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Employee Recognition

20 Employee Appreciation Day Ideas You'll Actually Like (and so will your team)

Sriram Palaniapan
Last Updated October 13, 2023

The world observes Employee Appreciation Day on the first Friday of March every year and for good reason! 

There are so many people toiling hard and putting in their virtues to grow your business, and they deserve a day dedicated to appreciating them! 

"Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well" - Voltaire 

Any token of appreciation goes a long way in boosting your employees' morale and performance. Therefore, in this article, we will help you acknowledge your employees and make them feel respected with some employee appreciation day ideas! 

What Is Employee Appreciation Day? 

When Dr. Bob Nelsen's publishing company Workman Publishing launched his book 1,001 Ways to Reward Employees, the idea of the National Employee Appreciation day came up. It is an unofficial holiday celebrated on the first Friday of the first week of March every year. 

The whole idea of a dedicated employee appreciation day is to recognize the efforts made by everyone in your workplace. While their achievements might not be groundbreaking, every small effort to improve your business deserves to be appreciated. 

Employee Appreciation Day has grown to become a corporate tradition in the US. Therefore, publications such as Forbes, Inc. Magazine, and laud the companies that celebrate the holiday well. 

Why Should I Care About Employee Appreciation Day For My Company Staff?

This should not be rocket science! The first aspect of human resource management is that you should never forget that you're managing people. And you know what people need other than the basic resources for survival - appreciation, recognition, and validation! 

When you appreciate your employees, they are likely to be happier and 13% more productive.

Are you still wondering if you want to celebrate employee appreciation day in your company? Here are a few solid reasons why you should! 

  • Boosting Mood: Appreciation makes any person feel good, and what’s better than having happy employees in your organization? 
  • Higher retention: The happier your employees are, the more they are likely to stay in their existing job. 
  • Strong culture: Think of employee appreciation day as a means of promoting a healthier work culture in your business. 
  • Better vibes: The better the vibes in your business, the better the talent you are likely to attract. 
  • Higher productivity: If you appreciate employees, they will be motivated to perform better and will want to outdo their past achievements. The dopamine effects of appreciation are underrated. 
  • Adding Inspiration: When employees see their peers being appreciated, they feel inspired to learn and get that appreciation for themselves. 
  • Manage Events: Are you the kind of person who likes to manage events? Well, employee appreciation day is a great opportunity for you to brush up on your event managerial skills! 
  • Gift of Gratitude: It's good to give back and that is exactly the case when you express your gratitude to your team. They work tirelessly to make your team and organization grow. So, it is only right for you to acknowledge their efforts. Moreover, gratitude helps you be happier too. It ain’t all about your employees. It's also about you!

While these are some spectacular reasons to celebrate employee appreciation day in your organization, you shouldn't look for a specific day to appreciate your peers. Make appreciation a practice that you follow any time you see anyone in your team doing something praiseworthy! 

Employee Appreciation Day Ideas to Make Your Team Happy

By now you know how important it is for you to make your employees feel special. At the end of the day, they are the ones making your business work, right? 

But are you wondering what you can do on employee appreciation day when your business doesn't necessarily have a culture of recognition? Don't worry! Here are a couple of ideas you should definitely try! 

1. Tribute Videos

Have you ever seen one of those very cute videos where people are lauding their loved ones? Why not make that for your team? As cheesy as it might sound, they are a great way of telling your teammates that their efforts are seen, recognized, and appreciated. 

Making a video will not even take too much time with modern video editing tools. However, as long as you put enough thought into the tribute video, you will not only make everyone feel special but will also be doing something great for team-building. The only caution you need to follow in this exercise is that you do not accidentally leave someone out. 

Pro Tip: Create the video around a core company value to further embed the values into the culture of the company DNA.

2. Shoutouts on Employee Collaboration Platforms 

Everyone likes some public appreciation from time to time. You can use employee collaboration platforms like Slack, Workplace, Skype, Microsoft teams or anything else used by your company to do this. Pick an employee you want to appreciate and write a note to them for everyone to see. 

While this might not take a lot of thought, time, and effort from your end, getting public recognition will mean a lot to your team. 

However, when doing this, make sure that you do not miss someone out! You can even make a calendar for appreciation as mentioned in the last employee appreciation day idea.

Many employee recognition platforms also integrate with collaboration platforms to create a seamless recognition experience that includes points and custom rewards.

(For example, Nectar integrates with Microsoft Teams and Slack to make giving staff shoutouts a fluid process)

Employee shoutouts


3. Send Personalized Notes or Postcards 

Personalization goes a long way, and did you know that the five love languages also extend to workspace relations? Well, say hello to appreciating people whose primary love language could be words of affirmation! They will reminisce about the day of receiving a personalized appreciation note for a long time to come! 

Since a lot of thought will go into writing these notes, this will naturally have an even stronger effect on everyone. 

Personalized notes are one of the best types of recognition to appreciate your employees not with money but genuine gratitude and effort. 

4. Send Them a Personalized Gift

Now, this could be a tricky one. Why? Because this appreciation gift means that you should send something unique to each employee - something you know they want and will appreciate. Therefore this is a good game for small teams.

To make it even more interesting, you can encourage employees to give gifts among themselves. The fun thing about this is that you will be a participant for way too long. You'll observe and figure out what to give whom, and that will take time. Therefore, when your teammates receive their gift, they will be overwhelmed with the kind of effort you put into making them feel special. 

5. Launch an Employee Recognition and Awards Program

Nothing helps retention and employee morale quite like a consistent program for rewards and recognition. One day a year of appreciation and recognition simply isn't enough to keep employee morale high and increase employee loyalty to the company.

Many companies create a custom program using spreadsheets and gift card vendors. Other companies streamline the entire program by launching an employee recognition platform like Nectar to allow peer-to-peer recognition, point gifting, and rewards.

6. Give Them Home Day with Relaxing Spa Packages

Everyone likes an unexpected day off, right? But what about a day off with some relaxation? If you really want to show your employees that you care about their wellbeing and comfort, you can give them a surprise holiday with spa package deals on their special day of appreciation. 

It would be best if you could arrange for a spa day when all your employees can relax. However, if your employees are working remotely or live far from one another, you can simply just buy the packages from near their places or just give them allowance for a relaxing spa. 

We're sure your team will love this! 

7. Send Them Day-Specific Gift Cards 

Do you think spa day might end up becoming a little too restrictive for your diverse team? After all, what if they want something else entirely? Well, the best way to work with such diversity is by sending your teammates some gift cards. 

The only catch to this appreciation idea is that you need to make these gift cards or allowances time-specific. After all, you want your employees to use the money or gifts you sent them on employee appreciation day on the same day, right? 

There are plenty of time-specific gift card options you can choose from. You can even ask your employees to send pictures of what they got and make it a whole company-wide bonding exercise! 

Note: This is an especially great option for a remote team of workers to help everyone feel connected.

8. Food and Ice Cream for the Win! 

Who said only kids like ice cream? When it's a day of celebration, why not make it extra special with some delicious food, drinks, and ice cream? You can bedazzle the day with some delicious donuts, sandwiches, pizzas, burgers, and what-not! 

A great thing about food days is that they are not only a treat for everyone but also help most people have less to worry about when they go home. No more cooking for a meal! 

Food is a great way of appreciating people. However, make sure that you order enough variety to cater to everyone's taste. Imagine if you don't and someone feels left behind, yikes! 

9. Happy Hours Could Be Better! 

Food outings or office lunches are fun. However, what about making the first Friday of every march a little more fun and wild? You can shut office operations down a little earlier than general and take your entire team to a local bar that they might like. 

Most bars host happy hours between 5 and 6 pm. Therefore, this is when you take your team there and get them as many drinks as they want! What a spectacular way of not just treating and appreciating your employees, but also building a closer personal relationship within your team! 

This idea also works spectacularly because Fridays are the best night for your employees to let loose without costing you anything in terms of productivity the next day! 

10. Escape Rooms for Nobody to Escape the Fun

Is your team working remotely or in a hybrid model? You should try making a virtual escape room for everyone to get out of with the right kinds of clues. Escape rooms require a lot of concentration but are some of the best activities you can arrange for your team

Virtual escape rooms can be even more exciting than physical ones because they do not have the sense of doom of being stuck in a room. 

You can even build teams within your company and see which team will win the escape room contest. What a great way of building team spirit while also fostering fun and a positive competitive spirit in your team! 

team building exercises


11. Arrange Extravagant Internal Award Ceremonies 

Do you want to do something over the top to help your employees see how much you mean to them? You should arrange extravagant internal award ceremonies! 

When we say extravagant award ceremonies, the scale depends on your organization and your team's comfort level. However, one thing is for sure - you will give them an evening of pure entertainment and appreciation. 

In these award ceremonies, you can set several awards that are enough to cover each team member. You will prepare some fun skits and introductory lines for everyone to add some spice to the event. 

The best thing about this event is that everyone will go home appreciated and thoroughly entertained. However, it might be important to remember that this is mostly a small organization-friendly activity. 

12. Make Your Personalized Hall of Fame! 

Did you like our idea of making a cute tribute video for your employees? What about the whole shebang with employee award ceremonies? 

If you liked both the ideas, you will surely like the sound of a personalized hall of fame! Not only does it add a refreshing aura to the office while appreciating your employees, but also adds the right amount of drama. 

All you have to do is get a room free in your office and fill it up with balloons, rights, pictures of your employees laden with the appreciation you want to give to them. 

You can also decorate a cool photo booth to make this a whole another event to remember throughout the year! 

13. Everyone Likes Company Swag!

Do you want to both appreciate your employees and make sure your company's name will always be involved? A great way to do so is by making brand-centric merch gift bags. 

Why not fill up beautiful bags with useful office gifts such as water bottles, pens stands, stationery, and other such things? You know you can even add plants for everyone's desks in this mix. What a lovely way to bring more life into the office while also letting your employees know that you see them and their efforts! 

Keep in mind that it is not necessary to make these gift bags all about merch, though. You can also just choose to make cute bags for your employees without any kind of company branding.  

Company swag ideas

14. Meditation for Inner Peace 

What better way to tell your team that you appreciate them than by helping them relax for an entire day? You can arrange for a guided meditation session throughout the office. 

A great thing about meditation sessions is that they can be extremely cheap. You can just do it with a guided meditation app and good speakers. 

Moreover, you can potentially be helping some of your employees get through and get off some stress in their life! Some people might adopt meditation into their lifestyle and isn't that just spectacular? 

15. Arrange for a Game Day 

Let them have complete fun at work! You can arrange for a game day when everyone can forget about their files and computers and have fun all day. Whether you play board games, dumb charades, or jeopardy - that's your team's call. 

The best thing about game day is that it's an affordable party that you can simply arrange in the office. Moreover, it will surely bring out the nostalgia and childishness in everyone! To make the day even more fun, you can ask your team about their favorite games and then arrange for the most commonly liked ones! 

16. It's Virtual Reality Time! 

If you own or work for an IT firm, you have to do this. After all, when your employees are working with tech for you all day, they deserve to get a taste of what the latest and most exciting technology looks like, right? 

Virtual reality is a fun way of letting your crew blow some steam off through a fun day of games and escaping reality for a while. 

While arranging for a virtual reality day, you would either opt for VR games or short movies, whatever sailed your and your team's boat! 

17. Organize a Fun Field Trip 

What a way to hit not just two but multiple birds with one stone! On this employee appreciation day, take your employees on a fun field trip to a museum or a park. Do you know why this is such a wonderful idea? Let's see what all it can achieve:

  • You sponsored trip will showcase your employees of your appreciation
  • You can take your team to some educational place to help them up skill 
  • A field trip is always a great team building activity 
  • You can add field trips as a perk for new people joining your organization

Just make sure that whenever the team goes for a trip it is comfortable and interesting enough for the trip to not become uninteresting instead! 

18. Adventure Days are Fun! 

Working in a 9-6 job can be a little mundane and everyone starts to believe that they are only living for the weekend. So, what can you do to add some thrill into your employees' lives? Well, why not take them on an adventurous trip? 

Unless any of your teammates have some severe health concerns, you should take them to an adventure park for a day. Or, if not an adventure park, at least take them rock climbing or bungee jumping. 

The reason why this is a special employee day appreciation deal is that it will not only help your employees feel special but will also work as a special team-building exercise. More reason to do something crazy! 

19. Give Your Teammates Extra Opportunities to Learn

One of the most positive things you can do to make your team understand they’re valued is helping them grow. No, we are not talking about general mentorship programs here. Instead, if you have a small team, you can financially, emotionally, or intellectually help your teammates follow your passion. 

Whether your senior engineer wants to start illustrating children's books or your creative head wants to start their blog, lend them a helping hand. Seriously, there is nothing more overwhelming than a leader who is not afraid of losing their teammate if it is for the latter's progress and good! 

career growth for employees

20. Make it a Month-Long Escapade with an Appreciation Calendar

Why restrict yourself and your team to only a day of appreciation? Why not create an appreciation calendar for the entire month of March? In this calendar, you can fill every week with some fun activities that everyone will like. Moreover, you can also use this calendar to send out appreciation shoutouts on employee chat platforms. 

While arranging a month-long or even a week-long celebration might be too much, think about the effect it will have on your employees and how much they will love it! This effort is sure to become the talk of the office throughout the year! 

Frequently Asked Questions

If you're new to human resources or managing a company, we're sure thinking about what to do on employee appreciation day might feel intimidating. This is why we will not leave your side this early! In this section, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions on the Internet. We hope you find more answers here! 

Does Appreciation and Recognition Improve Employee Retention?

Yes! There is no doubt about how employee recognition goes a long way in increasing employee retention. When managers acknowledge and recognize their teammates, the team turnover can reduce up to 31%

Money is obviously a motivating factor for many people to work. However, regardless of the monetary value, the emotional outcome of a job is also important. After all, nobody will feel good to not have public recognition, right? 

Should a Leadership Team Focus on Employee's Job Satisfaction?

If your leadership team has not already been focusing on job satisfaction, you might already have trouble in your hands. Regardless of the job role and significance, it is each leader's purpose to add satisfaction to it, and the best way to do so is by adding value and appreciation. 

Does Employee Appreciation Encourage Healthy Work-Life Balance? 

Well, this might not be true directly. However, when we look at things from a broader perspective, employee appreciation will definitely bring about some work-life balance. Why? Because if your employees are happy at work, they will continue with their lives in a good mood, indirectly bringing about a balance between the two. 

However, if employees do not feel appreciated at work, they might feel stressed. This kind of stress continues in their personal lives and time and hence, makes their entire life stressful. 

Will Too Much of Appreciation Spoil My Employees? 

Absolutely not! Well, if you do everything in moderation. If you adopt the policy of appreciating your employees too much, they might take your authority for granted. However, more likely than not, employees who do not get appreciated at work are prone to more misconduct than the ones who do. Appreciation goes a long way, don't overthink it! 

Can We Apply Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in Office Appreciation? 

Sure! Maslow's hierarchy of needs is very deeply embedded in how people perceive their environment and their needs in it. In the context of employee appreciation, here is what it can look like: 

  • Physiological Needs: Appreciating your employees enough to take care of simple things such as office hygiene and snacks matter. 
  • Safety: Safety can be both physical and monetary. You can appreciate your employees by offering them a safe space to live and work in. 
  • Love and Belonging: This is mostly where verbal appreciation comes into place. Public recognition and appreciation help people feel loved in their team. 
  • Esteem: Another direct need met by appreciation is esteem. It is very important to have high self-esteem in the workplace and appreciation helps bring that in each employee. 
  • Self-Actualization: Appreciation helps people realize their complete worth and potential in a workplace. Through positive feedback, people tend to outgrow their weaknesses and reach a career actualization, all because of recognition and appreciation. 

Summing Up 

Now that you have read this article, you have a pretty good idea of what employee appreciation day is and why you should celebrate it. You also have some useful celebration tips! 

Feel free to pick up any ideas from our list of appreciation efforts, and we're sure your team will be happy! You can also tweak the ideas to suit your company and go all out in expressing your gratitude towards your spectacular team! 


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