Employee recognition isn’t just a good idea; it’s vital for building a thriving company culture and a high-performing business! It’s so critical that Bob Nelson (author of 1001 Ways to Reward Employees) inspired the world to create a whole day for it. Twenty years later, companies widely celebrate Employee Appreciation Day on the first Friday of March.
This year, the occasion falls on Friday, March 4th, so there’s still plenty of time to decide how to acknowledge it within your company. In today’s blog post, we’ve put together 17 ideas for a caring employee appreciation day celebration.
If you’re not sure what to do for employee appreciation day, keep reading to get inspired!
Why Should Companies Prioritize Employee Appreciation and Recognition?
In their 2021 State of the Global Workplace report, Gallup found that 70% of employees were struggling (rather than thriving) in their overall lives. Furthermore, 80% were either not actively engaged or completely disengaged at work.
To put this into perspective: a lack of engagement at work results in lost productivity, which costs the global economy a significant amount of money annually.
Just how much are we talking about?
Around US$8.1 trillion (which is nearly 10% of GDP) per year.
But what does employee appreciation have to do with it?
While a lack of recognition isn’t the sole cause of disengagement, it’s an essential puzzle piece.
Here’s proof from research conducted by Quantum Workplace:
- Companies with formal recognition programs experience 31% less voluntary turnover than companies that don’t.
- Companies with formal recognition programs are 12x more likely to enjoy strong business results.
- Employees who feel valued are more engaged, motivated and likely to “go the extra mile” for their company.
In other words, employee appreciation and recognition directly affect your company’s bottom line.
People may take a job for more money, but they often leave it for more recognition.
– Bob Nelson
17 Creative Ideas for Employee Appreciation Week
Let’s look at some team appreciation ideas to help you build a strong recognition program that makes your employees enjoy coming to work.
While everything touched on below are all excellent themes for employee appreciation day, remember that it’s important to understand what people value right now in light of the challenges brought on by the pandemic.
Ask your team what they would find most beneficial on employee appreciation day, and theme the day around popular opinions.
You might be surprised about what sparks the most meaning!
We have to think about the person as a whole today and use our emotional intelligence a little bit more… people are being pulled in a lot of different directions… what are people experiencing in their home lives, which have now become their professional lives?
– Quote from MaryAnn Dunlop on Thriver Podcast Ep. 07
1. Give Employees an Extra Day Off
First, consider giving your employees the gift of time.
Over the past two years, the line between our personal and professional lives has blurred severely with remote work. People feel like they just don’t have enough time to get everything done and struggle to unplug from work.
You really can’t go wrong with giving your employees an entire extra day to do whatever they want (especially if they all have different preferences regarding how to celebrate employee appreciation day).
And since staff appreciation day falls on Fridays, it’s the perfect end to the workweek.
Who doesn’t love a long weekend?
2. Organize a Happy Hour Week
Another way to celebrate employee appreciation week is by getting everybody together for drinks after hours. Office happy hour allows everyone to socialize and have fun in a casual atmosphere. Plus, everyone will be in one place, providing an excellent opportunity for managers and leaders to share what they value about their teams.
Want to take your happy hour up a notch? Hire a professional barista who knows how to mix festive drinks!
3. Fund Some Home and Office Upgrades
This is an extremely practical employee appreciation idea, especially for large companies with remote employees. Since team members are in various locations, it’s not always easy to spot what they struggle with. Ask your employees what would make work easier for them (whether in the office or at home), and then fund the upgrade.
For instance, you might have an employee working in a location with loud background noise who would appreciate a headset. Or there may be a dog owner who could use an indoor pet pen to minimize distractions at home. Or, maybe someone doesn’t get as much exercise as they’d like to and would benefit from a standing desk.
The key is to make the upgrades thoughtful and explicitly tailored to employees’ needs to help them feel heard and cared for.
When I’m working remotely, some of those pieces [of employee engagement] don’t come as naturally as they may when I’m actually at work. For example, do I feel cared about? Does my company care about what’s going on with me? Do I feel heard?
– Quote from MaryAnn Dunlop on Thriver Podcast Ep. 07
4. Teach Employees About Balance
This may seem like a strange employee appreciation idea, but according to our recent study, maintaining a healthy work-life balance is one of the top three workplace challenges employees face right now.
You can help your employees manage their lifestyles by teaching them balance techniques. And don’t worry, you don’t have to train them yourself; just sign them up for a work/life integration workshop and let the experts take it from there!
5. Organize a Mindfulness Seminar
Mindfulness means being aware of one’s thoughts, feelings, surroundings and emotions, moment-by-moment. Equipping your employees with self-awareness will help them manage stress, even when things feel out of their control. This stress and mindfulness seminar will add value to your coworkers’ mental health for a long time to come!
6. Arrange for Professional Development Classes
You can also give your team the gift of professional development in other areas of their choice. During our 2021 pandemic workplace survey, employees shared that ongoing professional development opportunities are among the best ways management can provide support.
We recommend offering employees skills and other training to help them achieve their personal and professional goals. This will demonstrate that you value their learning and development!
7. Put On an Awards Ceremony
Employees often grind away at their jobs in the background and feel like no one notices.
An awards ceremony is the perfect employee recognition activity for giving deserving folks public acknowledgement for their efforts.
Consider gifting valuable and practical prizes on this occasion as well. Again, this will vary from person to person, so it’s important to be observant and choose the best award for each individual. One may value a bonus check, while another might love something as simple as a single cup espresso maker in their office.
8. Gift a Yoga Class
Have you heard of chair yoga? It’s a beautiful back soreness remedy for people who sit all day long! As mentioned earlier, wellness is an important employee appreciation day theme. Consider incorporating a yoga class into one workday during employee appreciation week to promote healthy living.
You can register your team for chair yoga here!
9. Pick a Charity of Your Team’s Choice
Most people have a cause that they’re passionate about. When you, as an employer, express interest in what your employees care about, it makes them feel valued. You can donate money or other resources to charities chosen by your colleagues.
Or, give them a paid volunteer day to contribute to their preferred organizations meaningfully.
10. Lay Out a Festive Lunch Spread
When it comes to employee appreciation, free food is a terrific idea. Cater an employee appreciation lunch in the office, have a picnic, or take your team to a restaurant.
If hosting the event in-house, don’t forget to be mindful of safety concerns. An open buffet may not be the safest option, but individually packaged or served portions will help minimize any risks.
11. Send out Thoughtful Gift Baskets
Speaking of food, why not mail your employees a gift basket filled with delectable treats? This works well if your staff work from various locations. A large bundle of hand-delivered sweet surprises will make sure your remote workers feel included in the festivities, no matter where they are in the world.
Send made-to-order gift baskets using this link!
12. Coordinate a Fun Out-of-Office Activity
If your team members have been cooped up indoors after a long winter, they may appreciate a day off the premises.
Organize a mini-golf tournament, bowling competition, roller derby night – the list of fun possibilities goes on. You can also include some prizes to make things more interesting!
13. Host a Creative Masterclass
Order party food like pizza and host a craft night where everybody can bond while getting their creative juices flowing. Try something like an online origami class, which will allow remote workers to participate.
14. Mail Out Self-Care Packages
This staff appreciation idea can help your coworkers destress within the comfort of their homes. Once again, everyone’s needs are different, so we recommend putting together baskets with different themes. DIY spa day items may be an excellent option for some, while others may prefer snacks and a gift card for renting a movie.
15. Ask For Feedback
Show your employees that you care by taking some time to listen to them. Prepare a survey that captures everyone’s ideas about improving the workplace, then implement changes based on the most popular suggestions. A survey will take out the guesswork of making your company a more enjoyable place to work overall.
16. Make Your Employees Boss for the Day
Switch things up for staff appreciation day by giving your employees the ability to request coffee runs, administrative tasks, and help with other little errands from their managers and supervisors throughout the day! You can even have team members move into their boss’s offices to call the shots.
17. Just Say Those Two Little Words
While it’s important to brainstorm fun employee recognition ideas and activities, the basics will also go a long way. Remember just to say thank you. You can post social media posts, mail out fancy cards, or simply visit your employees at their desks (or via Zoom) to give them a personalized thank you message.
Those two little words can go a long way toward making your coworkers feel like you value their contributions to your company’s success.
Remember: Organize Employee Appreciation Activities All Year Round
There you have it – 17 things to do for employee appreciation day to help you plan a memorable celebration.
Remember, however, that employee appreciation shouldn’t just be a once-a-year thing; you can use these ideas to organize employee appreciation events regularly. That way, recognition will remain a constant priority, become a standard part of your company culture, and help you grow a much more successful business!