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15 Creative Employee Appreciation Day Ideas

March 7, 2022

Employees Racing in Office Chairs at Work

It's time to say goodbye to impersonal emails and lame gift cards. Let's get creative with 15 Employee Appreciation Day ideas that you can bring to life this year.

At Terryberry, we believe recognizing and celebrating your employees’ hard work should continue throughout the year. However, it’s been refreshing to see companies celebrate Employee Appreciation Day now more than ever.

It’s time to embrace this workplace holiday by recognizing the achievements and contributions of your employees with special events, gifts, personalized messages, and fun surprises.


When is Employee Appreciation Day?

Recognition is our bread and butter. Part of Terryberry’s mission is to improve the workplace culture with innovative recognition solutions. This awesome holiday lands on the first Friday of March, every year.

But, we believe you can implement these ideas at any given point. It will give your employees something to look forward to throughout the year.


Why are Employee Holidays Important?

What if we told you that you could boost employee morale, increase engagement and improve company culture? You might think there's no way! But alas, we got you covered.

The concept of employee recognition and appreciation has gained significant traction since the mid-1990s. Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen an increasing number of companies who participate in this annual holiday.

Organizations around the world are seeing the effects of employee recognition: improved staff morale, increased business sales, better engagement, and the retention of amazing employees.

It's never too late to do something extraordinary. Discover 15 creative ways to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day below!

Celebrating Employee Appreciation Day is a great way to lay the foundation for a thriving and successful workplace culture.

Ideas for Employee Appreciation

Here are 15 creative ideas for employee appreciation that you can implement all year long.

  1. Reward with gift cards and experiences

Gift cards are popular for a reason. They give employees the ability to choose rewards that they find meaningful, rather than yet another one-size-fits-all t-shirt or water bottle. And if you’re looking for a reward that’s more unique, you can’t go wrong with providing an exceptional experience. This might be something for the whole team — like renting out a theme park, reserving an escape room, or learning to cook from an accomplished chef — or for individual employees, like paying for a day trip to a spa or a meal at their favorite restaurant.

  1. Pamper your employees

Employee Appreciation Day is your chance to let your team indulge and take a break from their hard work. Hire a manicurist, masseuse, or chiropractor to come to the office. Having a sleep or mindfulness coach teach your employees tips to lower their stress is another winning option. These activities emphasize your organization’s commitment to employee wellness and help everyone feel relaxed and rejuvenated.

  1. Donate to your employees’ favorite charities

Giving to charities employees support shows that you care about what they care about. You can donate to organizations in employees’ names or provide employees with a set amount to donate per month, per quarter, or per year. Matching donations is another possibility. And if you’ve implemented an employee recognition solution with points-based rewards, you can let them donate reward points to charities of their choice.

  1. Give out fun awards

Remember superlatives at the end of a school year? Everyone anxiously awaited that day, and it’s no different in the workplace. Get creative and make up some awards people will truly treasure, like recognition master, exceptional listener, and coaching champion. You can also focus on employees who have best demonstrated your core values, made your workplace more inclusive, or acted as a true team player. Awards are specific and tangible, making employees feel uniquely recognized.

  1. Treat your team’s taste buds

Who doesn’t love a free lunch? Food is one of the simplest and most effective ways to reward your employees. Consider catering a meal, surprising your team with a box of tasty snacks — even if they work from home — or taking folks out for coffee. You can also encourage wellness at the same time by providing delicious healthy treats or taking an outing to a restaurant that provides healthy options.

  1. Enjoy activities in-office or remotely

Employees want to spend time having fun with their teammates. Host a pizza party in the breakroom or common area with plenty of board games. You could also set up a photo booth, company-wide jeopardy game, or talent contest. And if your workforce is primarily remote, set up an afternoon of virtual games and fun, complete with a pre-delivered gift package.

  1. Let employees pursue their passions

Work shouldn’t consume your employees’ lives. They should have the time and space to pursue their passions and interests outside of the workplace. This could mean volunteering or work on an independent project. Many organizations set aside employee appreciation days for activities their team members have always wanted to try. Besides giving employees a break from work, hobbies can inspire innovative ideas and teach employees new skills that help your organization in the long run.

The best employee appreciation days mark the start of something bigger and longer-lasting. Making a once-a-year splash is great, but starting on the path to a true culture of recognition is something that will impact employees the most. Try out the following ideas on employee appreciation day and afterward to make recognition a key part of the employee experience.

  1. Just say “thank you”

Simply saying “thank you” can have an enormous impact on your employees, boosting everything from productivity to retention to engagement. Get your workforce in the habit of recognizing people frequently and in real-time, and soon every day will feel like employee appreciation day. Have leadership take part in this initiative — recognition from managers and executives means the most to employees — and you’ll have created an employee appreciation day with a profound, enduring impact.

To make appreciation easy in this era of remote work, look for recognition tools that integrate with the ways you communicate daily, whether that’s Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, or another platform. For instance, your organization could adopt a plugin that, upon the conclusion of a virtual meeting, prompts employees to recognize other participants and even provides fun messages and graphics for doing so. And if it automatically links with your recognition platform, giving employees the option to reward others with redeemable points, so much the better.

For a more personal touch, have team members handwrite thank you notes. The time and thought that come with each note goes a long way towards making the recipient feel valued.

  1. Recognize major milestones and small victories

Big achievements like hitting sales quotas, launching a new product, or retaining tough clients are all reasons to celebrate. Employees expect to be recognized and rewarded for successfully executing on major undertakings. However, practicing more frequent recognition for smaller victories can be unexpected, delightful pick-me-ups for your employees. Be sure to balance your appreciation for big wins with recognition for the little things as well. Use your website, social media channels, newsletter, company-wide newsfeed, or meetings as forums for practicing recognition on employee appreciation day and year-round.

  1. Start a recognition program

There’s no better day to announce a recognition program than employee appreciation day. A fully comprehensive recognition and rewards platform reminds people to recognize their peers frequently and genuinely. Your platform’s user interface should be straightforward and integrate with other software your employees already use. In addition, employees should be able to recognize each other anywhere, anytime. A mobile-friendly platform is crucial for companies whose teams are on the ground.

And don’t forget about the rewards. Many businesses opt for a points-based recognition program to give employees the flexibility to choose their own rewards, reducing administrative overhead and creating a personalized recognition experience.

  1. Find out how employees want to be appreciated

Have you ever asked your employees how they’d like to be recognized? Give your employees a voice by gathering their feedback through pulse surveys, together with always-on feedback channels employees can take advantage of whenever they have something to say. Surveying employees about the forms of recognition they find most meaningful will ensure that your appreciation efforts hit the mark.

  1. Implement employee feedback

Collecting employee feedback isn’t enough, though — your organization needs to act on it! Making changes employees want to see will give them the confidence that their opinions matter and that your company is willing to adjust. Eventually, this will motivate more employees to participate in your company’s feedback and recognition initiatives.

  1. Support work-life balance

Team members who are well-rested and have time to spend with their family and friends are more engaged and productive. Letting your employees have a life outside of work is vital to preventing burnout. When possible, compromise with your employees on their schedule. For instance, employees with children may want to arrive and leave early. Others with extracurricular activities may want to come in late, or even transition to a four-day workweek. Your organization can also provide additional PTO or occasional unexpected half-days to preserve work-life balance.

  1. Provide time for meditation and mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness are the keys to employee wellness. Paychex discovered that stressed employees found mindfulness to be an essential strategy in overcoming their wellness challenges. Mindfulness can help employees problem solve, absorb new information, adapt to changes, and increase their empathy for others. Start setting aside time during the workday for meditation — or even bring in a trainer — and begin a key wellness practice on the employee appreciation day.

  1. Support continuous learning

Continuous learning is crucial to developing an agile, high-performing workforce. For employee appreciation day, offer paid continuous learning courses related to work or personal interests. Recognize the employees who take advantage of these classes to reinforce the behavior.


If you want to integrate more recognition and appreciation into your culture, we’re happy to help! Give us a shout, we can’t wait to hear from you.