1. What is virtual appreciation?
Virtual appreciation refers to events and activities that a business conducts online to recognize the contributions made by their remote workforce. According to Gallup, a recognition-rich culture starts from the top. Employees look for meaningful recognition from the managers above them who they directly report to.
Interestingly, 85% of employees are satisfied with a simple ‘thank you’ for their efforts. This simple, but incredibly important acknowledgment proves that expressing gratitude strengthens engagement and employee retention.
Remote work opens you to a global talent market, meaning that your workforce composition can be diverse from both a cultural and contractual perspective. The one thing that brings people together is recognition for a job well done.
Virtual employee appreciation ideas help you build rapport with employees. Publicizing employee appreciation for remote workers in particular, includes everyone on the team. It lets them know what the criteria for recognition is, and enables them to self-improve. Implementing virtual team recognition ideas help prevent instances of managers giving employees preferential treatment, or being biased in their assessment of an employee’s work, as might be the case if some workers are passed up for promotions and others are promoted quietly and privately without the rest of the team knowing why.
2. Why does employee recognition matter?
Employee recognition is a $46 billion dollar market. In fact, organizations that invest in employee recognition programs report 22% higher profit margins.
It's clear why.
Both formal and informal recognition tells employees that they are valuable. Employees that feel valued are more likely to consistently produce high quality work which in turn improves financial outcomes for the business. Performance-based employee recognition encourages staff to keep up with the good work. It also acts as the catalyst for the others to follow suit and modify their approach or mindset to be next in line for consideration. Implementing virtual recognition ideas for distributed teams conveys to the workforce that management is taking notice of those who are consistently striving to have a positive impact on their colleagues and customers. When employees feel that their work is making a meaningful impact on the business and customers, it can enhance their sense of purpose and motivation. It can also foster a positive work environment and a sense of fulfillment.
3. How do you celebrate your work anniversary virtually?
Celebrating an employee’s virtual work anniversary is one of the most straight forwardvirtual employee appreciation ideas. Rule Number One- maintain employee records indicating their start date, the department they belong to and how long they’ve been working for your firm. In addition to the employee record, note the work anniversary with a recurring reminder on your calendar – be sure to list their start date on the event. Better yet, surprise them during a scheduled call by wishing them on the day. You can also prepare a small speech dedicated to thanking those who have remained with the organization the longest and encourage them to also say a few words before wrapping up the call!
Set a companywide standard for how anniversaries should be recognized and then communicate who should execute or deliver on the standard. Supervisors are typically the best positioned to take on this responsibility when it comes to organizing and communicating anniversaries. However, in larger organizations, managers higher up the chain may have a more significant impact.
Regardless of who is responsible for organizing the anniversary celebration, it's essential to make it personal and meaningful. Surprising the employee with a virtual call and a small speech dedicated to thanking them for their contributions can go a long way in making them feel appreciated.
4. Remote Employee Appreciation Day
Just because the workforce is remote is no excuse not to celebrate this year. Employee appreciation day usually falls in the first week of March. It is an opportunity for you to try out a few virtual employee appreciation ideas and reward your employees.
You can carry out a number of virtual team recognition ideas for remote teams in a variety of creative ways! Remember to acknowledge efforts in writing to support what you say to your employees verbally.
Substantiate the recognition by being specific on why they are being recognised – whether that be in terms of improvements in attitude, communication or skills; or being a consistently high performer.
5. How do you celebrate remote employee appreciation day virtually?
You can plan a remote employee appreciation day ahead by collecting feedback from different departments for a list of achievements. Map them by employee profile and department. Mention in a group channel the virtual conference platform, the time and date this meeting will take place. Schedule email invitations to ensure everyone attends. Such measures can be applied in line with the employee’s seniority, reliability, and association with the firm. This activity can be conducted regularly as one of the recognition ideas for virtual teams.
In the actual meet-up, start with the purpose of the call and give virtual kudos to the team as a whole. Go through the names and rewards systematically and include a speaking time allowance to let everyone express how they feel. The questions to ask yourself as you plan virtual appreciation day are:
- What does your company culture value the most?
- Which personal attributes merit being rewarded?
- What sets the bar for operational success and business performance? .
Keeping these questions in mind makes it easier to pick out well-performing employees who embody and personify your company culture.
6. Virtual employee appreciation day events
The itinerary for virtual employee appreciation day events includes a speech commemorating the day, announcing the virtual appreciation activities you and your employees will be participating in, and closing with a moment to convey how important each and every individual is to the company. A few virtual employee appreciation ideas include:
6.1. Virtual Awards Ceremony
Host a virtual awards ceremony to recognize and celebrate the achievements of your virtual employees. You can create fun awards categories such as "Most Creative Solution," "Top Collaborator," or "Best Team Player." Consider sending virtual certificates or digital badges to the winners, which they can display in company chat or wiki that tracks the awards year-on-year.
6.2. Virtual Game or Quiz Night
Organize a virtual game or quiz night where employees can bond and have fun together. You can use online platforms like Kahoot, TriviaMaker, or Wheel of Names to make it more engaging.
6.3. Virtual Lunch or Coffee Break
Send e-gift cards to your virtual employees and encourage them to take a break together over lunch or coffee. This is a great way to show appreciation for their hard work and create an opportunity for them to connect with each other.
6.4. Virtual Wellness Activity
Offer virtual wellness activities like virtual yoga, meditation, or a fitness class to promote a healthy work-life balance. This is a great way to show that you care about your employees' well-being and appreciate their hard work.
6.5. Virtual Personal Development Session
Offer a virtual personal development session to help your virtual employees enhance their skills and knowledge. You can bring in a guest speaker or organize a panel discussion on a relevant topic that can help them grow in their careers.
7. Principle of Employee Recognition
There are two types of motivation that push employees to do well and to maintain high performance. These are:
Intrinsic motivation refers to a desire to do a work activity purely out of satisfaction regardless of any positive consequences. Learning and diversifying is one factor of intrinsic motivation. Other factors would be doing activities that align with your personal values; activities that foster connection with your colleagues; and activities that are challenging but achievable.
It is crucial that managers delegate or assign tasks, functions, employee appreciation activities, and projects to employees that offer them opportunities to learn and diversify their knowledge. At the very least, the work should harness their current skills set.
Extrinsic motivation refers to the work environment and supports extended to the employees to drive them to perform. Rewards programs such as salary hikes, performance bonuses, job promotions, and professional development also fall under extrinsic motivators.
Extrinsic motivation provides a tangible reward needed to fuel enthusiasm for the job. Put simply, when employees can see the benefits of their efforts, they are more likely to give their best consistently.
The following virtual recognition practices can help you support and inspire your remote employees:
7.1. Define the recognition criteria
Structure the rewards and recognition framework in order to define the parameters for merit. It can be around the execution of work responsibilities, being proactive and showing initiative, problem-solving skills, and the effort and dedication to completing work within the constraints of deadlines and priorities.
7.2. Democratize the process
Create a poll, questionnaire, or survey with questions pertaining to the rewards that your employees would appreciate and get the most out of. The feedback would help you tailor the rewards around what would make your employees happy to be recognized. It can be monetized (such as a pay hike or bonus), or incentivized (such as awards). You can also document a policy for complimentary time offs and when they are applicable, such as birthdays, compensation for overtime, etc.
It may be advisable to emphasize that when conducting a survey, it is important to maintain transparency and involve the staff in the process so that they feel heard and valued.
7.3. Equal Footing
For performance evaluations to have any merit, they must be objectively structured. Documentation that clearly defines key competencies and performance metrics are vital. In addition, the path to progress should be visible to employees by aligning growth opportunities to the relevance of their present roles. It is important to involve the employee and use a clearly defined performance framework when evaluating their performance.
And this has to be more deliberately performed in an office less culture due to geographic barriers.
7.4. Culture of recognition
It should be clear to virtual employees that the organisation has a culture of regularly rewarding and recognising employees. Managers can create a cadence for special recognition. There could be a more creative/fun way to have an employee of the month. Peers could nominate and then managers/founders could settle on a winner each month and then recognize them in an all hands meeting and then give a prize. This will ensure they don’t see recognition as one-off events.
7.5. Verbalize gratitude
Gratitude is free, and can be expressed as and when appropriate. Be it in a group call, daily stand up, weekly check-in or one-on-ones, thanking an employee and praising them for a job well done boosts morale and validates their efforts.
The feeling of employee appreciation for remote workers is what they’ll remember when they unplug from work.
7.6. Praise your employees
While praising employees, it is essential to understand their individual preferences and cultural background. Not everyone feels comfortable receiving public praise, and some may prefer direct recognition from their manager. Managers should ask employees during one-on-one meetings and appreciate them in a manner that aligns with their unique preferences. This approach can help ensure that each employee feels valued and recognized for their contributions.
7.7. Read the social cues
Observe how your virtual employees respond to the virtual team recognition ideas. Some prefer to be praised verbally while others prefer it in writing to avoid being put on the spot. You can take notes from social and visual cues to see which medium of communication individuals respond to, and accordingly plan how you convey your admiration and appreciation for them.
7.8. Gamify appreciation
This is one of the creative and exciting virtual employee appreciation ideas. Hold contests that test how team members work and think. Announce prizes for winners and runner-ups to make things interesting. It can be a custom trophy, certificate, gift or food coupons, or something personalized such as a laptop decal or coffee mug. It gives employees something to look forward to and engages them.
7.9. Social recognition
A high-performing virtual employee can be recognized on social media networks such as a LinkedIn post. It raises their social profile and makes their contributions more prominent for the business community. It is essential to first consult with the employee and understand their preferences. Some employees may not be comfortable with public recognition, while others may appreciate the gesture.
7.10. Buddy and reverse mentoring
Programs such as buddying up and reverse mentoring can not only bring down communication barriers but also create a facility for managers to help unhappy workers. In fact, growth engineering reported that having just one close connection in the workplace makes employees 50% happier. And happy employees are more productive, communicative and engaged.
These practices build morale and give visibility into what both the remote employer and employee expects. In the next section, I’ll go into a few creative virtual recognition ideas to start you off on appreciating your remote staff!
8. 20 Creative Ways to Recognize Employees
8.1 Celebrate birthdays and work anniversaries
Work anniversaries and birthdays are special days in an employee’s life, and are cause for celebration. Simple mails that you can automate and send out and group chat announcements are measures that show you remember. You can even give virtual employees the option to take the day off or work shorter, flex hours.
8.2 Send a care package
A curated or custom-built care package is an excellent way to recognize your staff for hard work after completing a big project, celebrating a milestone, hitting a sales incentive, or for simply working hard. The team at Caroo puts together care packages with all sorts of themes and include healthy snacks, corporate gifts, branded swag, and sweet treats. This kind of gift is also easy to order, send, and ship straight to remote employees who will find this token of recognition on their doorstep.
Check out some of these care package ideas to get some inspiration.
8.3 Host virtual parties
Who doesn’t love parties held in their honor? You can recreate the party atmosphere by having everyone dress up and have snacks and gift allowances that can be sent over before the date of the actual party. It's also great fun unwrapping things on camera and showing others on call what the gift item was.
8.4 Wall of Fame
A wall of fame can be on a whiteboard tool where the person’s name, picture, department, and reason for going up on the wall are listed. In remote working offices, it is a virtual recognition board that is meant to appreciate top performing employees. The tool administrator can moderate what goes into the wall and add employees of the month as and when appropriate.
8.5 Dedicate a website page on the team
You can give visibility to the team by including a brief writeup about them (with their consent) on the “team” page of your company website. Record a reel of your teams working together, giving individuals the option to voiceover their parts or be featured in a ‘why work for us?’’ segment. Visitors and candidates potentially interested in working for your company that visit your website will enjoy hearing from employees about their experiences, and such measures boost the credibility of your company. These videos or articles provide insight into your company culture.
8.6 Conduct virtual contests
Virtual contests are fun for virtual teams that enjoy some friendly competition and enjoy being challenged!. For example, you can do trivia hour with questions about your company, and whoever gets the most or all answers right goes up on the wall of fame or the gratitude channel. Other examples of virtual contests include puzzles with a time limit, online board games, and sports such as mini Carrom or snooker. Contests and other fun competitions that include an element of virtual recognition can pump up employees and help them to come out of a productivity slump.
8.7 Merch giveaways
This virtual recognition idea can get two birds with one stone. Announcing giveaways boosts your company’s presence and prominence on social media while recognizing and appreciating employees. You can send mystery gift boxes or self-care packages to employees who in turn can share pictures and unboxing videos with their followers and friends. This directs more social media users to your business.
8.8 Social media shoutouts
Social media shoutouts are a type of virtual kudos where everyone in your and your employees’ network sees the post and interacts with it. You can write a social media post chronicling an employee’s journey on professional networks like LinkedIn or microblogs like Twitter. . These interactions are measurable through social analytics tools indicating the traction the post gets. The employee of honor can even share the update on their timeline and increase the number of impressions, or retweets.
8.9 Custom vouchers and gift boxes
Another great way is to present employees with their favorite brand vouchers or coupons using a unified employee engagement software that does all the hard work for you. Not only can it be used to deliver the rewards or gifts straight into their inboxes, but also offer a public platform where employees can be acknowledged among peers and colleagues to further boost their morale. Sorry, I was on Mute offers one such integrated platform that can be used to acknowledge and reward excellent work or contributions at an individual or team level across your organization. Make accurate data-driven decisions based on the in-depth reports and analytical information that this software provides to create customized rewards and recognitions. You can then take it one step further and align these with your company mission and value system to create a dynamic performance recognition centre.
8.10 Health & Wellness Stipend
You can support your employees' overall well-being by offering a stipend that can be allocated towards a range of wellness-related services and products, such as fitness trackers like Apple Watches, massage or facial treatments, and nutritious meal delivery services. While some exclusions apply, this approach underscores the company's commitment to holistic employee health. Such an initiative not only fosters better health but also promotes improved focus, stress management, and enhanced productivity among team members.
8.11 Meal coupons to select restaurants
Meal coupons with discount codes can be used as one of the best virtual recognition ideas for great results. After all, we all need to eat! And if they are valid for a certain number of orders or months, virtual employees can apply them on orders on more than one busy workday. They can look up restaurants near them that deliver, helping them save both time and money.
8.12 Invite employee feedback
Be intentional about giving and getting feedback. Inviting feedback from employees lets you know how they react and respond to your style of leading and managing. It is a learning opportunity for managers to understand how to manage remote teams better. Managers can use comprehensive tools such as employee NPS, engagement surveys and performance reports to gauge and share feedback. They can include feedback from a range of people who interact with the employee, including colleagues, managers, and direct reports. This type of feedback can provide a holistic view of the employee's performance, and help identify areas for improvement.
8.13 Complimentary Day-Offs
Virtual employees who have worked overtime hours on billable projects can cash in complimentary day-offs for those weeknights and weekends. They can avail it subject to approval from the manager or team lead they report to and set their status online to DND so that they don’t need to take work calls or answer emails on a complimentary day off.
8.14 Paid overtime
If complimentary days off are not practical for your business model, you can consider paying employees overtime after assessing the effort hours, utilization reports, and time spent on projects, tasks and functions.
8.15 Referral bonuses
Referral bonuses refer to the encashment a current employee receives for referring someone in their network to vacancies you’re trying to fill in. If the person the employee refers is right for the job and is offered it, you can thank the employee by crediting the bonus with their salary, accompanied by a special mention in the group or private chats(this is entirely optional but worth considering if you want to reduce the lead time to hire and onboard new employees by involving more of your current employees).
8.16 Use caricaturists and artists
Collect photos of your team and employ a caricaturist or artist to sketch them. The employees can have something to remember and keep as a memento! Some companies even commission oil or watercolor paintings of their leadership team as a form of respect and a way of recognizing their contribution in the field.
8.17 Nominate a co worker
Virtual employees can be surveyed digitally where they can name a coworker that they think deserves recognition. It involves and includes virtual employees in the structuring of a rewards and recognition program. They can even vote on the name for the program, such as the Best of the Beasts (this is just off the top of my head, and a play on the Best of the Best!). Such measures encourage teamwork and prevent colleagues from taking each other for granted.
8.18 Celebrity Live feeds
Does your team have a favorite sport, star, author, or actor? You can arrange to reach out to the team managing the celebrity for a livestream. This virtual recognition idea is a bit unconventional and potentially expensive. But they do give the employees something to look forward to, especially if you manage to keep it under wraps till it's confirmed!
8.19 Subscription Services
You can offer employees a subscription to platforms like Spotify, Audible, or online magazines as a unique way to show appreciation to team members. Such gestures cater to both their professional growth and personal relaxation. This modern approach to recognition not only enriches their personal lives but also conveys that the organization values their overall well-being and continuous learning
8.20 Online photobooth
Get your virtual team together for a group meet and surprise them with a candid photo booth session! Use an app and play around with filters to make it more fun. You can snap several shots and create a timelapse of the photos that developed best. Upload these onto a watercooler hangout for employees to look at!
8.21 Form a music band or dance studio
Your remote workforce are rockstars, and what screams that better than allowing them to form a band? Employees can show off their talent at the arts, and host karaoke nights and several other post-work hours activities amongst themselves! It not only recognizes who your employees are outside of work but lets them be more comfortable working with each other, building a rapport which will result in more collaboration and productivity!
8.22 Create a gratitude channel
A gratitude or kudos channel is a place that all members across departments can be added to. You can use a micro recognition system for messages to credit daily efforts and successes. For example, a developer who resolved bugs on a code and got it up and running can be mentioned in the channel and thanked on a daily stand-up. This is one of the most needed virtual recognition ideas for software teams!
9. Virtual Employee Appreciation Gifts
One way to appreciate your remote staff is by sending them gifts. These could be something useful to them at work, or in their daily routine, or just to enhance the ‘feel-good’ factor for them. A mixture of these items can be given as a set or a hamper. Some of the virtual employee appreciation gift ideas are:
9.1 Personalized gifts:
You could personalize goodies for the employees with their name and their photograph (you can add cool nicknames such as rockstar, superhero, champion, etc.). The goodies can be things like:
- Diaries and planners
- Tshirts, caps, and hoodies
- Pens and desk accessory holders
- Passport covers
- Coffee mugs and coasters
- Customized cupcakes (names or images with the frosting)
9.2 Tech pack and virtual assistant
With virtual meetings on the rise, Bluetooth headphones and speakers are a really useful gift you can give your employees as an appreciation gift. They could connect to the conferences hands-free which will help them be flexible and efficient. You could also include power banks, colorful USB cables, keyboard light, wireless mouse, blue light glasses, and pen drives to the pack. A virtual assistant appliance like Echo or Nest is also a good addition to the pack, to help employees plan and schedule their day.
9.3 Stainless steel water bottles
It is very important to remain hydrated throughout the day and equally essential to be mindful of the environment. You can gift your employees stainless steel water bottles which are durable, safe to use, and easy to clean. You could also include stainless steel straws, recyclable bags, and bamboo toothbrushes in addition to the bottle.
9.4 Healthy snacks
Most of us have a habit of munching something in between meals, especially while working from home. You could give your virtual teams healthy snacks and nibbles, energy drinks, and dry fruits to quell their hunger pangs while helping them avoid junk food at the same time (Who is the coolest boss? You are).
9.5 Quirky table lamps and desk accessories
Catch the aesthetics train and get your virtual employees interesting and funky accessories for their desk. It could be a magnetic table lamp, a balancing man, pendulum balls, an hourglass, and more. These toys help bring focus, reduce distractions and increase productivity. A customized bobblehead toy could also be an exciting addition.
9.6 Self care pamper kit
What shows more appreciation than sending someone a self care kit? You could create a hamper of products pertaining to skin care, bath, hair care, and other related accessories (a cool bath bomb, maybe?) which would help reduce stress and find their inner zen. You could also include coupons to spas, massages, and stores like Bath and Body Works.
9.7 Aromatic ambience
To help employees keep their workspaces refreshed, you could gift them aromatic diffusers, humidifiers, incense sticks (with interesting scents), aromatic oils, or even scented candles to help remain attentive and have a pleasant working experience. You could include scent flavors like apple cinnamon, afternoon breeze, ocean, autumn flowers, etc. Succulent plants could complement well with the candles and add to the aesthetics.
10. How do you show appreciation virtually?
Everyone enjoys having their work and efforts to be recognized, and it is vital that employers appreciate the employees working for them.
The best way for managers and businesses to show appreciation virtually is to recognize and reward with uniformity. Decide on the what, when and how of virtual recognition ideas and weave it into your remote work culture toolkit.
The virtual employee appreciation ideas listed here are quick to implement, cost efficient, and will enable you to strengthen work relationships. Which ones did you like best, and are willing to try?
11. How to Appreciate Remote Employees More?
Virtual recognition ideas recognize performance and appreciate those departmental members who are consistently doing well. Appreciation isn't only limited to performance though. It also extends to the employee's attitude to learning and helping and their overall professionalism. If your employees feel recognized for their hard work from time to time, they feel motivated and are willing to put in the effort and go the extra mile for the company. It is crucial to invest in your remote teams’ appreciation via virtual recognition ideas, as there is no physical interaction and the tendency to feel demotivated runs higher in such situations.
You could ensure that the virtual employees feel accountable by providing feedback on their work, have regular virtual interactions with the staff, shoutouts on your social media pages, a personalized LinkedIn recommendation (a very helpful step for their career), give them much-needed long weekend offs, or send them useful items as a token of appreciation such as work-from-home equipment, subscription to audiobooks, meals or spa coupons, or simply host a virtual awards program.
12.1 What are some of the best employee appreciation activities?
Some of the best employee appreciation activities are - celebrating happy birthdays, tracking team wins, cheers from peers, and rewarding the staff.
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