19 Inspiring Ways to Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day

Many people praise Bob Nelson for single-handedly creating Employee Appreciation Day with the launch of his book 1001 Ways to Reward Employees (updated to 1,501 ways). The book catapulted to the top of the charts, selling more than 1.4 million copies before it was even updated.
Nelson has said that it’s a silly concept to reward employees for loyalty, hard work and dedication on just one day out of the year, when every day gives you an opportunity to show how much you value each worker’s contribution to your success.
We heartily agree, so we’ve put together this list of 19 inspiring ideas to show your team members how much you value them — on March 3rd or any day of the year!

First a Few Gift-Giving Tips

Some of the suggestions below are very simple so that everyone can adopt the idea, while others will require some adjustments for the size of your staff and the nature of your business. Please keep these three tips in mind as you choose gifts and plan appreciation festivities:

  • Match the reward to the recipient whenever possible. For example, don’t give someone who is allergic to pet dander an annual pass to the petting zoo.
  • Match the reward to the history. No matter how amazing that first-week-on-the-job staffer is, they probably haven’t earned the same status as a 20-year vet who worked his way up with hard work and loyalty.
  • Match the reward to specific events or timing. Offering a free weekend getaway for two to your best selling rep won’t be worth much if the only time she can claim it is the weekend her spouse or significant other is covering for a colleague.

Tangible Gifts

1. Gift Cards
When you’re not sure of your employee’s taste, give them a gift card to use at a generic retailer, such Amazon.com — the can’t-go-wrong solution.   

2. Event Tickets

Gift tickets to music concerts, live theater, sporting events, or entrance to a state fair.

3. Memberships

Offer memberships to the local discount buyers club, gym, dance studio, museum, or online courses.

4. Tech Gadgets

Check out this list of 10 Best Technology Gadgets for Your Employees. You might also consider Roku streaming video options for your team members who just can’t get enough HDTV.

5. Company Swag

Hand out logo-emblazioned jackets, caps, t-shirts, water bottles, or portfolios.

6. Sweet Treats

A box of quality chocolates or a basket of baked goods (cupcakes, donuts, pastries) is a no-fail gift idea! Mix it up with some savory treats if you want to cut down on the sugar factor.

7. A “Stay Home With Pay” Card

This gives your team member permission to take a wellness day just because they deserve it.

8. Stress Survival Kit

Make personalized kits to combat stress. You could include a soothing CD, a comedy video, essential oils, and a neck cushion.

9. Cash Bonus

Give your employee a cash bonus along with a note identifying the great work they’ve done to deserve. Don’t subtract this amount from any standard end-of-year bonus.

Intangible Gifts

1. On-Site Massage Therapist

Hire a massage therapist to bring their massage table or chair to the office for a day, set them up in a private room, and post a sign-up sheet on the door.

2. Professional Development Workshop

Give your employees the gift of more education with a career workshop or tuition reimbursement benefits.

3. Notable Mentions in Your Newsletter

Recognize an employee’s great work by giving them public praise in your company newsletter and/or on your website and social media channels.

4. All-Inclusive Weekend Getaway

Just remember to make the dates flexible so that the recipient can choose his or her own weekend.

5. Personal Project Time

Allow your employees to work on a passion project during office hours (that’s how Art Fry invented the Post-It Note!)

Team-Building Gifts

Building a team that works — and plays — together is essential, especially for small businesses that often need employees to take on multiple roles. Having fun together outside of the office reinforces the team attitude when you and your employees get back to the job.

1. In-Office Pizza Party

You can substitute pizza with any other staff favorite. Have a team lunch on a weekly or monthly basis.

2. Healthy Snack Delivery

Get a subscription to an office snack delivery service, like Snack Nation, which offers a curated mix of snacks each month.

3. Staff Field Trip

Play company-wide hooky for an afternoon with a trip to a local museum, paintball facility, a matinee movie, or a picnic in the park. You pay the admission fees, of course.

4. Company Sports Team

Join a corporate sports league to build a sense of camaraderie on and off the field, track, or court.

5. Evening Yacht Cruise

Book a dinner or drinks yacht for a few hours after work to relax, have fun, and see a bit of the city.  
Everyone needs to be appreciated! Today gives business owners a concrete opportunity to show their employees just how valuable they are and how much their skills, attitude, and dedication are appreciated. How will you say thanks?

Megan Hendrickson

Megan Hendrickson is the content manager at Bluehost. She draws on more than a decade of editorial experience — and a stint at one of the nation’s top business schools — to write about tech, small business, and marketing for the Bluehost blog.

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