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20 Unique Employee Appreciation Day Ideas to Reduce Job Stress

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By Preethi Jathanna

Senior Writer for HR and Remote Work

Reviewed by Kara Funk

Senior HR Consultant, People & Culture

Employee Appreciation Day

Typically held on the first Friday of March, Employee Appreciation Day provides an opportunity to celebrate individual achievements, forge team bonds and foster a supportive social atmosphere where people can relax, connect and let go of some of that pent-up stress.  

There are lots of ways to highlight the hard work of your staff. Here are some Employee Appreciation Day ideas to inspire your own company’s celebrations.

As an alternative to an employee appreciation day, consider hosting a party to demonstrate how much you value your staff. This could be complemented with gifts that combat stress or prevent burnout. If you need a bit more employee recognition inspiration, check out this list of 24 tried and tested strategies, as well as our posts on no-cost employee appreciation ideas, employee recognition for large companies, employee appreciation for long service, and employee recognition for customer service staff. We've even got a how-to article on creating a well-rounded employee appreciation program, in addition to some examples of how other companies successfully run their employee recognition schemes. Other ways you can boost morale include sharing some well-chosen motivational quotations or penning a heartfelt employee appreciation letter. On the other side of the coin, you may want to write a note of appreciation to thank a boss for their support.

1. What Is the Purpose of Employee Appreciation Day?

Dedicating a specific day towards appreciating staff achievements shows employees that their contributions are recognized, valued and appreciated. This can have a tangible impact on overall engagement and, by extension, reduce churn. One study found that individuals at companies with minimal recognition and rewards systems in place were four times as likely to leave compared to companies that had high levels of recognition combined with a rewards program.

2. Employee Appreciation Day Ideas

Employee Appreciation Day Ideas

2.1. Create a Wall of Fame

A wall of fame salutes high achievers in the workplace by highlighting details of their accomplishments alongside their photos and sometimes a mini biography. Traditionally, walls of fame were physical spaces in real-world offices. Today, more and more companies are turning to virtual alternatives to achieve the same effect. By allowing comments on your wall of fame, you also allow an employee's peers to recognize and celebrate their coworkers achievements which can have a multiplying effect for the individual recognized.

2.2. Give Gifts

Company-branded apparel, stationery or water bottles are fairly standard when it comes to Employee Appreciation day ideas. You can also go with more high-tech items like webcam covers or radio frequency identification (RFID) blocking wallets to protect phones and cards. Alternatively, celebrate your employees with pampering items like bath bombs or moisturizers.

2.3. Provide Gift Vouchers

Gift cards give staff the flexibility and choice to select their own rewards according to their unique tastes. For example, Amazon has a broad catalog of items, while Ticketmaster offers a world of musical, theatrical and comedic events. If you want to go down a more team-oriented route, you could provide vouchers for group experiences like a cooking class.

2.4. Introduce Fun Games

Games are a relaxing way to develop camaraderie. Activities like scavenger hunts, pub quizzes, office Olympics and escape rooms can all now be arranged virtually as well as in real life. You could also organize fitness challenges or bake-offs as part of your Employee Appreciation day ideas.

2.5. Reward with Certificates

Awards based on unique achievements or general milestones are another way to recognize employee contributions. For an Employee Appreciation day, you could also throw in a few comedic accolades to lighten the mood and instill a sense of fun into the proceedings.

2.6. Take Employees to Picnics

When the summer sun is shining, it’s not uncommon to feel you would rather be outside than in an office. Hosting a company picnic combines free food, nice weather and the beauty of nature to create a sociable atmosphere in which employees can relax and get to know one another better. Take it a step further and allow employees to bring their families to the picnic!

2.7. Give Time Off

Employee Appreciation day ideas for large companies must account for take into account the increased levels of organization and associated costs required. One of the easiest and most affordable ways to reward your team is to give them a half day off to spend as they wish. Aim to schedule this on a Friday to extend the weekend and be sure to let the team know in advance so they can make plans!

2.8. Offer Movie Tickets

As either a standalone gift or part of a company swag bag, you can offer movie tickets to your employees as a treat for their hard work. This can be upgraded with drink and popcorn vouchers if you want to add a little bit more to the experience.

2.9. Treat Them for Lunch/Dinner

Similar to a picnic, taking your department or team out for lunch or dinner combines the attraction of free food with an informal gathering that’s ideal for forging closer bonds between team members

2.10. Bring a Special Guest

Special guest speakers can add a learning and development (L&D) flavor to an Employee Appreciation Day. These invitees could be experts in your industry or people who focus on bringing out the innovation and ambition in your staff through inspirational talks. 

2.11. Host a Motivational Session

Speaking of L&D, a motivational session is another way you can unite employee recognition with workplace galvanization. Encourage staff to build on the past year’s achievements by dedicating a day towards the exciting prospects and innovations coming to the company in the next 12 months.

2.12. Write Recommendations on LinkedIn

Take your praise public by giving staff the gift of a glowing LinkedIn recommendation on Employee Appreciation day. This kind of personalized feedback can be invaluable to boosting confidence and bolstering future career prospects both within and outside the company.

2.13. Distribute Chocolates/Ice Creams

Sweet treats are a small but delicious way to recognize your staff for their contributions. Cheaper to execute than other food-related Employee Appreciation day ideas, chocolates, ice creams, cup cakes or other dessert-themed dishes almost never fail to please and with the bountiful gluten-free and vegan options now available, no member of staff will be left out of the fun. 

2.14. Upgrade Their Workspace

Ergonomics has been shown to increase productivity and reduce injury in the workplace. By replacing office furniture, improving lighting or creating relaxation rooms, you can acknowledge staff successes with upgrades that benefit their wellbeing. For remote staff, offer gift cards or vouchers for them to upgrade their home office space.

2.15. Provide Access to Online Learning Platforms

While employees appreciate gifts and vouchers, an Employee Appreciation idea aimed at growth and development will please and excite your group. Sign up the team for access to an online learning platform and let them select the courses or certificate programs that get them motivated to learn.There are countless online learning platforms to choose from, but we’d like to call out Docebo which has a gamification element that makes it more engaging, more competitive and more fun for staff to reskill or upskill.

2.16. Host Wellness Session

One idea to show your appreciation to staff and ensure their stress is reduced is to host wellness sessions. Bring in an expert to run a session on meditation, or have a yogi take the team through a session.  If your group is in office you can bring in a team that provides chair massages and for those that are remote - send them a voucher to ensure they’re able to book a massage at a location near them.

2.17. Bring in a Stand-Up Comic

While Employee Appreciation day can be about celebrating wins, enjoying each other's company, or personal development, it can also be about just having a good time. One of the best employee appreciation party ideas is to hire a stand-up comic for some laugh-out-loud fun.

2.18. Start an Office Library

An office library provides a shared knowledge base that can benefityour employees and help them develop the skills they need to succeed. Stock it with books that deliver insight into your industry or that codify standard business practices. This doesn’t have to be a physical space: you can also create a digital repository of texts through platforms like Publica.

2.19. Take Honest Feedback

Offer staff the opportunity to express what they need from you to help them succeed. Employee Appreciation day doesn’t just have to be about celebrating individuals, it can also be about listening to any concerns and adapting your work processes to improve team performance. Be sure to help the group provide feedback by asking for input on clear and direct projects or programs.  This idea would be nice combined with another mentioned in this list like a lunch, picnic or sweet treat.

2.20. Allow Them to Select an Activity

Take the stress out of coming up with the perfect Employee Appreciation day ideas by asking your staff to select an activity. To keep the process streamlined, you can first narrow down several possibilities, then ask staff to vote using social media or a free online poll software like SurveyMonkey.

3. What Are Benefits of Employee Appreciation Day?

What Are Benefits of Employee Appreciation Day

3.1. Connection with Individual Employees

Employee Appreciation days give managers the chance to interact with members of the team and get to know them better. This can be over lunch or a picnic or during organized games.

3.2. Boosts their Morale

Tackling workplace malaise has always been a challenge, but it has become even more crucial in the era of remote and hybrid working. Employee Appreciation day is a chance to lift the spirits of staff with awards, games and general recognition.

3.3. Encourages Them to Open Up

Whether you opt to organize recreational activities or motivational speeches, both inspire employees to express themselves more openly and raise any concerns they may have. Any issues can then be quickly addressed and resolved.

3.4. Reduces Job Stress

We all need to let off steam sometimes. Having a day devoted to staff recognition, enjoyment and well-being can be just the valve needed to release any pressure that has been building in the office.

3.5. Sense of Unity Increases

Fun games and team-bonding experiences are a great way to clear the air and pave the path for future successes. Particularly in companies where hybrid and remote working have become the norm, Employee Appreciation day brings coworkers together.

4. FAQs

4.1. How Do You Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day Remotely?

Many businesses now offer virtual team-building activities, from scavenger hunts to escape rooms. Plus, delivering gifts to the homes of your employees has never been easier.

4.2. How Do You Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day 2022?

Some of the most popular Employee Appreciation day ideas 2023 include gift vouchers, company lunches and mini awards ceremonies. You can mark the occasion with activities centered on professional growth or just encourage everyone to kick back and socialize.

4.3. Is Employee Appreciation Day a Real Thing?

Yes, Employee Appreciation Day is real! Take a look at the Employee Appreciation day ideas Pinterest has for some more creative and original ways to celebrate.

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