Team Building Time Img 15 min

16 Virtual Team Gratitude Activities Remote Companies Should Try In 2023

January 3, 2023
| By
Preethi Jathanna

Senior Writer for HR and Remote Work

Reviewed by
Kara Funk

Senior HR Consultant, People & Culture

Virtual Team Gratitude Activities

Remote and workplace hybridity are work arrangements that are gaining acceptance worldwide. The downside to it is that virtual workers are out of sight, and tend to stay out of mind too. The best way to bring them back to a unified line of sight is through virtual team gratitude activities for employees.

Gratitude,i.e. expressing thanks to someone for helping you out, or for a job well done, improves work relationships. It boosts the recipient’s spirits up and gives them a reason to keep doing great work. Gratitude makes employees feel valued and appreciated which in turn motivates employees to keep doing great work

In this post, I’ll go over what virtual team gratitude activities are, with a few recognition ideas for you to try out from this year on!

Looking for other ways to build a positive work environment? Check out our ideas for how to celebrate work anniversaries and staff birthdays.

We’ve also got articles on how to host virtual celebrations for Thanksgiving, Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, Diwali, Independence Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

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1. How Do You Thank Your Team Virtually?

How intentional you are about thanking virtual employees speaks volumes about your company’s remote work culture. Gratitude has to be weaved into the heart of policies so that everyone feels included, motivated, and supported. Thanking your team on an individual, case-by-case and collectively all factor into gratitude exercise for teams.

Creating a culture of gratitude starts with defining clear goals about what your organization values and how a gratitude program aligns with those values.  Conveying your expectations from the start and ensuring everyone’s onboard prevents confusion regarding the way forward. Every communication should be two-sided so that employees get to suggest fixes,  be it something that gets the job done more efficiently or to improve a broken process.

The basis for appreciation (whether manager or employee) should be the performance, attitude and aptitude, initiative and personality (not necessarily in this order, though). The right attitude reflects on a person’s beliefs and ethics when asking for help or being approached for assistance.

Thanking anyone virtually can be a vocal as well as a written gratitude exercise for teams. It can be as simple as concluding a daily stand up call with a round of thanks, a post on a virtual gratitude board, or creating a channel on Slack and tagging a coworker or manager on it highlighting their role.

Acknowledge And Recognize Your Employees

2. What is a Gratitude Exercise?

Gratitude exercises for teams are the means to appreciating the value of each individual on a team, or department. It establishes goodwill for the entirety of an employee’s association with the firm and remains long after they leave, no matter the circumstances surrounding their exit.

Appreciation with a simple thanks is free. Oddlyenough, it isn’t said as often as you might think, especially when workers are geographically distant. Everyone’s top priority would be to complete the work laid out for the week and conversations and collaboration would center on work-only. Everyone then falls into the habit and forgets to express their gratitude, be it a manager to another manager or employee, or from one colleague to another.

When done right, gratitude exercise for teams go both ways. It's an opportunity for people of all ranks to be thankful to each other and be supportive. A virtual gratitude wall can act as the first step to implement this. 

3. Best Virtual Team Gratitude Activities 2023

3.1 Ship the Office Goodies

This is one of the best virtual team gratitude activities to explore if you worked out of an office space formerly, or ran a cafeteria internally. You could box up the pantry and create a bag of treats for virtual employees. You’re not only preventing food and drinks from going to waste but are also giving your virtual employees something to remember the office by. Before doing so, run a check with your employees regarding their personal dietary preferences. For example, some workers may prefer coffee to tea, or others may like trail mix over a bag of crisps.

And this goodies bag need not be restricted to snacks only. You can add creative little notes, company stationery, a favourite mug, flowers, headphones, a USB stick or a mini recipe book. Everyone likes opening their door to a thoughtfully put together care package! 

Company Swag Packages Ideas

3.2 Virtual Travel Experience

While we know you would love to book a trip with your entire team to celebrate your successes, that isn't always possible. So why not instead show your gratitude to the team by taking them on a virtual tour? We  know the perfect companion to help you out; our sister site, Hooray Teams, is an online team building marketplace where you can pick an activity for your employees. The virtual tour on their website will not only show you 360° views of the entire city but also comes with engaging puzzles and activities.

3.3 Custom Gift Vouchers/Coupons

This one is a never-fail when it comes to expressing appreciation or gratitude for your employees. Customizing gift vouchers or egifts as part of a rewards and recognition scheme to express your gratitude, not only gives employees a chance to buy gifts of their own choice but it’s also a way to show you’ve gone the extra mile in personalizing them based on their likes or preferences. When you need to do this on a mass or large scale for your organization, an employee engagement software is the perfect solution since you can send them out in bulk directly into their inboxes. 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 values to create a dynamic performance recognition centre.

3.4 Create a CredBoard

A Credboard, short for credit board, is a digital board that can act as a virtual gratitude board on which you link people to updates and showcase their efforts. There are websites and apps to help you do this, such as KudoBoard, which also offers users the option to format appreciation based on the occasion, such as a coworker’s birthday, retirement or work milestone! You can also use a canvas tool or template library from whiteboarding platforms like Miro, Mural or Stormboard to create an online gratitude wall for your employees. You can also create a channel in Slack or on whatever internal communications tool your company uses.

3.5 Compose a song or poem

There are many ways to go about this, each more innovative than the previous! You can either compose and perform a gratitude song, jingle, prayer or poem yourself, contract a performer externally or enlist the help of your artistic and creative employees. If it's the second option, the performer can make a surprise appearance mid-call and announce the dedication to the employees in question. You can use the site Cameo to have a celebrity create a video as well

3.6 Host a movie night

Make movie night a once-monthly or quarterly event where everyone clears their schedule for 1-2 hours to watch a movie, documentary or series episode together. This is one of the trickier virtual team activities to implement due to having to  make sure everyone’s schedules are cleared and work is not impacted by that hour or two employees take off. But it's definitely worth it if it gets your team together for some pre and post-movie talk. Invite your staff to pick movies and then proceed to create a list to go through. Everyone can watch in unison and weigh in on what they thought of the session.

If you feel that your business cannot accommodate long hours for movies, you can instead make a short thank you reel featuring employees themselves. Take nominations and vote on who gets to be featured in it. The remote worker who has the maximum number of votes is picked to be talked about. Everyone who wishes to be filmed complimenting the coworker they nominated can collaborate with the design team. Surprise your staff by playing it at your next meeting, and I guarantee you there won’t be a dry eye around!

3.7 Virtual Team lunch or coffee

If you wish to keep your virtual gratitude activities for employees simple, host a virtual coffee or lunch social midday. Everyone can either order in from their favourite restaurants or cook a special dish at home. If you already have a particular coworker or manager in mind that you’d like to thank, you can discreetly ask them about their favourite dishes and pass the information along to the rest of the team. Surprise the member on the actual call with everyone showing what they’ve made in honour of him or her!

Virtual Team Luncheons

3.7 Support a charity

Sometimes, an indication of solidarity is all one needs to feel that they’re not alone. Many of us support a particular charity or cause and some regularly donate to fundraisers. If there are any employees active in the charity and donation scene, you can find out more about what they support. The company can either make a sizable donation and/ or request a contribution from other team members to support their coworker. This measure also raises your businesses’ social responsibility profile and elevates your reputation as an ethical employer.

3.8 Build a virtual gratitude board

A gratitude wall is an illustration of the things or persons that you are grateful for. You can either make one by hand using paper, markers and a collage of pictures or design a virtual gratitude wall. The advantage of a virtual gratitude wall is that you can keep a basic template and add or alter it continuously. You can also anonymize the virtual gratitude wall so that people can leave compliments without it getting traced back to them.

3.9 Give complimentary time off

Have things been intense at work lately? Has the virtual office been open weeknights and weekends to enable your staff to deliver something critical?

It's time to identify those who had to stay in late and reward them with a time off. They can cash this anytime within a certain period after a project or task is successfully closed. For example, you can set the rule to have them take this time off within 60 days from the day of receiving the message.

3.11 Calendar Birthdays and Anniversaries

The personnel file should have everything you need on your employees, including their date of birth, date of joining and number of years in service at your firm. Fill up your calendar with reminders on the actual days so that neither you nor the rest of the team miss recognizing them on a special day! Even if they aren’t expecting it or forget their own work anniversaries, it's nice to be surprised! These are the kind of events that can make their way to the virtual gratitude wall. Another great aspect of curating a list of calendar birthdays and anniversaries is that it acts as a virtual gratitude icebreaker. You can also create a formal program around birthdays and anniversaries - for birthdays you can allow the employee to buy lunch on the company that day; for anniversaries you can create a gift or gift card amounts at different milestones (1 yr, 3 yrs, 5 yrs, etc)

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3.12 Ice Cream Runs

If you are looking for gratitude exercises for teams this is a great one. Who doesn’t love a break to get ice cream? Being a vegetarian, I prefer the creamier, eggless Gelato to ice cream, with my personal favorite being a double scoop of chocolate and butterscotch (in case anyone’s wondering. Also, my inbox is open to Rivareno Gelato).

Like the virtual coffee run, you can make ice cream eating a communal experience online. Everyone gets a sweet treat, and a respite from their hectic schedule. Win-win!

3.13 Work Appreciation Hour

This is one of the easier-to-do and simpler virtual gratitude activities for employees. Simply take out time in a call to announce the goals met. Match it to who in particular stood out. If you’re unable to make it to the meeting yourself, you can record a dedication message to your employees thanking them for all that they’re doing and post it on a virtual gratitude wall. Take it a step further by making the appreciation and feedback two-way. Encourage employees to use surveys to suggest changes or improvements that they think they, and the company would benefit from implementing. A virtual gratitude board helps take the guesswork about when one should post if they want to appreciate one another. 

3.14 Virtual Gratitude Icebreakers

Virtual gratitude icebreaker activities help members who don’t interact much online learn something about each other. And that gives them something to appreciate later! You can facilitate a session where everyone introduces themselves. Follow it up with a series of gratitude activities for employees, such as an Ask-Me-Anything (AMA), statue challenge where the first person to break into a smile or giggle is out, or a simple group Yoga pose. You can wrap up the virtual gratitude icebreaker session with a screengrab or photo booth app, like SimpleBooth!

Try These Virtual Icebreakers at Your Next MeetUp

3.15 Officialize Job Raises and Promotions

The previous suggestions for virtual team gratitude activities weren’t fueled by money or costs. But appreciation can also be formalized with a metric for promotions and job raises. A change in designation changes the type of responsibility and level of authority for an employee and merits making such news official. Most businesses plan out promotions and raises based on the employees’ past performance, number of years of service etc. But not everyone will wait to get their credit due, which is why official communication about a person’s growth and career trajectory should be standardized. Employees know when to expect news and will not be in the dark regarding their own future with the firm.All employees can congratulate this by posting on the virtual gratitude wall.

Personalize thank you emails

Personalized emails work if there’s already a structure in place for appraising performance. Departmental managers or team leads are in the best authority to check in on progress and see how everyone is tracking for work. They can create a scorecard based on the goals reached, expectations met and who went the extra mile. This feedback can be reported back to the people management or HR department, who can proceed to send out personalized thank yous to the worker(s) in question.

A personalized thank you shows the employee that you’re taking notice of their hard work, value, experience and skills that they bring to the table. It also encourages them to maintain that connection and communication.

Another way to express gratitude is by allowing managers a 'team gift' budget.  They can use these funds to celebrate and recognize events or milestones in their employee's lives, which makes them feel like the company cares about them beyond the work. They can use the funds for employees when they get engaged or married, they welcome a child, they move into a new home.

4. How do I Express Gratitude Virtually?

Expressing gratitude virtually comes down to a tried-and-tested framework. You may have to experiment iteratively until you find a mix of virtual team gratitude activities that works for your business.

Remember to involve employees not just at the start but throughout the process. get their feedback on what's working and what's not and ask for suggestions for new programs to make people feel valued, appreciated and recognized.

While an employer-employee contract exists for professional reasons, it's a big mistake to treat the arrangement purely as renting a person’s time and skills to drive the business in exchange for a salary. It is this mindset that fuels the creation of a high turnover environment.

90% of the time, employers aren’t intentionally overlooking or undervaluing their staff. They simply forget, and do not use reminders to help them keep track. On rare occasions, companies don’t consider it important to recognize the achievements of their staff. Failing to remember, recognize and thank employees results in them leaving you for a company that treats its workforce better.

You may not see it as a problem initially when it's just a person or two leaving, but think about how it looks to outsiders and customers when several employees leave at once or in succession.

Considering how easy it is to forget, it's important to leverage tools and ideas to regularize gratitude. Imagine how happy you would feel that someone is noticing you, and how someone else would be happy if the same is done to them. Start today with the virtual team gratitude activities elaborated in this post to be that someone!


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