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15 meaningful virtual employee appreciation ideas

9 min read

15 meaningful virtual employee appreciation ideas

Recognizing employees might seem hard in a remote working setting, but it’s integral to keeping virtual teams motivated and collaborative. Consider these virtual employee appreciation ideas to remind your people that they’re valued.

Like many organizations around the world, we at Jostle had to pivot to remote work quickly. With virtual work being normalized, leaders are scrambling to solve the challenge of keeping their organizational culture thriving. To address that, we must double down on recognizing contribution and showing appreciation for remote workers. 

This virtual way of working is leading to long-term negative impacts on human inclusion and connection at work due to its transactional nature. Our recent survey results on the impact of remote work and inclusion underscore why employee appreciation is even more critical in virtual environments. While performance has overall increased, 61% of employees report that remote work makes them feel less connected to their coworkers. 

Building connections, establishing trust, and reworking processes are essential now that we don’t work from shared office spaces anymore. To address that, we’re sharing thoughtful virtual employee appreciation ideas for you to acknowledge everyone’s contributions and effort. 

Table of Contents

Incorporate gratitude into your working routine  

Send a personalized thank you card (digital or physical)

Recognize with public accolades

Celebrate work anniversaries, milestones, and birthdays

Treat them to a lovely meal 

Special days—bring your child, parent, or pet to work 

Take some time off

Virtual happy hour

Host a celebratory virtual town hall event

Sharpen your skills together

Show them you haven’t forgotten about personal development

Home office refresh

Deliver them company swag or care packages

Upgrade your wellness programs

Find out what matters most

Conclusion

 

15 virtual employee appreciation ideas

It’s time to reimagine how to build in appreciation in the age of remote work. Start with these ideas below: 

 

1. Incorporate gratitude into your working routine  

Employee appreciation shouldn't just be for a single occasion but be part of your everyday culture. As you’re working from home, team members often feel disconnected. That’s why it’s so important to share gratitude regularly. 

Applaud significant initiatives or star performances during weekly meetings, and make sure recognition is timely and specific. When leaders make an effort to recognize people, it spurs motivation and uplifts your team. Even a simple, earnest “thank you for your hard work” will do the trick. A nice gesture doesn’t need to be costly or extravagant, as long as it’s genuine. 

Remember: employee appreciation should be a daily part of your culture and shouldn’t be solely reserved for special occasions.

 

2. Send a personalized thank you card (digital or physical)


A thoughtful yet easy to execute idea is writing a thank you card. The surprise of receiving a letter never gets old, let alone something sentimental from your manager that can be shown off on your work desk. Not only does this increase the sense of belonging to the organization, but it strengthens the manager-employee relationship. Consider sending a fun e-card instead for more animation and extra fun effects. 

 

3. Recognize with public accolades

Virtual work environments typically face weaker team connections due to a lack of peer-to-peer recognition. Still, external acknowledgment continues to be a powerful motivator that also encourages positive behaviors. 

You can prioritize public appreciation by thanking them on social media platforms (such as LinkedIn) or sending a company-wide email. Alternatively, give them a company-wide shout-out in your company’s activity stream or a general slack channel for some spotlight. 

Take this to the next level by organizing an awards ceremony. While a virtual event may have challenges to coordinate, it’s still important to demonstrate public appreciation, even when in-person gatherings aren’t an option.

 

4. Celebrate work anniversaries, milestones, and birthdays


There's no reason to stop celebrating your remote workforce's special days because the working world has gone online. Birthday celebrations and work anniversaries were already integral parts of a company's culture, and its significance will only grow.

Celebrating an occasion can be a simple and enjoyable experience. Host a virtual party and gather all team members to deliver heartfelt messages and blessings. Or record best wishes in a group video that can be shared electronically to surprise your teammates.

Working across time zones or async? Consider delivering a cake, party hat, or a birthday card for extra sweet memories.

 

5. Treat them to a lovely meal 


Not a fan of embarrassing eating faces over Zoom? If you can’t all be together for a team lunch, gift your team meal delivery credits or a gift card to a local joint. 

If you want to go the extra mile, give them a generous allowance to take the family out for a memorable meal as a bonus. People always appreciate gestures like this, and it shows how leadership cares about employees—even their lives outside of work. 

 

6. Special days—bring your child, parent, or pet to work 


Remote work has created new barriers to workplace inclusion, where process and function are alienating the human side of employees. To stay competitive, organizations need to show employees that they’re not only supportive of their professional lives but also concerned about them as individuals. 

You can constantly flex creativity by inviting people to share their whole selves at work—with a “bring your pet or child to work day”. Acknowledge the struggles of childcare and domestic distractions by dedicating time where people can bring their adorable daughter or goofy dog to work virtually. 

Embrace the mess and reality of balancing work and life. Why not make it a day of fun, laughter, and sharing?

 

7. Take some time off


Our research survey showed that sick time has been vastly under-utilized, and it’s hurting the remote workforce. Promoting time off is beneficial to the employee, as this prevents burnout and allows them to come back feeling relaxed and motivated, ready to tackle new challenges. It’s not surprising that quality time with family or friends helps people return to the workplace with a different perspective. 

A spontaneous or bonus afternoon off can also do wonders for your employees. Not only does it show how much your organization cares about wellness, but employees also appreciate being recognized for their overtime commitments or diligence to hit a high-pressure deadline. It shows you still acknowledge their hard work, even if you're not sitting next to them at the office. 

 

8. Virtual happy hour


Over three quarters of remote workers reported that they socialize with their coworkers much less frequently compared to when they worked at the office. Just because everyone’s at home doesn’t mean that you can't have a drink or two together! 

At Jostle, we have “Welcome to the weekend” sessions and cross-departmental minglings that include sharing weekend plans, happy hour drinks, and online games (which sometimes get a wee bit competitive). Try setting up a repeated event in your team calendar so that you can socialize and share wins at the end of the week!

Draw-battle showdown, anyone? 

 

9. Host a celebratory virtual town hall event


Rewards, like employee of the month ceremonies or company-wide gatherings, are still achievable in a remote team setting and are integral to company culture. 

A bonding event for the entire company helps establish a sense of community that makes employees feel valued. On your next company anniversary, why not throw a virtual party? Whether it’s a follow-along cooking night, a magician show over zoom, or virtual karaoke—you can’t go wrong with some entertainment to help people loosen up. 

 

10. Sharpen your skills together


The pandemic made learning programs take a backseat as people were scrambling to handle crisis situations. It’s time to address this, and there’s good news: there are endless ways to pivot your in-person skill-building programs and adapt them to a virtual format. You can also buy industry conference tickets, audiobook credits or hire an external consultant to support your team.

Consider implementing a learning and development program or give employees time to work on challenges they want to tackle. Either way, people want to know that their leaders are investing in their growth and professional development. 

 

11. Show them you haven’t forgotten about personal development


During your 1:1s, how much do you talk about personal growth? 

By proactively organizing time to reflect and work on what makes people tick, employees feel appreciated for their ambitions. This is a great way to make progress on an improvement area asynchronously.  

Polish soft skills with a workshop or lunch n’ learn to go over some new insights or practice presentation skills. Some of the best team building stems from tackling steep learning curves and enjoying growth together. 

 

12. Home office refresh


Let’s face it—many of us have makeshift work stations due to the rapid pivot to remote work. A great idea to support your employees and make them feel appreciated is to help them upgrade to a more productive home office

Help improve their workspace with a cute plant, a branded company mug, or even a sweet gadget. As a bonus: take some polaroids at your next in-person company event to make their home office cozy, comfortable, and full of team spirit! 

 

13. Deliver them company swag or care packages


Don’t you feel good repping a brand you love? Company swag (especially well-designed and high-quality ones) helps people feel proud that they’re part of the team. 

If you have the budget and want to thank someone for their contributions, send them a care package with multiple employee appreciation gifts. It could be for whenever; an anniversary, the holidays, or after a core project. Better yet, include a note expressing how grateful you are to have them represent the team.

If you're wary of mailing anything at this time, digital gifts like redemption coupons or a theme park entry ticket could be fun too! 

 

14. Upgrade your wellness programs


Remote employees are placing more emphasis on how organizations support them on and off the job. Encourage overall wellbeing with progressive wellness policies, and ensure your managers demonstrate empathy and support for unique individual needs. 

Not only will this demonstrate your appreciation for your team, but keep them supported through the transition to virtual work (or simply the uncertain times we live in).

 

15. Find out what matters most


Did you know that up to 54% of employees feel that their supervisor doesn’t provide them with the support needed to deal with problems from remote work? 

There can be a disconnect between leadership and employees— and understanding how to show appreciation is no different. While acknowledging that everyone’s needs and preferences are unique, one way to bridge that gap is to simply ask how your team prefers to receive appreciation. 

If you’re out of virtual employee appreciation ideas, you can directly reach out to your team with a poll. They’ll appreciate your thought and care to support their needs.

 

Conclusion

Being appreciative of your remote workers is not only great for morale, but it supports the business too. A high retention rate, a vibrant company culture, and collaborative working relationships can result from employee recognition done right. 

Whether your team has always worked remotely or transitioned quickly to this new work environment over the past couple of years, use these virtual employee appreciation ideas to highlight what’s been accomplished during these incredibly stressful times. 

Share what you’d add to this list and the ideas you plan on bringing to life! 

Lets Celebrate Jostle

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Faye Wai

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