9 Ways to Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day

| Leadership Training, News

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Each year on the first Friday in March, Employee Appreciation Day is observed as an opportunity to recognize employees – one of the greatest assets to any organization. If you don’t have anything planned, we’ve got some ideas for you.  

Updated on February 4, 2024

Did you know that Employee Appreciation Day is coming up this Friday, March 1, 2024? This is a big and important day for businesses and employees across the world.

Why?

Arguably the most valuable asset to any organization is its human capital. Its people. The employees who show up every day and make it all happen. And that’s why it’s so critical that organizations go to great lengths to take care of their people (for a deeper dive into how you can do this, check out our blog post on the topic).

Here’s the kicker. There is one simple yet significant thing you can do that goes a long way in taking care of your employees: recognizing and appreciating them. 

Rather than go on at great lengths about why this is important, we can summarize it with these four stats:

  1. 51% of employees are not engaged at work, as per Gallup (a problem that costs businesses billions each year, by the way)

  2. 40% of employees say they’d work harder if they were recognized more often, yet 82% of employees don’t feel their supervisors recognize them enough for their contributions, according to OGO

  3. 90% of employees who received thanks or recognition from their boss felt more trust in that person versus only 48% who didn’t receive recognition, as reported by SHRM

  4. If organizations doubled the number of employees who receive weekly recognition, they’d experience a 24% increase in quality, a 27% reduction in absenteeism, and a 10% reduction in shrinkage, Gallup research showed

Need we say more?

That’s why, each year on the first Friday of March, Employee Appreciation Day is celebrated. It’s an opportunity for organizations to show their employees just how much they’re valued and revered. 

And if you don’t have anything planned, don’t worry. In this blog post, we’ll give you nine easy Employee Appreciation Day ideas you can use to make it an unforgettable one for your team.

1. Surveying Your Staff to See What Matters to Them 

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Before we jump into the rest of our suggestions, there’s one surefire way to find out how best to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day. And that is to reach out to your staff to get a gauge on the types of recognition that resonate most with them, as well as things they’d like to be recognized for.

This doesn’t have to be complicated. You can use a simple service such as SurveyMonkey to circulate a questionnaire and ask for their feedback. This can include questions like:

  • Do you feel that you’re recognized enough for your accomplishments by your manager?

  • What are some work accomplishments or contributions you’d appreciate being recognized for by your manager or supervisor?

  • What would you find to be a meaningful form of recognition for your accomplishments? 

  • Are you most comfortable receiving recognition in private, in public, in small groups, or otherwise? 

  • If we held an event dedicated to recognizing the accomplishments of our staff, what would you like for it to involve?

The feedback you get from your team can help guide and inform your Employee Appreciation Day ideas.

2. Socializing and Having Fun 

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Sometimes, the best way to recognize your employees is with something that isn’t directly tied to work. Oftentimes, a fun and lighthearted distraction from work can be the best reward for having done a great job. Some great ways to do this on Employee Appreciation Day are:

Have a Company-Funded Happy Hour

Know what’s great about Employee Appreciation Day? It’s always on a Friday! And what better way to celebrate than to cut off work at 3:00 p.m. and have a company-funded happy hour?

This is an awesome way to thank your employees for their hard work while letting them unwind, socialize, and get to know each other better. Grab some snacks and whatever drinks you fancy and have a great time.

Make sure you take a moment to personally call out big wins from your team members individually, but also as a group.

Just make sure this is something that will resonate with your group and, of course, always remember to drink responsibly!

Order Lunch for Your Team

There’s something great about having lunch with your colleagues, especially when it’s on your boss’s dime. 

So, consider ordering lunch for your team and spending some quality time together.

If your team is remote or works in a hybrid capacity, you can order lunch to their home offices to say thanks for all their contributions to the success of the company. Then, get together on a video conference to chat, catch up, and share a meal. 

Host Team Building Activities for Your Group

There’s nothing better than rewarding your team with a fun, social activity they can do together. And that’s why team building activities are such a great opportunity.

Whether you work together in person or operate on a hybrid or fully-remote model, you can find an activity your group will love.

5 Team Building Activities for Employee Appreciation Day

If you work in the office alongside your colleagues, hosting a team building activity is an incredible way to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day together. Here are five activities we think you’ll love.

The Olympiad Challenge

The Olympic Games might take place every four years, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait that long to feel the excitement, energy, competitive spirit, and sense of community they inspire.

With The Olympiad Challenge, you and your group can take the stage and compete for gold at your very own Olympics-style team building event.

Your group will break out into “nations,” choosing your national symbol and creating a custom flag before partaking in an Olympic Oath rooted in integrity, fairness, and sportsmanship. Next, you’ll tackle challenges inspired by the ancient athletic games using supplies provided in your team bag, earning points for each one successfully completed.

The team who earns the most points throughout the competition will be named Olympiad Challenge Champions!

Wild Goose Chase
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If you’re looking for something fun, high-energy, and outdoors, you can’t go wrong with Wild Goose Chase.

In this scavenger hunt activity, your team can get out of the office and explore your city in a whole new way. Together, your team will need to think outside the box, bond as a group, and venture outside into the community in order to complete a series of fun and unique photo and video challenges.

For more ideas like this, check out our full list of scavenger hunt team building activities for workgroups.

Jeoparty Social
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With Jeoparty Social, your team will get to step into their very own Jeopardy-style game show experience – equipped with a buzzer, a professional actor as your host, and an immersive game show platform. Between each round of Jeopardy, your team will participate in social mixer challenges.

Get ready to test your trivia knowledge, hit that buzzer as fast as you can, stack up points for your team before time runs out, and wager a little bit (or a lot) in a round of Final Jeoparty to wrap it all up.

Charity Bike Buildathon
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Looking to give back and make a difference with your group? Then a philanthropic team building activity is optimal for you.

The perfect balance of business lessons and philanthropy, Charity Bike Buildathon will bring your team together to collaborate with their colleagues, bond as a group, exercise creativity, put their business sense to work, and give back to their community. In this activity, teams will decorate and assemble bikes to be donated to kids in your community. 

Trivia Time Machine
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Step into the Outback Time Machine and take a trip through time, from pre-pandemic 21st century, through the decades, and all the way to the 60s.

This exciting, fast-paced trivia game, packed with nostalgia and good vibes is guaranteed to produce big laughs, friendly competition, and maybe even some chair-dancing.

Your remote game show host will warm up your in-person participants with a couple of “tablehopper rounds” and split you out into teams.

Within minutes, your meeting space will be transformed into a game show stage with your very own game show buzzers!

Want to kick-start the trivia fun on your own? Check out our list of 285+ trivia questions and answers for workgroups.

6 Virtual Team Building Activity for Remote Workgroups

If your team is newly remote, there are some amazing virtual team building activities you can do to help support morale and build bonds between colleagues.

Here are six we think you’ll enjoy.

Virtual European Adventure
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If you’ve got a team full of colleagues who love traveling and learning about new places, this is the perfect budget-friendly team building activity for your group. 

Virtual European Adventure is all about connecting with your colleagues, testing your wits together, socializing, and collaborating through high-energy rounds of European-themed trivia.  

In this activity, your group will break out into teams. Then, you’ll take part in a warm-up social mixer followed by three rounds of trivia, a Jeopardy-style lightning round using cellphone buzzers, and a European travel conversation to finish it all off. For each trivia challenge answered correctly, your team will earn points. The team with the most points at the end of the activity will be crowned the Virtual European Adventure Champions! 

Virtual Friendly Feud Social
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If you’ve ever wanted to take part in your own Family Feud-style competition, this is your chance! With Virtual Friendly Feud Social, you and your colleagues will break out into teams to compete through survey questions focused on culture and human nature.

And, as an added social element within the game, each round of questions will be followed by a guided social mixer where you’ll have the chance to take part in a group discussion and more deeply explore the survey questions from the previous round.

Virtual Hollywood Murder Mystery
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The case is fresh, but here’s what we know so far: we’ve got an up-and-coming actress who’s been found dead in her hotel room following last night’s awards show. We have several suspects, but we haven’t been able to put the crime on any of them for sure yet.

Now, it’s up to you and your remote team of virtual detectives to crack the case. Together, you’ll review case files and evidence including police reports, coroners’ reports, photo evidence, tabloids, interrogations, and phone calls as you determine the motive, method, and murderer and bring justice for the victim.

You’ll need to put your problem-solving skills to the test as you share theories, collaborate, and think outside the box with your fellow investigators.

Virtual Escape Room: Mummy’s Curse
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Your remote team has been transported into a pyramid cursed by a restless mummy. Now you must uncover the secrets of Ancient Egypt in order to lift the mummy’s curse and return before the portal closes forever.

Your team’s problem-solving, collaboration, and communication skills will be put to the test, as they race against the clock (and their peers) to solve the mummy’s complex clues and puzzles.

Does your team have what it takes to lift this ancient curse, once and for all?

Virtual Code Break
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With this high-energy cerebral team building game, your remote employees will split into virtual teams and compete against each other as they work to solve a series of puzzles, riddles, and trivia questions. They’ll need to communicate effectively and work collaboratively as they race against the clock collecting points if they want to be the winning team.

Virtual Clue Murder Mystery
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Using video conferencing software alongside Outback’s proprietary app, your group will split into teams, examine clues, review case files, and channel their inner detectives as they race against the clock to solve the mystery of who had the means, motive, and opportunity to murder Neil Davidson.

3. Making Employee Appreciation Highly Visible 

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On Employee Appreciation Day, it’s a great idea to recognize individuals and teams in front of the entire organization. Make it highly visible. This could be something like a virtual all-hands meeting where you gather every member of your team and recognize achievements, big and small. 

One big benefit to doing this is that it provides visibility between employees, teams, and departments who may not fully understand exactly what the other ones do. It allows each employee and facet of the organization to be recognized in front of their peers.

You can also provide the opportunity for peer-to-peer recognition at this meeting by allowing people to give thanks and appreciation to one another. 

For instance, at Outback Team Building & Training, our employees fill out thank you cards attributed to their peers which are read aloud at our monthly all-hands meetings. This can be something smaller, like helping them with a sales call, to something bigger, like covering for them while they were on holiday for two weeks. 

Once all of the thank-you cards are read aloud, they’re entered into a raffle and the winners receive a coffee gift card.

4. Sending Out Gift Bags Full of Useful Stuff 

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If you’re looking for a tangible way to show appreciation for your employees, you can consider giving out giftbags full of useful goods. 

The key here is to give things that people actually find value in. Why, you may ask? Because sub-par swag just ends up being an annoyance that either takes up space or ends up getting tossed out.

Here are four ideas for high-quality branded items your employees will love:

  • Moleskine Daily Planners – These daily planners are both stylish and useful, making them the perfect combination for a company gift.

  • Corkcicle Coffee Mugs – Almost everybody loves to enjoy coffee or tea at the office and with a Corkcicle mug, you can give everyone a new cup with an elevated design to get them through the day.

  • Healthy Snacks – If you’re looking for a unique way to show some appreciation for your team, consider sending them some healthy snacks. Not only are they delicious, they can also act as literal brainfood for your employees, helping them to stay sharp, focused, engaged, and feeling good. If you have remote employees, you can consider a service like Caroo that supplies employees with healthy snacks, whether they’re working in the office or remotely.

  • Desk Plants – Greenery in the workplace has proven positive impacts on employees’ mental wellbeing. So, you can consider giving them desk plants as a great thank you gift. Succulents make for a great looking and low-maintenance option.

For more great options, check out our blog post: 50 Ways to Improve Your Office Working Environment.

5. Not Shying Away from Handwritten Notes 

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Sometimes, it’s the smallest gestures that can have the biggest effect. Take, for instance, personal handwritten notes. 

When’s the last time you took a few minutes to sit down and write out a thoughtful note to one of your employees thanking them for all of their hard work?

It may not seem like much, but don’t underestimate its impact. When it comes to easy and cost-effective Employee Appreciation Day ideas, this one definitely takes the cake.

Take some time to sit down and write hand-written notes to leave on your employees’ desks (or mail them to them, if they’re working remotely). Believe us when we say it’ll be greatly appreciated. 

6. Giving Your Team Some Shine Online 

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You know what’s even better than recognizing employees in front of their peers? Recognizing them in front of your customers, clients, prospects, and followers.

Utilize your online presence to give your team some shine. You can do it on your:

  • Blog
  • Social media channels
  • Website

You can share things like: 

  • Company success stories that call out teams, departments, or employees at large
  • Individual shout-outs and write-ups about people and their achievements as they happen
  • Random employee profiles that give a little more information about people and what they do

By doing this, you’ll not only be giving your employees the appreciation they deserve, but you may also enjoy a few fringe benefits.

For one, showcasing how great your employees are is an awesome way to build trust between customers and prospects and your organization. After all, having a team full of champions goes a long way in conveying the experience your customers are likely to have with your company. 

And it also can help get your customers and prospects more invested in your business by personalizing the experience. Seeing the real people who make great things happen every day creates an undeniable connection between customers and companies. 

7. Give Employees Real Choice and Voice

Empowering employees with real choice and voice involves creating a culture where their opinions, preferences, and ideas are not only heard but also valued and acted upon. This approach requires a shift from top-down decision-making to a more inclusive, participatory style of management.

Here’s how you might approach it:

  • Employee-led Projects: Allow employees to pitch their own projects or areas of work they’re passionate about. This could be through an “innovation lab” or regular “pitch days” where employees present ideas to improve the company, its products, or its culture. Projects that align with company goals and show potential can be green-lit with the necessary resources allocated
  • Feedback Loops: Establish clear, transparent channels for feedback, such as suggestion boxes, regular town hall meetings, or digital platforms where employees can voice concerns and suggestions. Importantly, follow up on this feedback with action or explanations about why certain suggestions can or cannot be implemented
  • Decision-making Panels: Include employees from various levels and departments in decision-making panels or committees, especially for decisions that directly affect their work or the workplace environment. This could include everything from office refurbishments to software choices, work policies, and even hiring decisions

While this is great for Employee Appreciation Day, it’s also vital year-round and is something that will take time, effort, and commitment to implement and sustain.

8. Recognize Non-Work Achievements

Recognizing employees’ achievements outside of work acknowledges that they are valued as complete individuals, not just for their professional contributions. This can foster a more inclusive, supportive culture and build deeper connections among team members.

This can include things like:

  • Employee Spotlights: Use company newsletters, intranet, or social media channels to spotlight employees’ personal achievements, hobbies, or community work. This could be anything from completing a marathon, volunteering for a cause, achieving a personal milestone, or pursuing a unique hobby
  • Special Interest Groups: Support the formation of special interest groups or clubs within the company around common hobbies or interests, such as photography, biking, book clubs, or coding. These groups can meet regularly and even organize events, fostering a sense of community and belonging
  • Celebration Events: Host regular events or gatherings where employees can share and celebrate their personal achievements with their colleagues. This could be structured as informal “show and tell” sessions, where employees bring something related to their achievement or interest to share with the team

It’s vital to recognize that your team members have lives outside of work and acknowledge all of the incredible things people do in their personal time.

9. Provide Time for Meditation and Mindfulness

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Integrating meditation and mindfulness into the workplace can significantly enhance employee well-being, reduce stress, and improve focus and productivity. Here’s how you might approach incorporating these practices:

  • Scheduled Meditation Breaks: Designate specific times during the workday for guided meditation or mindfulness exercises. These could be brief, 10-15 minute sessions led by a trained facilitator or through guided meditation apps. Ensure that these breaks are part of the regular schedule and encouraged by management
  • Mindfulness Training Sessions: Organize regular workshops or training sessions on mindfulness practices, stress management, and emotional intelligence. These sessions can provide employees with tools and techniques to manage stress, improve resilience, and enhance their overall well-being
  • Mindful Workspaces: Create spaces within the office that are dedicated to relaxation and mindfulness. These could be quiet, comfortable areas set aside for meditation, reflection, or just taking a mental break. Consider elements like comfortable seating, natural light, plants, and perhaps even access to meditation tools or resources

Today, health and wellness are critical components of a great employee experience, and they’re qualities that A-players look for in the organizations they work for.

By adopting these approaches, companies can foster a more engaging, supportive, and well-rounded workplace culture, where employees feel genuinely valued and empowered. These initiatives can lead to higher employee satisfaction, improved well-being, and ultimately, better organizational performance.

Do you have anything planned to recognize the achievements of your staff? If so, let us know what you’ll be doing in the comments section below. We always love to learn new ideas for how to show appreciation for our staff! 



Learn More About Team Building Activities for Your Employee Appreciation Day Celebrations     

For more information about team building activities you can do as a reward for your team’s hard work, just reach out to our Employee Engagement Consultants. 

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