20 Affordable & Creative Employee Appreciation Day Ideas

Business Management
Rea Regan September 14, 2021 12 min read

Admit it… it’s always nice to be recognized and appreciated for our hard work. That’s why employee appreciation days are vital to keeping employees happy, productive, and motivated! Here’s a list of 20 affordable and creative employee appreciation day ideas.

14 Affordable & Creative Employee Appreciation Day Ideas

Quick Guide

    C’mon be honest, being recognized and appreciated is a great feeling we all love, and sometimes, we even crave it. 

    Whether it’s a simple “thank you” for taking out the trash or an “awesome job!” for exceeding sales goals, appreciation and recognition is the main drive for continuing that behavior.

    It can be appreciation from a friend, spouse, or even a boss — it makes us feel valued and recognized. 

    However, from a purely business sense, most companies focus their energy on customer satisfaction and happiness. 

    And it’s true that your customers are your main priority, and they should be, of course. But, it’s just as important to focus your energy on your employees too. 

    Why? It’s the secret to lowering employee turnover.

    CareerBuilder discovered that 50% of employees would stay at a company if they were recognized more often. 

    Another study discovered that 40% of employees who “do not feel meaningfully recognized will not go above their formal responsibilities to get the job done.”

    Gallup went on to say that recognizing employees is a low-cost strategy that brings bigger rewards to your business. 

    In order to have your employees performing at their very best, you must have a strategy to express your appreciation and recognition. And no, we aren’t talking about a financial incentive. Money isn’t the only thing that drives your employees to work at their best.

    Employee appreciation day, which takes place on the first Friday of March, is the perfect opportunity to begin showing your employees you care. Take the extra time on this day to show your employees that all their hard work and dedication are seen and appreciated.

    NOTE: Once employee appreciation day is over, the list we share below can help shape a strong foundation for continuous and regular employee appreciation and recognition year-round. 

    Appreciation is NOT, and should never be a one-day task.

    20 Affordable & Creative Employee Appreciation Day Ideas

    Play Team Games

    Team games like a scavenger hunt, blind drawing, office trivia, or the mind field are a great way to have fun, boost engagement, and show some appreciation. Plus, they offer a great opportunity for your team members to get to know one another in a fun setting and environment. 

    There’s nothing like some healthy competition either!

    The benefits? Having fun, getting to know colleagues you don’t normally work with, laughing, and feeling closer to the team.

    A Team Lunch

    Get everyone out of the office for an hour, or even two, to wine and dine your employees. And the bills on you. (It’s employee appreciation day after all.)

    It’s up to you if you want to take the team out as a group (small or large) or individually, so you can talk about their satisfaction levels. Taking your employees out to lunch shows them that you care about what they have to say and it may make it easier for them to offer genuine feedback as the atmosphere is more relaxed.

    The benefits? Sharing a healthy meal and some laughs with your teammates. Or if it’s a one-on-one lunch, getting the ear of your boss to share feedback.

    Peer Appreciation

    Don’t miss the opportunity for your employees to show appreciation for one another. Your employees are way more in the know than you as they are “in the trenches” with their coworkers during the daily grind. Give them a platform to share positive things about their coworkers.

    The benefits? It brings more positive things your employees have done to your attention and to their peers.

    peer to peer appreciation works infographic

    Use Technology

    There are several employee management software solutions that can be used to increase employee engagement, satisfaction, and are a great way to put the spotlight on an employee to recognize them for their hard work. 

    With Connecteam, a social activity feed allows managers to post company news, updates, events, or even a photo of the employee of the month! 

    Colleagues can like, comment, and even share GIFs and images to congratulate their fellow employee. 

    The benefits? An employee management software not only reduces the friction of day-to-day operational processes, but they also increase employee engagement, satisfaction, productivity, and morale!

    Show Your Employees Appreciation & Recognition On The Connecteam All-In-One Communication Software!

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    Employee recognition

    A Team Happy Hour

    Throwing a happy hour leads to a relaxed and fun atmosphere that encourages more positive interactions between your employees and managers. A happy hour can also lead to less stress and a more healthy company culture

    Consider that after-work engagements may mean that some employees can’t make it so perhaps during the workday is more comfortable. Additionally, have alcohol-free options for anyone who does not consume alcohol. 

    The benefits? Casually socializing and learning something new about your peers and managers.

    Write A Personal Thank You Card

    Physically buying a card and writing down your thanks is not a lost art. It can actually go a really long way for employee appreciation day. It can be a quick note on a piece of paper or post-it, a physical card, or even a certificate. 

    The benefits? Taking the time out of your busy schedule to physically write your thanks makes your employees feel truly noticed and appreciated. 

    thank you note with small gifts
    Photo by Giftpundits.com from Pexels

    Give Out Company Swag

    It is super easy to create a ‘swag’ bag filled with fun gifts such as company-branded clothing, pens, coffee cups, notebooks, or water bottles. Be sure to add in some treats and gift cards.

    Or you can take it a step further and ask your team what kind of swag they would love to get – this can help increase loyalty and fun conversations about the company brand.

    The benefits? An employee who feels appreciated, and can enjoy the gifts with friends and family.

    Go On A Field Trip

    Organize a field trip to a local museum, botanical garden, or park. Sign up for a factory, brewery or winery tour. Use Employee Appreciation Day as an opportunity to better know your community and learn about your neighbors. It might even spark some new ideas!

    The benefits? It helps create a memorable day that is filled with fun while enjoying local attractions and maybe even learning something new.

    An Employee Of The Month Photo

    While it may seem old-school, it does work. 

    Having a dedicated space that includes a framed photo of the top employees for the month can lead to recognition, better conversation, and wanting to see your own photo up on the wall.

    The benefits? Feeling appreciated and shines a spotlight on an individual. 

    Career-Based Rewards

    Offering a career-based reward is not only perfect for your employees but will also benefit your company. Send employees to leadership training, seminars, or allow them to choose an online class they want to take. Sometimes, it may not be directly related to the current job role but it does show you’re invested in their career. 

    The benefits? Managers are invested in an employee’s career for the long-haul.

    Volunteer Together

    As a team, go out and volunteer at a homeless shelter, senior living community, or humane society. Or you can even plant trees, cook for those in need, bring joy to seniors, or take dogs for walks at shelters. Deloitte found that 70% of working Americans strongly believe “volunteer activities are more likely to boost employee morale than company-sponsored happy hours.”

    If you’re not sure which opportunities or events to attend, just ask your team for some ideas.

    The benefits? Everyone working together to help the community while creating amazing memories and getting to know their coworkers better.

    Infographic on benefits of company volunteering

    Create Your Own Employee Appreciation Day

    There is no reason you have to celebrate employee appreciation day on an official day. Why not create your own that’s special to your team? Maybe it’s the day you opened your doors or smashed a goal and exceeded expectations.

    You can either give everyone the day off but if you really want to maximize engagement, go big. Hold an awards ceremony, go bowling, grill out at the local park, and so on. Whatever way you choose to celebrate your own employee appreciation day, make sure it’s something your team really looks forward to.

    The benefits? You and your employees create it — so it’s unique and is a collaborative, joint engagement activity.

    Bring In A Guest Speaker

    Whether it’s virtual or in-person, why not bring in a relevant industry speaker or influencer to talk with your team? They can effortlessly share their knowledge and experience which adds more value to your employees. Plus, it helps break away from that everyday grind.

    The benefits? Your employees gain additional knowledge from an industry leader to grow their own skills, while having fun!

    Send A Thank You Video

    With COVID still an issue in many countries, many companies are finding new ways to engage their employees, especially as they don’t see them in person much anymore.

    So don’t just send the same old “thank you” note. Instead, take the time to create a special “thank you” video for your entire company! If possible, share the video on YouTube, your social channels, and even the company website.

    The benefits? A personal video – whether individually sent or company-wide, your employees will appreciate the extra step taken as it offers a human, personal touch.

    Let Senior Leadership Say Something

    Here’s the thing, 28% of employees said that “the most memorable recognition comes from their manager”. While 24% said that they want to be recognized by a senior leader or CEO.

    Employee recognition and appreciation really means something when it comes from the top down. It could be at a company-wide meeting, leadership writing an email, or creating a video, etc.

    The benefits? Your employees will create a stronger bond to the company and will feel a greater sense of accomplishment.

    Send A Nice Gift to Their Home

    Another creative idea for employee appreciation is to send a small and thoughtful gift to their home. You can include a bottle of wine, a small cake or sweets, or even something that supports a locally owned business. 

    Coming home to a surprise gift box is always a fun treat and shows that you really care and put some thought and effort into what you got them. 

    The benefits? Not only can you support local businesses, but you show your employees that they are valued and appreciated

    woman holding small gift box
    Photo by Anthony Shkraba from Pexels

    Offer Remote Work Days

    Another employee appreciation day idea is to allow that employee to work from home for the day. Although this won’t boost engagement in the office, employees do like to work from home every once in a while

    If you’re worried about employees working from home, you should know that Forbes research shows that it actually increases employee productivity, performance, engagement, retention, and profitability

    The benefits? Not only do you show your employee appreciation, but your company also benefits from higher rates of productivity and engagement. 

    The Boss’ Parking Spot

    Although it may sound silly, it’s not. Another one of our creative ideas for employee appreciation includes giving the recognized employee the boss’ parking spot. Not only will it make the employee feel important, but the boss will also be very aware of who the winner was! 

    You can even have colleagues decorate the spot to make the employee of the month feel extra special. 

    The benefits? You increase employee engagement and have a fun time while doing so!

    Donate To A Charity

    Instead of giving monetary gifts to the employee of the month or those being recognized, donate to a charity of their choice and make a positive impact. Not only does this show that you appreciate your employees, but you show them the importance of giving back to the community as well. 

    Additionally, this shows your employees that you are invested in and support their interests and concerns. 

    The benefits? Employees feel that they are making a positive difference in the world and also at the company in which they work. 

    Invest In Their Health And Well-Being

    Another way to show an employee your appreciation is to make it known that the company is invested and cares for their employees mental and physical well-being. Instead of taking them to lunch or buying them a bottle of wine, you can instead hire a yoga instructor to come and lead a yoga class or even provide smokers with a chance to meet with a mentor to help them quit. 

    You can easily show employees you appreciate them by showing a genuine interest in their health and well-being. 

    The benefits? Increased health and positivity as well as potentially less sick days and absences

    More Ideas For Employee Appreciation Day

    The list of ideas you can implement at your company to show your employees recognition on employee appreciation day, and beyond, is never-ending.

    Consider the human aspect and put yourself in their shoes. What would they like and appreciate? What motivates them?

    So what else can you do?

    • Improve the break room
    • Invite food trucks 
    • Allow for casual Monday’s 
    • Give a shout-out on social media
    • Offer gym memberships
    • Hire a masseuse 
    • Allow pets to come to the office

    Make The Most Out Of Employee Appreciation Day

    Employee appreciation is not a one-time task to check off on employee appreciation day. 

    Instead, it must be an integral part of your company culture and an attitude that all managers adopt. Remember that your employees are your most important asset, so show them that they are valued and appreciated. And don’t make it boring, think of some fun appreciation games or creative employee appreciation day ideas.

    Additionally, most of the ideas listed above can be easily done through an employee management software solution, like Connecteam. Choosing the employee of the month is fun and engaging with a digital poll that allows colleagues and managers to vote anonymously. 

    With Connecteam you can easily post and share the employee of the month on the digital social feed. Colleagues and managers can also like, comment, and even share GIFS or images to further boost engagement. Lastly, you can even gather real-time employee feedback by sending employee satisfaction surveys or engagement surveys directly on the Connecteam app. 

    When it comes to lowering employee turnover, boosting productivity, and morale, you must focus on employee appreciation. 

    Show Your Appreciation!

    Employee appreciation is a must-have in any business. Your employees expect this and when using Connecteam’s all-in-one communication tool, employee appreciation is easy to manage.

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