’s a sample employee appreciation week that you can use if you’d like!

Employee Appreciation Week Template

Monday: Desk Drops – In the wee hours of the morning, before the team makes it into work, drop surprise presents on the desks. Include a card announcing Employee Appreciation Week.

Tuesday: Dog Days of Work – On Monday survey your staff and see who has a dog appropriate for the workplace. Let that dog come in and hang out on Tuesday to liven things up. Take it a step further and invite a local therapy dog trainer (Yes, they will do this) to bring their trainees by!

Wednesday: Food Truck Half Day – Invite a food truck out for lunch from your staff’s favorite eatery. Let employees take their time ordering and eating because, surprise, they only have to stay for a half-day.

Thursday: Morning Announcement – This is a great time to kick off your first Employee of the Month, give out the Trophy, or crown a Break Room Boss. Choose them all, more, or just one and take the time to appreciate those you chose.


Friday: Health Fair – Host a health fair and announce your new Wellness Incentives! Celebrate your employee’s goals and encourage them to stick with them. Take it a step further and host your first group walk, hike, or run for the next day.

Conclusion

Appreciating employees is often overlooked when it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of things to do, large or small, at any price range that you can do to show your care. At the end of the day, if your employees are unhappy they will move on. Unhappiness is a leading cause of turnover. How will you, or do you, show your employees that you appreciate them?

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