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21 employee appreciation day ideas everyone will love

By Gabe Scorgie

9 min read

21 employee appreciation day ideas everyone will love
Illustration by Maya Ramadhina

It’s probably safe to say that in today’s workforce, the importance of employee appreciation can’t be overstated. As organizations try to deal with the ever-changing challenges of the modern workplace, they are increasingly recognizing that a workforce that feels valued, recognized, and appreciated is more than just a nicety — it’s a strategic imperative. 

Put in simpler language, that means if you want a thriving, engaged, and productive workforce, then employee appreciation is essential.

What better way to achieve that than with employee appreciation day, which is typically celebrated on the first Friday in March each year? That means you have plenty of time to get ready for Friday, March 1, 2024.

To help you get ready, this blog will provide you with Employee Appreciation Day ideas — whether that’s for the national employee day or a day you’ve selected for your own organization. This could include ideas for staff appreciation, team-building activities, and more.

Preparing for staff appreciation day

Whether you’re aiming for an employee appreciation week or simple employee recognition day, there are some preparations that are necessary. Let’s walk through that.

1. When is employee appreciation day?

Employee appreciation day is celebrated on the first Friday in March each year. The next global employee appreciation day is Friday, March 1, 2024.

2. Plan a budget

Obviously, your budget for your employee day will depend on the size of your organization, the activities you plan to host, and the extent of your financial resources. Here are some things to consider:

  • Venue and decorations
  • Food and beverage
  • Entertainment activities
  • Appreciation gifts and prizes

3. Form an employee appreciation committee

Having a committee can ensure that your staff appreciation day is organized, effective, and inclusive. Consider the following when organizing your committee:

  • Identify the purpose of the committee
  • Make sure you have support from your leadership
  • Consider creating a formal charter that outlines your committee’s mission, objectives, roles, and responsibilities
  • Set a regular meeting schedule

Now let’s talk about several staff appreciation ideas for large companies or small. 

Bring your people together

Small gestures of appreciation

Although small, these gestures can have a significant impact on morale and motivation, leading to happy employees. Here are some ideas:

  • Handwritten thank you notes:
    • General thank you
    • Project-specific thank you
    • Milestone recognition or work anniversary thank you
    • Notes for exceptional performance
    • A thank you for going the extra mile
    • Customer appreciation notes
  • Personalized messages or emails: If you’d rather not do the handwritten thing, you also have the option of sending personalized text message or email expressing your thanks.
  • Surprise treats or snacks: Consider hosting a themed snack day such as Taco Tuesday or Sushi Friday. Other alternatives include:
    • Fruit baskets
    • Homemade treats
    • Surprise snack baskets

Team-building activities

Team building activities are a great way to inspire camaraderie, improve communication, and boost morale among employees. There are several ways you can achieve this:

  • Organized team-building exercises or games: if you’re wondering how to show appreciation to employees, organized exercises and games are a great idea. Consider these team appreciation ideas:
    • Escape room challenges
    • Scavenger hunts
    • Team cooking class
    • Building challenge 
    • Office Olympics
    • Team trivia
  • Hold a team lunch or breakfast: Do something special, not just bring a box of donuts into the office. Consider a catered lunch or breakfast, or perhaps setting up food stations.
  • Arrange a team outing or social event: Get your team together out of the office. What you end up doing will depend on whether you’re looking for inexpensive employee appreciation ideas or you have a larger budget. Here are some ideas:
    • Movie night
    • Sports game or concert
    • Themed costume party
    • Karaoke night
    • Team volunteer day
    • Potluck party

Professional development opportunities

Ongoing professional development is an excellent way to show staff appreciation. It shows you’re willing to invest in their future. Consider these alternatives:

  • Offer training or workshops:
    • Leadership development workshops
    • Time management and productivity training
    • Project management certification
    • Financial literacy workshops
    • Emotional intelligence workshops
    • Health and wellness programs
  • Provide mentorship or coaching sessions: Help a coworker. Appreciation day could include assisting new hires with mentorship and/or coaching.
  • Support educational opportunities: Several great ideas to appreciate employees include educational opportunities that can help them invest in their growth and skills. Suggestions include:
    • Language courses
    • Industry conferences and seminars
    • Certification programs
    • Public speaking and presentation workshops
    • Soft skills training
    • Personal development workshops

Recognition and Rewards 

When considering ideas for Employee Appreciation Day, recognition and rewards may be one of the first things to come to mind. After all, it’s a powerful way to recognize their exceptional contributions and achievements. 

Consider bonuses or rewards for any of the following:

  • Performance bonuses:
    • Project completion
    • Year-end
    • Performance tier
    • Attendance and punctuality
    • Deadline achievement
  • Monetary bonuses or gift cards: It doesn’t matter what a bonus is for — perhaps you have something like an associate appreciation day, where you’re recognizing sales or customer service achievements. Or maybe someone has achieved employee of the week status. Regardless, monetary bonuses and gift cards, especially a gift card to a place you know someone likes to shop, are a great idea.
  • Publicly acknowledge achievements: As suggested above, there are times where you may simply send an email or thank-you note as a gesture of appreciation. However, there are times you may want to publicly acknowledge achievements. You can do this by means of:
    • A recognition wall
    • Celebration meetings
    • Newsletter or intranet features
    • Certificates and awards
    • Social media shout outs

Employee appreciation gifts

Of course, if you’re gearing up for staff appreciation week or any sort of celebration to recognize your employees’ achievements or efforts, you want to consider gifts.

  • Thoughtful, personalized gifts:
    • Personalized jewelry 
    • An engraved keepsake
    • Engraved or personalized wine or whiskey glass
    • A custom playlist
  • Customize company swag:
    • T-shirts
    • Hoodies and jackets
    • Hats
    • Branded headphones
    • Backpacks
    • Bluetooth speaker
    • Notebooks or journal
  • Donations made in your employee’s name: Does your employee have a charity they already donate to or wish they could donate to? Consider making a donation in their name. This is a thoughtful employee appreciation week idea that benefits others as well. 

Celebrate diversity and inclusion

Today’s workforce is diverse, and you’ll likely keep that in mind when selecting employee appreciation activities. Keep these in mind as well:

  • Create a diverse and inclusive workplace: This is a workplace where employees from various backgrounds, such as different races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, ages, abilities, religions, and more, feel valued, respected, and supported.
  • Recognize different cultural celebrations: depending on the size and the locale of your organization, there is a chance you have multiple cultures represented throughout your workforce. You can make it a practice to recognize different cultural celebrations or consider the following:
    • Cultural potluck lunches
    • Cultural awareness workshops
    • Festive decorations across cultures 
    • A diverse calendar
  • Celebrate individuality and uniqueness: Everyone is unique and individual in their own right. Celebrating differences can help to boost your employees’ confidence and self-esteem — which can have an overall impact on the morale of your workforce.

Employee appreciation events

Why keep it low-key? How about planning an entire employee appreciation month? But if you have actual work to be done and aren’t prepared for your people to party-hardy for that long, give something like the follow a try: 

  • Organize a company-wide event or party
    • Annual appreciation gala
    • Summer picnic
    • Holiday party
    • Team-building retreat
    • Wellness day
  • Video game day: Rain or shine, think about arranging a video game competition. And one advantage here, remote employees can take part as well.
  • Invite guest speakers or industry experts: Allow your employees to network and stay up to date on industry trends by either inviting guest speakers to your event or ask them if they’d like you to sponsor their attendance at conferences, workshops, and seminars.

Conclusion

There you have it. We’ve discussed 21 different ways that you can celebrate Employee Appreciation Day. Here’s a quick recap of what they were:

Handwritten thank you notes

Mentorship and coaching sessions

Make a donation in an employee’s name

Personalized text messages or emails

Educational opportunities

Recognize different cultural celebrations

Surprise treats or snacks

Performance bonuses

Celebrate a diverse and inclusive workplace

Team-building exercises or games

Offer monetary bonuses or gift cards

Celebrate individuality and uniqueness

Team lunches or breakfasts

Public acknowledgment of achievements

Arrange for company-wide events or parties

Team outings or social events

Give thoughtful, personalized gifts

Host a video game day

Training or workshops

Customized company swag

Arrange for guest speakers or industry experts

 

Employee appreciation days are more than just a nice thought or gesture. If you want a thriving, engaged, and successful workplace, you should consider them as fundamental. Recognizing and valuing the efforts and contributions of your workforce can have a profound impact on their motivation, job satisfaction, and even their overall well-being. Finally, it helps to create a positive company culture, enhances productivity, and reduces turnover.

The Great Resignation began in 2021, and many companies are still struggling with retention and attracting new talent. If you haven’t already, it’s time to make employee appreciation part of your strategy.

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