What is Employee Appreciation Day?
The first Friday in March is Employee Appreciation Day every year. Bob Nelson and Workman Publishing, his publisher, started the day in 1995. The purpose of Employee Appreciation Day is to get employers in all industries to show appreciation for their employees. It’s a day to celebrate and honor the contributions and achievements of your staff.
Benefits of celebrating Employee Appreciation Day
Why should you celebrate Employee Appreciation Day? You might know how much you appreciate your employees, but they don’t know unless you show or tell them. If they don’t feel appreciated, they might be less likely to perform their best and could leave the company sooner.
Some benefits that come from showing employees appreciation include:
- Better job satisfaction: Keeping employees happy is a priority for employers. Employee appreciation is an easy way to improve job satisfaction and boost morale.
- Improved performance: When employees feel like you appreciate what they do, they’re more likely to do more of it. Appreciation is an incentive to work harder, which can increase productivity and work quality.
- Increased engagement: Being appreciated increases employee engagement, meaning they’re actively involved and committed to their job. Gallup shows that only 34% of employees in the U.S. are engaged, so working to improve engagement is worthwhile.
- Lower turnover: Employees want to work for a company that appreciates their efforts. Showing appreciation can reduce turnover, which can save you money. According to Gallup, voluntary employee turnover costs U.S. businesses $1 trillion each year.
Employee Appreciation Day ideas
There are many ways to show appreciation for your employees on Employee Appreciation Day or any day of the year. To help you choose how to celebrate, start by setting your budget for the celebration and divide that amount by the number of employees.
Free employee appreciation ideas
Employee appreciation ideas don’t have to be costly. Sometimes the most meaningful appreciation ideas are free. Sincere expressions of gratitude and recognition of accomplishments help keep your employees motivated.
Try these ideas when money is tight:
- Appreciation letters: Write each staff member an employee appreciation letter to highlight specific accomplishments or qualities you appreciate in them.
- Social media recognition: Celebrate your employees publicly by making recognition posts on your social media pages. If you have a small staff, highlight each employee individually. If you have a large staff, do a group appreciation post, or spread out individual shout-outs over a few weeks.
- Website highlights: If you don’t have staff profiles on your website, add them to unveil on Employee Appreciation Day. Not only does it show your staff that you value them, but it also helps your customers connect to your company.
- Bulletin board display: Go the old-fashioned route by creating a bulletin board display for the day. Post photos of staff along with positive messages about them or lists of their accomplishments over the last year.
- In-person leadership recognition: Have managers verbally thank and recognize each employee. Continue with regular manager feedback going forward. When managers provide daily feedback, employees are three times more likely to be engaged than employees who only get yearly feedback.
- Musical takeover: Crank up the tunes in the office if you normally work in silence and let your staff play DJ. If you normally play music, give them control of the station for the day.
- Suggestion box: Set up an employee suggestion box on Employee Appreciation Day. This shows that you value your employees’ opinions. Review the feedback regularly and implement the suggestions when possible.
- Casual day: If your employees normally wear business casual attire, make Employee Appreciation Day a casual dress day.
- Manager work takeover: Have your managers take on some of their employees’ tasks. It lightens team members’ workloads for the day and shows that the managers are there to help when needed.
- Peer appreciation: Encourage peer appreciation on Employee Appreciation Day. You might buy a card or hang a sheet of paper for each employee and let staff members write nice things on each other’s sheets. You can also leave slips of paper out so individuals can anonymously write positive things about their coworkers.
- Tribute video: Produce an appreciation video for all your employees that you play on TVs throughout the office, or send a link to everyone via email.
- Flexible workday: Make Employee Appreciation Day a flexible workday where everyone can work from home or another location.
- Family open house: Invite workers’ families to the office on Employee Appreciation Day for a simple recognition ceremony.
- Hidden appreciation notes: Write personalized compliments or acknowledgments on sticky notes for each staff member. Hide them in various places in their workstations so they find the notes throughout the day.
- CEO for the day: Give your employees a little decision-making power by naming them honorary CEO for the day. Let them choose something fun, such as a team celebration.
- Animal cuddle time: Ask a local animal shelter if they can bring some puppies or kittens to your office. Have a special animal cuddle session where your employees can pet the animals to release stress and have a fun break from work.
- Leadership welcome: Gather all managers and have them stand at the door to greet team members as they arrive for the day. Thank them, shake their hands, pass out little gifts or otherwise show appreciation.
- Newsletter recognition: Write shout-outs to your employees in a weekly or monthly newsletter that goes out to staff, stakeholders, clients or other groups.
Low-cost employee appreciation ideas
You might pair a low-cost employee gift with one of the free ideas to make the gesture even bigger.
Here are some low-cost Employee Appreciation Day ideas:
- Breakroom treats: Put out a small food spread in the breakroom. Ideas include doughnuts, bagels or an ice cream sundae bar.
- Branded gear: Hand out branded gear that your employees will like. Choose high-quality gear, such as a super-soft T-shirt or hoodie they can wear on casual days.
- Employee massages: Have a local massage therapist do short chair massages for your employees in the breakroom.
- Extra break time: Extend lunches or rest breaks on appreciation day with little extras, such as desserts, during that time.
- Employee playtime: Set aside a few hours on Employee Appreciation Day for relaxation and fun. Set up friendly competitions between departments, with prizes for the winners.
- Awards ceremony: Hold a simple awards ceremony to recognize your staff. Present each employee with an award based on their strengths or accomplishments.
- Passion projects: Give employees a little time to work on a passion project during work hours.
- Decorate the office: Welcome your employees on Employee Appreciation Day with banners, balloons, streamers and other fun decorations.
- Employee car wash: While your employees are working, have the bosses head to the parking lot and wash everyone’s cars.
- Traveling trophy: Launch a traveling trophy to kick-start ongoing appreciation in the office. Award the traveling trophy to one person on Employee Appreciation Day. The trophy continues moving around when an employee does something outstanding.
- Coupons: Give each employee a booklet of coupons for little perks, such as leaving 15 minutes early or having lunch with the boss.
- Yearbook or recognition book: Create a company yearbook that includes all team members. Add pictures from special events and include awards for various accomplishments.
- Employee discounts: Partner with local companies to get special discounts for your employees.
Higher-cost employee appreciation ideas
Spending a little more money allows you to give your employees gifts to show your appreciation. If your budget is a little higher, try these Employee Appreciation Day ideas:
- Team meal: Choose a fancy restaurant and treat your team to lunch there on Employee Appreciation Day. An alternative is to bring in food trucks and pick up the tab so your team can enjoy a meal on the house.
- Gift cards: Present each employee with a gift card along with a thank-you card so they can treat themselves.
- Employee retreat: Plan a retreat for your staff. It can be a one-day event or an overnight event, depending on your budget.
- Event tickets: Give each staff member a ticket or pair of tickets to an event or attraction in the area.
- Continuing education opportunity: Let each person choose a conference, class or other continuing education opportunity as a thank-you gift.
- Day off: The ultimate way to show your appreciation is by giving them an extra paid day off. This option doesn’t cost you anything up-front, but it does cost you in wages when you pay for the extra day off.
- Interest-based gift: Pick a gift for each employee based on their personal interests to show that you appreciate them beyond simply being a worker.
- Breakroom makeover: Renovating the breakroom to make it more appealing shows appreciation for your employees and makes the work environment more enjoyable long term.
- Charity donation: Let each staff member choose a charitable organization they support and make a donation in their name. The cost of this option depends on how much you donate on behalf of each person.
- Paid volunteer time: Help your employees make a difference by giving them paid time to volunteer for a cause of their choice.
- Update equipment: Invest in your staff and your company’s future by upgrading equipment. This could be upgrading outdated equipment or buying equipment you don’t yet have that will make the job easier.
- Field trip: Skip work for the afternoon and take everyone somewhere fun for a field trip. Examples include miniature golf, a movie, the beach or bowling.
- Gift subscription: Sign each employee up for a subscription box for something they enjoy. You can choose anywhere from a month to a year of the subscription box, which helps you control the budget.
- Professional photoshoot: Bring in a professional photographer to take headshots or fun action shots for the company website and employee business cards.
- Spot bonus: Give each person a monetary bonus. This option allows you to control the budget since you can give a bonus of any amount.
- Rewards platform: Introduce the use of a rewards platform on Employee Appreciation Day. These platforms let you regularly reward workers for accomplishments.
- Special speaker: Invite a speaker to present to your team. Choose someone who’s inspirational or a leader in your industry.
- Frequent requests: If your employees regularly request something, such as free parking, a secure bike rack or an in-house gym, grant that request. This shows that you listen to them and want to improve the environment.
- Employee choice incentive: Give each team member a small stipend to use toward something specific, such as a gym membership, training for a certification or child care. Let each employee choose the use.