29 awesome employee appreciation ideas for 2024
Employee Appreciation Day is an excellent opportunity to celebrate team members and thank them for their contributions to your company.
But as the founder of the holiday, Bob Nelson, says: “By no means is Employee Appreciation Day meant to be this one day to thank people.” The true purpose of the event is to remind businesses of the importance of recognizing and rewarding their people all year round. Indeed, when companies have strong recognition programs, staff are 44%* more likely to thrive in their professional and personal lives. In today's uncertain and turbulent work environment giving employees appreciation is key to ensuring psychologocal safety and building resilient businesses.
So to celebrate, we’re sharing our list of the best ideas to acknowledge your people every day of the year and foster a culture of appreciation at your workplace.
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12 ideas for employee appreciation day & beyond
There’s no quick way to build a culture of appreciation — instead, implement long-term initiatives and best practices that will benefit your people over time. Let’s look at some ideas your organization can use to celebrate workplace successes.
1. Create a praise wall
Never underestimate the power of compliments. Gallup studies show employees who regularly receive public praise are 40% more likely to feel a sense of professional belonging.
So, enrich your company culture by broadcasting good feedback on Leapsome’s Praise Wall. Team members can leave positive comments about each other, and the feature will automatically display the most recent messages. All you have to do is activate the tool within your Leapsome account and choose a communal area like a company cafe or hang-out space to screen it.
2. Enable & encourage peer-to-peer feedback
Praise shouldn’t just come from management. For a strong culture of appreciation, colleagues should also recognize each other’s great work. But it’s the organization’s responsibility to create an environment where staff feels comfortable exchanging regular feedback.
Here are some steps you can take to encourage peer feedback:
- Ensure leaders give consistent praise — Team members tend to follow their manager’s lead and will internalize employee recognition as one of their company’s core values if they see management modeling it.
- Train staff to give feedback — Many people aren’t used to or feel uncomfortable sharing praise, so show them how to do it constructively through training sessions.
- Build peer feedback into your processes — Introduce initiatives like 360° performance reviews where coworkers can comment on each other’s progress. That way, you’ll make feedback a regular part of your workflow.
- Make it easy to show appreciation — Let employees give each other instant feedback from their desks with a people enablement tool like Leapsome. Staff can make feedback public or private based on their team member’s preferences and the sensitivity of the situation.
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3. Provide flexible working arrangements
Given that 91% of people want more remote work opportunities, this reward should be well-received. But you need an accommodating hybrid and remote work setup for your team to get the most of their time outside the office.
“Employees value flexibility, so they don’t like hybrid working arrangements where the business decides when they have to come to the office or not. Instead, they prefer to choose their work location.”
— Carolina Braig, HR Manager at Ignion
To give staff the full benefits of a flexible working arrangement, provide them autonomy over their hours and work location. That way, they can schedule their jobs around other priorities like childcare and doctor appointments or find a more convenient time to commute. And if you do need employees in the office on certain days, consult staff about their preferences.
Flexible working arrangements aren’t only beneficial for your people — they also strengthen company culture. They’re a great way to show employees that you trust them to manage themselves and care about them enough to prioritize their work-life balance.
4. Give company-wide time off outside of regular PTO
Another widely appreciated reward is offering automatic vacation days at popular times of the year. For instance, an organization might close for two weeks at the end of December and the beginning of January as a winter holiday. This company-wide time off means employees don’t have to compete for vacation days or do much catching up when they return.
And Hays recently discovered 50% of professionals want more annual leave. So, providing additional time off outside of regular personal time off (PTO) means fulfilling that wish by increasing the total amount of paid vacation days your company offers.
5. Establish a #wins channel
Use your organization’s messaging system — like Slack or Microsoft Teams — to create a dedicated channel for shoutouts. That way, colleagues can instantly show appreciation for each other. Some platforms even allow you to include external stakeholders like partners, clients, and freelancers.
6. Invest in employee wellness
Initiatives that support team members’ physical, mental, and emotional well-being are a great investment. You can reward your people for their efforts while helping them become happier and healthier. Then, they’ll find engaging with their work more enjoyable and be able to work more productively too. Consider schemes like:
- Gym or fitness memberships
- Gift cards for spas or wellness treatments
- Onsite classes like yoga or meditation
- Subscriptions to mental health apps like Calm or Oliva
Be sure to consult people about their preferences to ensure you’re providing benefits that align with their needs. For instance, if most of your organization’s roles require staff to sit at a desk most of the day, employees may prefer initiatives that encourage activity. And vice versa — if team members have to move around non-stop at work, they’ll probably appreciate more relaxing activities.
7. Host company events
Most employees regularly work with a few select colleagues but might love the chance to develop camaraderie with team members from unrelated departments.
Company events like functions and parties are opportunities to bring all your people together in one place. They act as a relaxing environment for employees to have a great time, get to know each other, and boost their sense of community. This can make people feel 55% more engaged with their work and 58% more likely to thrive.
8. Wow with development opportunities
Since 96% of professionals crave more development opportunities, it makes sense to offer them as benefits. But you have to go above and beyond to transform standard workplace training into a real gesture of appreciation. Here are some employee development ideas that also show staff you appreciate them:
- Offer to pay for continuing education, like Master’s programs or skill-specific courses
- Reward top performers with conferences in desirable locations
- Invite famous speakers to talk at your organization
- Provide subscriptions to popular online learning apps
9. Reward excellent performance
Companies can offer performance-based pay as part of their compensation management scheme. When well executed, bonuses can make people feel valued and motivate them to do their best work. But check whether variable compensation is right for your business, as it can also affect profitability and create unhealthy competition when implemented carelessly.
Many organizations also have initiatives like ‘employee of the month’ or the ‘top salesman award,’ where they recognize individuals with cash prizes or gift cards. So, you don’t necessarily have to overhaul your compensation program to offer performance-based rewards. But if you’re looking for an easy way to manage bonus proposals and set up fair and transparent compensation reviews, consider investing in a tool like Leapsome.
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10. Relax your dress code
People are generally happier and more productive when they’re comfortable. But typical office attire tends to be restrictive, impractical, and unsuitable for warm weather. In some cases, old-fashioned dress codes even discriminate against underrepresented groups.
So, if you haven’t already, consider whether it’s realistic to adopt a more casual dress code or remove your dress code altogether. By doing so, you’ll make a statement that your people’s comfort is more important than outdated notions about presentation.
11. Offer company swag
One of the most interesting employee appreciation ideas is giving people branded gifts. That way, you can enrich brand awareness and identity while rewarding your team.
But company swag can be a challenging idea to get right. As it’s also a promotional tool, the items need to be worthwhile to impress staff. Otherwise, you’ll have the opposite-than-intended effect and make people feel undervalued.
Here are some creative and practical ideas for company swag:
- Tech accessories like speakers, computer mice, and headphones
- Backpacks, laptop cases, and smartphone covers
- Self-care kits with toiletries, towels, and personal care products
- Eco-friendly products like reusable straws, thermoses, and water bottles
12. Designate an official employee appreciation day
Although you should encourage continuous praise and feedback at your company, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a specific day to celebrate your people. And it doesn’t have to be the first Friday of March every year, like Bob Nelson’s employee appreciation day. You can choose any day that’s meaningful to team members or suits your organization best.
That said, Monday and Friday are good options because they act as an extension of the weekend. Plus, it’s harder to refocus on work after a midweek celebration.
6 ideas to celebrate your teams
Management may struggle to come up with meaningful ways to show their teams appreciation. Here are some ideas that are well-suited to smaller groups of employees rather than an entire organization or large department.
1. Organize a field trip
Excursions can be an excuse for your team to leave the office, try something new, and get to know each other in a more relaxed, informal environment. Depending on your chosen activity, they may also improve your people’s teamwork skills. Some popular ideas include:
- Cooking classes and food-tasting workshops
- Participating in outdoor activities like horseback riding or archery
- Hiking through scenic locations
- Visiting museums, galleries, and other exhibitions
- Volunteering at animal shelters or soup kitchens
2. Buy breakfast or lunch
With the rise of delivery apps, buying food for people with different dietary requirements and preferences is easier than ever. For example, many online restaurants offer a range of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free alternatives. That means you can buy your team a meal without worrying about accidentally excluding or disappointing anyone.
Employees will appreciate the gesture and avoid the stress of packing food or finding a lunch spot that day.
3. Revamp the break room
A recent psychological study found taking regular microbreaks helps people reenergize and engage with their work. Moreover, researchers discovered staff was more likely to take breaks when they felt their employers cared about their well-being.
So, sprucing up your break room has many benefits. You can thank your team for their hard work, acknowledge their need to rest, and encourage them to use more relaxed spaces in the office. The following ideas could make your break room more enticing:
- A supply of healthy snacks
- Comfortable, supportive furniture
- Appliances like coffee machines, kettles, and microwaves
- Bookshelves and magazine racks
- Dim lighting
- Soundproof walls
4. Arrange an hour off to relax together
Another way to encourage breaks and acknowledge your people’s hard work is by taking time off together during the workday. Instead of staying in the office as a group, you could also head to a local cafe, lunch spot, or park. The most important thing is that your team uses the time to bond and get to know newer employees better.
If you work in an especially fast-paced environment, daytime breaks may allow team members to discover each other’s casual side. For instance, some employees may seem more approachable when not concentrating on their regular work tasks.
5. Revisit team wins in group meetings
Sometimes when colleagues praise or thank each other, their messages get lost in the company messaging app. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a section of your team or all-hands meetings dedicated to shoutouts. You can ask staff to elaborate on what happened and add your own praise to the mix.
Integrating wins into your meetings not only creates more public recognition for employees, but can liven up your agenda and create a more positive atmosphere.
6. Check in with absent staff
Although sick days are important for employees to rest and get well, an extended leave may still be a frustrating experience for them. And if team members take leave for serious illness, injuries, or bereavement, it will likely be an especially challenging time in their lives.
By contacting them to let them know they’re missed and reassure them to take the time to recover fully, you may be able to boost their morale and make them look forward to returning to the office. However, avoid making them feel like they have to be available for calls or check their email while out sick. Instead, consider arranging for everyone to sign a card and send along flowers.
4 ideas to recognize milestones & achievements
Individual employees deserve appreciation for their personal and professional successes just as much as your teams and entire staff. Let’s explore some ways you can recognize each staff member’s accomplishments.
1. Celebrate work anniversaries
When you acknowledge work anniversaries, you show you appreciate each employee’s dedication and demonstrate you’re paying attention to them. That’s especially true when it’s an important milestone like a first, fifth, or even tenth anniversary.
Many companies offer a raise every passing year with salary reviews. But you can also personalize the celebration with gifts or an announcement highlighting the person’s stand-out moments at your organization.
“The best way to appreciate employees on their work anniversary is to reach out to them a month before and ask them what they need to be more effective at work. Maybe it’s a new computer. Maybe a new chair. Maybe an under-desk elliptical. Then, find a way to get them what they asked for delivered on their anniversary with a note thanking them for the past year.”
— Rick Joi, founder at The Workiversary Group
2. Acknowledge personal milestones & achievements
As with work anniversaries, appreciating special moments in your team members’ lives shows you support and value them as people. That might include:
- Birthdays, especially important ages in their culture
- Engagements, weddings, and wedding anniversaries
- New additions to their families
- Academic and athletic achievements
- Overcoming illnesses and injuries
- Services to the community
Always follow the individual employee’s lead before you plan any activities. Not every culture celebrates milestones the same way, and some situations might be sensitive for the team member. For instance, some people might prefer not to acknowledge birthdays or wait until after a baby’s been born to celebrate. Other employees may be very private and more comfortable with a few trusted team members recognizing their milestones in a non-public setting.
3. Announce special achievements
For particularly noteworthy professional accomplishments like closing an acquisition or landing a major client, consider making a public announcement. You could publish a message in your weekly newsletter or on one of your social media platforms or mention the employee during your next company all-hands meeting.
And if you’re announcing an internal promotion, it’s a great opportunity to highlight why the individual is a perfect fit for the role and their value to your organization.
4. Have one-on-one meetings to say thank you
Public praise may be powerful, but there’s still a place for private recognition. In fact, Gallup found 64% of professionals prefer a mixture of the two. So, managers can express their gratitude to team members by asking them to schedule a one-on-one meeting and thanking them personally.
But this approach works best in combination with instant feedback. Scientific research indicates feedback is more effective when it’s immediate, so don’t wait for a 1:1 meeting to tell employees when they’ve done something well.
7 ideas to recognize employees remotely
Showing appreciation for remote workers can present some unique challenges. You can’t easily offer them physical gifts or host in-person events, and different time zones may prevent you from getting together. So, let’s check out some ideas that are ideal for appreciating remote employees.
1. Hold virtual events
Nowadays, many activities have online versions. That means you can take ideas from earlier on this list and adapt them for your remote teams, such as:
- Virtual parties — Arrange a time when the entire team can meet and celebrate online. If employees are comfortable with the idea, you could even dance or sing karaoke.
- Team-building events — Organize games like quizzes, scavenger hunts, and murder mysteries in a digital space.
- Live streaming movies — Have team members vote for a movie they’d all like to watch, pay for the download, and share the stream via an online meeting.
“Every meeting, we have a warmer for the first ten minutes before we dive into the agenda. Employees take turns hosting quizzes and trivia games using various apps. Often, the topic is the team themselves, so they’ll have to guess ‘who said that’ on the Slack Channel or who the baby in the photo is. It’s a great way to get to know each other better when we’re often siloed into different squads or working on individual projects.”
— Rob Beames, Head of Content at Flying Cat Marketing
2. Host a virtual lunch
Although your remote team may be spread across different time zones and locations, you can still share a meal. All you need to do is find a suitable time for everyone and download the right catering apps.
For instance, Hoppier lets you pay for your staff’s lunch by sending them all vouchers for international delivery services like DoorDash and Uber Eats. Then, employees can pick their favorite meal and bring it to the virtual meeting. There’s even the option to put a time limit on the vouchers to encourage staff to use them for your particular get-together.
3. Send out virtual group e-cards
When a team member celebrates a milestone or achievement, office teams often pass around a card to sign. But this isn’t practical for remote teams. While people can still exchange physical mail, it’s impossible to arrange for them to write on the same card.
Instead, consider sending a digital or printed card with an app like GroupTogether. These let you generate a link that you can share with your team. Then, people can write messages to their colleagues and attach images if they like. Once everyone’s ‘signed’ the card, you can email or post a printed version to the employee you’re celebrating.
4. Order your team gifts
As well as lunches and cards, you can also send your people physical rewards. Several websites and apps could help you arrange this, so you don’t have to mail them personally. Some popular choices include self-care kits and tech accessories, but choose an option that aligns with your team’s needs and interests.
Another option is organizing gift cards that employees can use online or in a store near them. That way, you give your team more choice over what to buy and may avoid problems with delivery.
5. Pay for staff’s home offices
Companies usually provide office furniture and equipment for onsite team members. But remote employees have to pay for and organize their own set-up. And when they have other household expenses to contend with, they may not feel they can justify buying an ergonomic chair or a new laptop.
But uncomfortable furniture and poorly working equipment can negatively impact satisfaction and performance. And when employees don’t have a dedicated workspace, they may struggle to concentrate.
If you fund your whole team’s home offices, you can improve their working arrangements while showing your gratitude. Many companies arrange this with a one-off payment at the start of an employment contract or a monthly stipend. These let remote team members upgrade their equipment and join a coworking space if working from home isn’t convenient.
6. Feature team members on your social media platforms
Regardless of where you work, your company probably has a website and social media page. And you can show remote employees appreciation by dedicating webpages, comments, and posts to them.
For instance, if you have an About Us page, you can publish a photograph with some information about each team member. Include miniature biographies, descriptions of staff personalities, or a list of their accomplishments. Depending on your industry, you can make these formal or light-hearted.
Another option would be including a regular team member spotlight in your newsletter or posting about them on your most popular social media channel. This is a great way to showcase each person’s personal and professional accomplishments and recognize their success inside and outside the workplace. Plus, readers may be curious about your employees’ unique interests and hobbies.
7. Keep a community calendar
Managing a remote team makes keeping track of important staff milestones like birthdays and work anniversaries even more challenging. Employees are also less likely to pick up or be reminded of details like these in casual conversations.
And when team members reach a milestone while working alone in their home office, it can feel lonely or dampen morale.
Community calendars not only display useful information like who’s out of the office but also milestones you regularly celebrate. That way, you won’t accidentally miss any important dates. There’s also a greater chance other team members will notice and join your celebration or organize something on their own.
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Prioritize employee appreciation & recognition
Expressing appreciation shouldn’t be a one-time event. Companies have to build a culture of continuous praise and recognition to truly show their people they value them. That means using a variety of employee appreciation ideas throughout the year.
With Leapsome, you can ensure team members feel valued on a regular basis. Our Survey module helps you get feedback on your recognition program and uncover what kinds of appreciation employees enjoy the most. And we combine compensation, development, and promotion management to support the different ways you reward your team.
But our built-in Instant Feedback module is the most surefire way to impact employee recognition. It helps you cultivate a positive work environment where your whole team feels happy to share and receive praise. So, get ready to boost engagement and productivity while putting your people first.
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