20 Free and Inexpensive Ways to Say Thank You to Your Employees

When a member of your work staff goes above and beyond, they deserve recognition. But showing your employee how much you appreciate their work does not have to be an extravagant event. You can show your gratitude in free or low expense ways. Here are some great ways to reward your employee and say thank you for all of the hard work they have done for you and your company.

1. Give Them a Day Off

Telling your employee to take a day off may seem like a small gesture, but it will mean so much to them. Knowing that they can take a day away from work and do what they want to relax during that day without losing pay is such a great incentive. 

Don’t just make it any day; give them their birthday off! Wouldn’t it be amazing to know that you can take your birthday off as a gift from your employer? It would double as a birthday present and a way to express appreciation for all of the hard work they have been doing. 

2. Create a Kudoboard

Allow everyone to share their love with a group greeting card. A Kudoboard is the best way to gather a group of employees and give them one place to show appreciation. It is a central place for people to upload photos, videos, gifs, and messages for the person you want to appreciate. You could make a different Kudoboard each month to honor an employee (like an Employee of the Month program) or create a shout out board

Kudoboard is perfect for workplace appreciation ❤️

A Kudoboard business plan makes birthdays, shout-outs, and retirements SO much easier. Check out our business plans.

3. Give Them a Shout Out

Tell everyone (and we mean everyone) what an incredible employee you have. Words can have such a significant impact on the morale of your employees, so give positive affirmations and give them often. A Kudoboard, as mentioned above, is a great way to give your employees a shout-out. Other ways are:

  • Create a channel on Slack just for shout outs so that you and other employees can recognize each other
  • If you have weekly meetings, start each meeting off with time for shout outs to be given about other team members 
  • Send out an email whenever you feel like an employee needs to have some extra recognition

4. Take Them Out For Lunch

If your employee has been doing a great job and you want to recognize that, then take them out for lunch on your dime. It will be a great way to show your appreciation and get to talk to them simultaneously. Getting out of the workplace and into a casual setting will give you and your employee a space to have great conversation and for you to express your gratitude for the work that they are doing. 

5. Order Lunch In

Every employee loves to hear that lunch is being brought in! Let your team pick a place and order individual meals for themselves, either sending their order to the person ordering or by creating a group Doordash order. It is such a useful way to show recognition for the awesome work that they are doing—try to give them enough notice so that they know to come into the office and not to bring a lunch from home.

If you want an even more whimsical appreciation lunch—rent out a food truck. You can arrange to have a food truck come park outside your office and let your employees order from there. It is a fun and unique way for them to be treated and get outside for lunch. 

6. Long Lunches, Late Starts, Early Out

Some departments have tight budgets and strict rules around financial rewards. You can still reward a team or a special employee without spending a single penny by giving them a little wiggle room. Instead of their standard 60 minute lunch, give them 2 hours. Tell them to come in at 10:30 instead of 9 on a Monday morning, or let them leave at 2 pm on a Friday! These are easy, free ways to show you care. 

7. A Thank You Card

There is something special about a handwritten note. If you have an employee who has stood out recently for their work, then write them a personalized thank you card. It is such an easy gesture but could make a world of difference on theirs. Sometimes just a thank you can go a long way—reward employees with sincere words of thanks. 

8. Gift Cards

Gift cards are simple, useful, and perfectly generic. You can keep a stack of gift cards that anyone would love to receive, such as Amazon, Starbucks, Walmart, or Visa. You don’t have to do a large amount, but even $5 to say thank you will be appreciated. Some great types of gift cards are:

  • Entertainment - Hulu, Spotify, Apple Music
  • Restaurants - Find out their favorite place to eat
  • Stores - Go generic like Target or get more specific if there is a brand they love
  • Visa Gift Card - it will be like giving them a small cash bonus

An unexpected gift card will be a welcome surprise to say thank you. It will also help your employee realize that you have been noticing the effort they have been putting in at work. 

Did you know you can add a gift card to a Kudoboard? Try it now.

9. Certificates

Make it a workplace tradition to award a different employee each quarter with a certificate of recognition. The routine and recognition will give your employees something to strive towards. Even a simple certificate will let them know that their work and effort are seen and appreciated. 

You can have fun with this too. Think ‘The Dundies’ from the Office. Give out a fun award to each employee recognizing different attributes. You can have various certificates made for each category you come up with. You can even hold the awards at a Chili’s or with a silly ceremony. Laughing with your team is an effective way to build camaraderie and morale. 

10. Bring in Treats

Can you say “thank you” just because? Sometimes the best workplace reward is an unexpected box of donuts. You can take the time to head over to your local bakery and grab an assortment of baked goods and surprise your employees. If you have a soda or coffee shop nearby, you can get everyone’s order and grab some drinks. Setting out some awesome snacks in the break room so that your team can have something to look forward to midday is such a great way to say thank you. 

11. LinkedIn Recommendation

An easy but fantastic way to show your appreciation and recognition of an employee is to go on to their LinkedIn Profile and write them a recommendation. You are letting them know that you are grateful for their work, but you are allowing all of their contacts to know as well. If the day comes that they leave your company, they will have that recommendation from you to carry them on in their career. It is a significant way to reward your employees without spending a dime. 

Read more: Does Workplace Appreciation Actually Work?

12. Add Funds to Their Divvy Card

Does your company use Divvy or another expense management system? Consider incorporating a bonus structure if your company gives each employee a monthly stipend for expenses. You can recognize a different employee each month by putting some money into their stipend account to use however they want. It doesn’t have to be a large amount, but will help your employee feel appreciated. 

13. Dinner on You

Say thank you by sending your employee out to dinner with their partner or friend on the company. Tell them to use the company card and go wherever they want. It will feel like a treat to pick their favorite place, get an amazing meal, and share it with someone they care about. 

14. Movie Tickets

Give your employee two tickets to see a movie just as a thank you. This is an easy and cheap way to reward employees. Some people haven’t been to a movie in ages, so receiving tickets will be an exciting gift. They will also feel your appreciation for receiving a thank you in the form of a fun night out with a friend. (Call your local theater to see about buying movie ticket vouchers in bulk for an even more affordable reward.)

15. Chocolate

Get them chocolate. Not just any chocolate, make it amazing chocolate! Go over to your local Godiva, Sees, or Ghardelli’s and get them some delicious gourmet chocolate. Write a little note thanking them for the awesome work they have been doing on this huge project, and put it on their desk. It is a small token of appreciation that will have a big impact. Plus, it is delicious, win-win! 

16. Laundry Service

When you are working full time, you sometimes let everyday chores slide. Taking one of those chores off your employee’s hands will be such a relief. A unique but helpful way to thank you is to give them a laundry service for a month. There are laundry services out there that will come to your work, pick up your dirty laundry, and bring it back to you by the end of the business day clean and folded. Now that is an excellent way to recognize your employee. 

17. DoorDash Gift Card

With just a few clicks, you can tell your employee how awesome they are and that dinner for them and their family is on you tonight. Send them over a DoorDash gift card so that they can order in and feel appreciated all at the same time. 

18. House Cleaning

Set up a time for a house cleaner to clean their home for them. If you have employees working remotely, this will be the ultimate way to recognize them for all of their hard work. Your remote employee spends all day in their house, helping make it look incredible for them as a way of saying thank you. This is also a great benefit to add as an incentive for working at your company—offer all remote employees a monthly house cleaning stipend. 

19. Massage Therapist at the Office

To tell your team thank you for all of the work they have been doing, consider hiring a massage therapist to come to the office and set up their chair. (Bonus Tip: Call a local massage therapy school to ask about students. They need hours and are less expensive than a standard massage therapist.) You can let your employees sign up for a time slot during the workday to take a break and get a relaxing massage. It will be a great way to show appreciation and break up the workday for them. Many people have never even had a professional massage before, so it will be a treat for them to receive one. 

20. Ask Them

When all else fails, ask your employee how they would like to be recognized. Some people are introverts and do not like a lot of attention put on them; others enjoy public recognition. If you are unsure how to recognize your employees, ask them what they would like. You can even bring it up as a topic to discuss at a meeting and get ideas from your employees about what they would like to see offered to them and create an incentive program together. Knowing what types of bonuses are available could light a fire under them and inspire them to strive towards a goal. 

Conclusion

Put a plan in place and start it today. Normalizing incentives will help your employees know that you are watching and looking for ways to recognize them. Small gestures to say thank you for their good work will go a long way. Find a creative way to show your appreciation to your team. You will notice an increase in engagement when you start incentivizing your staff. Take the time to find the perfect way to say thank you. 

Danica Holdaway

Danica Holdaway is a 10-year marriage veteran with three little girls. She loves marking each and every holiday and anniversary in the most extra way possible. She’s passionate about making everyday life special and bringing people together. Especially using food.