25 Workplace Appreciation Ideas That Really Work

dwight employee appreciation ideas

Numerous studies have shown that workplace appreciation is one of the top factors in employee turnover—which has a huge impact on whether your team succeeds. For example, a Career Builder survey found that recognizing employees was the 2nd most important factor in employee retention. 

But not to worry.  We’ve got you covered with 25 ideas to show workplace appreciation to amp up your appreciation efforts.

In This Article

Office Culture

1. Recognize birthdays & work anniversaries 

When employees reach milestones like birthdays and work anniversaries, it’s a natural time for them to take stock and consider their futures. A surprising study by Harvard Business school revealed that the reflection that occurs around these big days is particularly crucial in whether folks stick around in their jobs.  One easy way to get ahead of it is by going out of your way to recognize work anniversaries & birthdays.  

Of course, we would be remiss if we didn’t suggest Kudoboard as a great way celebrate your people.  It allows colleagues to recognize an employee’s work anniversary or birthday with an online group birthday card that’s passed around and signed.  Contributors can add pictures, GIFs, or videos – and give the recipient something meaningful on an important day.  Particularly if some of your employees are remote, it can provide an easy way to bring everyone together with an appreciation gift. 

Just check out this example work anniversary Kudoboard one of our users gave us permission to share to see what we mean.

2. Shout outs

When a team member does something well, give them a shout out.  This can come informally, or you can have a more formal time (e.g. once a week on Fridays) when your team pauses for 5 minutes to come together and recognize each other.

Ready for a treat? Check out this amazing office shout out Kudoboard.

3. If some employees are remote, respect that

People choose to work remotely for a variety of reasons. One of the most common, however, is the desire for more control over their schedule (and by extension, their life).  Recognize that fact by giving your remote employees some flexibility in their schedules.  The more you can move toward an output driven culture, the happier employees will be.

4. Non-work achievements

One of the hardest things about work is that things often remain “all business.”  This is very efficient in the short term, but many folks crave a personal connection at some point. Expand your recognition ideas to include non-work achievements, and you’ll impact employee morale in a major way. Taking a moment to publicly recognize employees’ non-work achievements can make a big difference in how employees relate to each other and ultimately the job.

5. Explicitly choose a workstyle

Many teams today are moving towards a more agile-aligned culture vs. the pre-planned, top-down style.  To the extent that you can clearly define the way in which your team interacts, it opens up space for your culture to bloom and employees to appreciate each other. Start with your Human Resource representatives to discuss options. 

6. Let Employees Make the Office Their Own

Ordering new furniture for the break room? Give employees a voice.

Looking to add some art to the walls? Give employees a voice.

Replacing desks with something more modern? Give employees a voice.

Updating the smoke detectors and installing sprinklers for safety?  Ok this one you should probably just go ahead and handle!

Cheap or Free Appreciation Ideas

7. Handwritten thank you notes

Sometimes a handwritten thank you note is more powerful than an email ever could be.  The key here is to write something unique directly for the individual employee that you are thanking.  The last thing someone wants to receive is a handwritten “form letter.”  Generalized staff appreciation messages feel impersonal, and quite frankly – they’ll question your judgment (or at a minimum, your time management) for not just blasting an email out to everyone.

8. One-on-one video chats

While much of your interaction with employees may be over email or chat, it makes a huge difference to set up regular 1:1 in-person check-ins with employees.  It creates a personal connection and allows you to thank employees for their hard work in a more powerful and authentic manner.

9. Add employees to your website

You know that sleepy “About” section of your website that hasn’t been updated in ages?  Use it to highlight your employees.

Make sure to go beyond the mundane (e.g. name, photo, title). Have some fun with it by listing your employees’ favorite ice cream flavors, best vacations ever, etc.  Bonus points if you can connect some of the fun facts to your company mission (e.g. Rotten Tomatoes employees should obviously list their favorite movie!).

10. Props on Social Media

If an employee knocks the ball out of the park on something, ask whether you can publicly sing their praises through your company facebook page, twitter handle, etc. 

Some people won’t be comfortable with it (so always ask), but others will appreciate the public recognition — and as a bonus it broadcasts to future potential employees that your company recognizes its people for hard work and jobs well done.  

Workplace Recognition Program Ideas

11. Suggestion Box 

The suggestion box sounds like one of those workplace appreciation ideas right out of 1970s Corporate America. Add cubicles and harsh lighting, and you can almost imagine the lifeless workplace droning away.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  In fact, giving your employees a public forum to give feedback can be a terrific way to show that you are listening, that you care, and that you will continuously improve.

You can even update it for the modern era with an anonymous digital suggestion box.

12. Employee of the month

It may sound cliche, but some things have been around forever because they work.  Employee of the month is a great way to give a boost (and maybe a little gift) to someone who has been going above and beyond. This is particularly effective when it’s peer nominated and has some basic guardrails in place (e.g. don’t have the same person win again and again!).

13. Mentoring

Taking the time to set up a more formal mentoring system for your employees can make a big difference in whether they stick around for the long haul.

Even if employees are remote or part-time, setting them up with more senior mentors can make them feel connected and also encourage cross pollination of ideas across the company.

14. Workplace Appreciation Week

The first Friday in March is an official day for celebrating and appreciating employees. 

It’s the quintessential hallmark holiday and everyone knows it — but still – why not use it as an excuse to do something special for your people? As far as workplace appreciation ideas go, this one is about as simple as it gets!

Employee Gifts

15. Food

Ok this one is not exactly rocket science. People love food.  And when that food is a perk or reward – all the better.  Bring some pizza into the office every once in a while; it will do wonders. 

Have remote employees?  Not a problem. Offering gift cards to eat at a restaurant nearby where they live can be a nice perk with a relatively low cost.  And if you aren’t sure which retailer makes the most sense, you can always get them a Visa gift card that can be used to purchase virtually anything.

16. Unique Experiences

Employees have varying interests. Some want to go whitewater rafting, while others would rather curl up by the fire with a good book. If you are going to take the time (and spend the money) to give employees gifts – try to make them sufficiently customizable so that each employee can get what they want.  One idea is to check out Blueboard, a site that allows your employees to select from a variety of unique, experiential rewards.

17. The “Silly” Trophy

Senior investment bankers make millions of dollars.  But guess what?  Many still love to show off “deal toys” that they received after closing a big transaction. 

Little trophies sitting on our desks can signify big accomplishments and give people a real confidence boost. Whether it’s for employee of the month or something more specific to your company — you’d be surprised at the mileage you can get out of a little trophy.

18. Get them a gift for the holidays

Sometimes the best thing you can possibly do to recognize your team is to buy them a little something on the holidays.  There are tons of great employee gift guides out there. The key is to get each employee a gift personalized to their interests as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach.  It’s not so much about the gift itself, but that you know an employee well enough to understand what they care about.

19. Bring everyone together across multiple offices

Teams spread across multiple offices that interact regularly are an amazing product of the modern age.  But the truth is – people still crave a connection to their colleagues. Bringing scattered teams together on a semi-regular basis (once a quarter, once every 6 months, etc.) can seem like a daunting expense.  But it will pay major dividends over the long run as it strengthens your company culture.

Read next: 20+ Actually Fun Remote Team Events

Expanded benefits

20. Continuing Education

“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to. One way to do both is to help defray some of the cost for your employee’s continuing education. ” — Richard Branson

Whether a weekend course on a particular topic of relevance for their job, a conference, or even a course at a local college – showing your team that their ongoing growth and development is a priority can make a big difference in ensuring your workplace appreciation efforts are successful.

21. Help with the Commute

There is nothing more soul-sucking than a rough commute day after day. And if your office is located in a particularly high priced area (SF/NY — we’re looking at you), then you may even have some “super commuters” on your hands who are traveling multiple hours each way. 

While you can’t dictate where your employees live, you can provide them help with the commute. For instance, you can cover the cost of public transportation, help to organize office carpools, or even set up a “work from home Wednesday.” 

While this may not feel as creative as some of the other workplace appreciation ideas out there, anything you can do to reduce this stressor will pay major dividends.  

22. Retirement Matching

Many of the items included on this list of workplace appreciation ideas are simple and inexpensive. If we were being cynical, we’d even call them “hacks” (ooof). 

But let it be said that often the best way to show gratitude for your employees is to simply compensate them generously.  This can come in the form of raises (obviously), or you can start offering a benefit like retirement matching. 

Surveys indicate that only half of companies offer retirement plans, and of that group only about half offer matching programs.  Put yourself in the top ~25% with a matching program and prove to your employees that your company will take care of them over the long haul. 

23. Make Time for Volunteer Opportunities

Pay your employees to volunteer. It may sound counterintuitive, but many top companies give their employees PTO to go out and volunteer for causes that they care about. Some companies even go one further and will donate to these organizations on the volunteer’s behalf.

If you want to make it a bonding exercise, you can organize a group volunteering event among your team. Giving the employees the opportunity to have a say in the cause makes a big difference, so consider some kind of poll or vote (as opposed to volunteering again and again at that organization where the CEO sits on the board!).

24. Employee Wellness Programs

Want employees to feel appreciated? Show them that their health is your priority.

Among employers who offered wellness programs of some sort, more than 50% saw a decrease in absenteeism and two-thirds reported increased productivity.

In terms of exercise, this doesn’t necessarily need to be some morning routine schtick where all the employees are out on the front lawn doing Tai-Chi together. Something as simple as reimbursing employees for part of the cost of a gym membership can be the little push needed to motivate someone who has put their health on the back burner recently!

When it comes to health, nothing is more important than food. So if you offer employees meals, try to have a healthy option available (and the same goes for vending machines). Don’t go overboard — we all need our M&Ms every once in a while. But making those healthier choices conveniently available can be what it takes to nudge people in a positive direction.

Employee Wellness Programs are possible for remote teams, too! Read more about remote team wellness here

25. Matching Donations

According to Double the Donation, 65% of Fortune 500 companies offer matching donation programs to their employees. This is a terrific way to enhance your employees’ giving power towards causes they care deeply about while also tackling corporate social responsibility goals you have. 

There are a few keys to a successful matching program that you want to consider. First, you need to publicize it among your employees on a regular basis; otherwise, they will forget about it and not ultimately see the value. Second, you need to make the process for accessing the match simple and straightforward. The more ‘one-click’ you can make the match, the more likely employees are to really consider it a benefit rather than a bit of a hassle.

Workplace Recognition Works

When your employees feel seen and appreciated, they work harder, work smarter, and work with more loyalty than you’d think possible. Every minute and dollar you spend on workplace appreciation will provide an excellent ROI, as well as attracting and retaining the type of employees that are game-changers for your business. 

When in doubt-everyone deserves some appreciation

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