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Five Ways to Spice Up Employee Appreciation Day

Thank you card inside a brown envelope left on an office table

Marking Employee Appreciation Day on March 1 with acts of thanks and recognition can boost workplace morale and productivity.

In a survey by workplace culture company Great Place To Work, 37 percent of employees said that more personal recognition would encourage them to be more productive. Apparently, that recognition is sorely needed. The 2024 Global Culture Report from O.C. Tanner, a provider of employee recognition and reward options, indicates that many workers “feel overlooked and underappreciated.”

Looking for new ways to mark Employee Appreciation Day and recognize workers for their efforts? Employers share their go-to methods of making sure employees know they are valued.

Here are five ways to spice up Employee Appreciation Day.

1. Ask Your Employees What They Want

Instead of your HR department cooking up ideas for Employee Appreciation Day, why not ask employees how they’d like to celebrate the occasion? To collect feedback, you might distribute an online survey, create a suggestion box or bring up the topic at employee meetings, the Academy to Innovate HR suggests.

Interesting ideas that might resonate with employees, as cited by the academy, include:

  • Giving out personalized fortune cookies.
  • Arranging a secret exchange of gratitude gifts.
  • Setting up a prize wheel for employees to spin.
  • Buying each employee a lottery ticket.

[SHRM members-only HR Form: Letter of Appreciation]

2. Make It a Weeklong Celebration

This year, the more than 60 employees of business financing platform Fund&Grow won’t just be marking Employee Appreciation Day. They’ll be observing Employee Appreciation Week. And they’ll be doing so with special events each weekday:

  • Monday—Villain vs. Superhero Day.
  • Tuesday—Crazy Hair/Socks/Hat Day.
  • Wednesday—Decades Day.
  • Thursday—Patriotic Day.
  • Friday—Carnival/Clown Day and Field Day.

Amanda Webster, Fund&Grow’s chief operating officer, said the company managed to keep the budget for the week of activities at just $4,000.

“Employee appreciation is essential and should never be optional for management,” Webster said. “No matter the budget or cost, I promise you the cost of not retaining your employees is far greater.”

3. Create Memorable Experiences

Recruiting firm Career Group Cos. thanks its employees throughout the year with actions such as stocking the kitchen with snacks and beverages, hosting birthday and holiday celebrations, providing unlimited access to wellness apps, and serving up monthly catered breakfasts.

“Our people are our greatest asset, and it’s important to emphasize a culture of ongoing appreciation,” CEO Susan Levine said.

But when Employee Appreciation Day rolls around, the firm undertakes special approaches to mark the occasion.

“One of the most memorable ways to do that was building a Post-it wall where employees could leave heartfelt messages for their colleagues,” Levine said. These and similar initiatives, she added, have “taught us a valuable lesson. Appreciation thrives when it’s shared and celebrated from all angles, not just from the top down.”

Levine’s company has about 1,000 external temp workers and more than 170 internal employees.

Workers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center will experience a memorable Employee Appreciation Day, too. Among other activities, the hospital is staging a performance for this year’s celebration: an employee talent show at the medical center’s 13,000-square-foot Wigton Heritage Center.

The event will give the hospital’s budding “America’s Got Talent” contestants a shot at showcasing their singing, dancing or other talents. For those employees unable to catch the show in person, the hospital is livestreaming the event.

4. Help Your Employees

One gesture you might consider for Employee Appreciation Day can benefit employees long after the celebration has ended.

The nonprofit organization America’s Charities suggests launching an employee assistance fund on this day (or reminding employees if your organization already has a fund). This type of fund, also known as an employee crisis fund, provides financial support to employees affected by disasters, personal emergencies and other hardships.

This “allows employees to recover more quickly, demonstrates a company’s care for employees and commitment to their well-being, and provides co-workers an opportunity to help their colleagues,” according to the U.S. Chamber Foundation.

5. Show Your Appreciation Every Day

Jay Avigdor, founder and CEO of Velocity Capital Group, said his company celebrates its more than 20 employees all year long, not just on Employee Appreciation Day.

For example, a chef came to the office one day to whip up breakfast omelets. Another day, a baker fried up a batch of doughnuts. On other occasions, Velocity Capital might host a game of laser tag, a fishing trip, a barbecue or even a ventriloquism performance.

“We’re always coming up with ways to show appreciation to our team,” Avigdor said.

Likewise, Brittany Barhite, head of employee experience at Firstup, which runs an employee communication platform, said the nearly 330-employee company celebrates these year-round activities to show employees appreciation:

  • Hosting contests for employees who write a thank-you note or video in the Firstup platform. Each participant is then entered into a prize drawing, resulting in recognition for both the giver and receiver of thanks.
  • Awarding “swag points.” Through the Firstup swag program, a manager can give “swag points” to a deserving employee, who then can exchange those points for company swag.
  • Giving gifts for an array of occasions. Firstup sends gifts to congratulate workers on the arrival of a baby, celebrate a marriage or offer a “get well” wish.

John Egan is a freelance writer based in Austin, Texas.


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