Created in 1995 by Workman Publishing, Employee Appreciation Day falls on the first Friday of March, and is a time for employers to celebrate their employees for their hard work and dedication. Although it’s an unofficial holiday, it’s a great opportunity to show your employees you value them.
Employers should show their employees appreciation regularly to retain top talent and create a positive company culture. But you can use Employee Appreciation Day as an extra opportunity to connect with your employees, praise their accomplishments, and offer new perks.
In this article, we’ll explain why Employee Appreciation Day is important and highlight five ways you can celebrate the day to show your employees you care about them.
Why celebrating Employee Appreciation Day is important
Celebrating Employee Appreciation Day doesn’t just benefit your employees. Showing appreciation aids in your company’s productivity, reduction in turnover, and overall success.
Employees are more productive when they feel recognized and valued for their work. In fact, according to a Gallup survey1, more than 80% of employees say recognition motivates their work performance.
Appreciation and respect create a positive workplace, which drives productivity and increases morale. According to Reward Gateway, 70% of employees2 claim that morale would improve if managers said “thank you” more often. When employees feel you care about them, they’re 38% more engaged3 and 18% more likely to work harder.
Appreciation is also directly linked to employee retention. In 2021, the Great Resignation resulted in more than 4 million U.S. leaving their jobs. One of the top reasons why so many employees left was because of lack of recognition and appreciation4.
To attract and retain employees, they need to feel happy, valued, and cared about. As a leader, you should cultivate these needs by showing appreciation for their work—even if they’re simple tasks. The more satisfied your employees are, the more likely they’ll stay at your organization.
Employee Appreciation Day is the perfect opportunity to show your employees gratitude. Not only will your efforts boost productivity and reduce employee turnover, which is good for your bottom line, but it also shows you’re a “people first” company that cares about employee happiness and wellbeing.
Five ways you can celebrate Employee Appreciation Day at your organization
The way you choose to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day is up to you. You can survey your employees to get an idea of what they would like to see, or you can work with your leadership team to determine the best course of action. Whatever you choose, the possibilities are endless.
To get you started, we’ll show you five creative ways you can celebrate at your organization that your employees are sure to appreciate.
1. Boost your benefits package
One of the best ways to show employee appreciation is by offering personalized benefits. Offering flexible perks allows your employees to use their benefits in ways that are best for them. It also enables your employees to use their benefits for the items and services they care about the most, providing them with more financial value.
If you don’t include them already, consider adding these perks to your benefits package:
- Paid time off (PTO): Employee Appreciation Day is the perfect time to offer your staff more time off. Whether it’s more PTO days a year or switching to unlimited PTO, extra time for your employees to spend with their family and friends is always welcome. Plus, PTO helps employees feel more rested and engaged, which reduces burnout.
- Flexible work schedules: Flex schedules promote a healthy work-life balance for employees. For example, working parents or employees with long commutes may prefer a 9/80 work week or a hybrid schedule. And if you’re worried about employees working from home, Forbes5 found it actually improves retention, productivity, and profitability.
- Health benefits: Health benefits remain the most popular employee benefit. So why not offer a customizable health benefit? With a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA), you can reimburse your employees tax-free for qualified out-of-pocket medical costs and sometimes their individual health insurance premiums.
- Stipends: Stipends are a fixed amount of money you offer your employees so they can pay for various expenses. Stipends are great perks because your employees can use them on almost anything. For example, wellness stipends let you reimburse employees for their wellness costs, like gym memberships and fitness trackers. If you have remote employees, they can use a remote work stipend to pay for their internet bills or home office equipment.
- Lifestyle spending accounts (LSAs): LSAs are employer-funded accounts designed to support your employees’ physical, mental, and financial wellness. LSAs can reimburse employees for various expenses and categories, like family services, groceries, financial planning services, and professional development opportunities.
2. Foot the bill for a meal
Treating your employees to a meal is a simple way to show your appreciation. If you’re in the office, you can cater lunch for the office or take a trip to a local restaurant and dine in as a team altogether. But if you have remote workers, or want to provide even more flexibility, you can offer a one-time allowance or gift card for your employees to have a meal outside work hours.
By letting your employees use the money you’ve given for a meal whenever they want, they can choose the time and place they wish to dine at or even use a meal delivery service.
If you decide to go this route, consider giving enough money to cover the cost of a meal for your employee’s spouse, children, or friend. This will show them that you care about their lives outside of work and want them to spend quality time with their loved ones.
3. Send an appreciation video or personalized note
According to a recent study6, 28% of employees believe the best recognition comes from their direct manager. However, 24% want to be recognized by an upper-level leader, like a senior director or CEO. Just saying “thank you” significantly impacts employee engagement and morale. But to make the day special, you can go the extra mile.
You can encourage your managers and leaders to handwrite personalized thank you notes or cards to hand out or mail to employees. Everyone expects e-cards these days, but the time and thought that come with writing out a note won’t go unnoticed. Plus, it’s a tangible message they can keep in their workspace as motivation even after Employee Appreciation Day has ended.
If you want to create a company-wide thank you and appreciation video for your workers, make sure it’s visible. Post the video on your company website, social channels, and employee chat platforms to make it a public recognition and showcase your strong company culture.
4. Support your employees’ passions
It’s important to remember that your employees have interests and hobbies they pursue when they’re not at work. You can use Employee Appreciation Day to support the organizations your workers care about most, like by planning a volunteer event or donating to their favorite charities.
A Deloitte study7 found that 70% of U.S. workers say volunteering events are more likely to boost employee morale than company-sponsored happy hours. Participating in volunteering activities, whether in or outside the office, shows your employees you appreciate the causes they care about and want to show your support by giving back to them.
The amount of volunteering opportunities is endless. As a team, you can clean up a local park, work in a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter, or host a food drive. If you’re not sure what organizations your employees care about most, poll your staff to get their feedback before you begin planning the event.
Another option is donating to charities that your employees support. This is a particularly flexible option if you have fully remote employees that live across the U.S. and can’t participate in a local company-wide volunteer event.
75% of millennials8 believe it’s important for companies to support different charitable causes. You can offer to donate a certain amount of money to donate to your employees’ charity or organization of choice as a one-time payment or on a recurring basis. Matching your employees’ donations is another option you can take to show support as well.
5. Plan a creative company outing
If you’re looking for a stand-out celebration, you can treat your employees to a company-sponsored outing. Depending on your budget and business size, the activity can be as small or extravagant as you wish. Some ideas include reserving an escape room, buying tickets to a sports event, visiting a local museum, going to an amusement park, or organizing a cooking workshop.
You can also plan fun events for entire teams, like scavenger hunts or trivia challenges with prizes to drive collaboration, boost morale, and give your employees a chance to engage with each other in a fun setting outside the workplace. Planning something creative and special will show that you appreciate them and want to treat them to a truly unique employee experience.
As always, you don’t want to forget about your employees that may live in other states. Virtual games that can be played together across the company are a good option for remote employees. There are many online platforms you can use to set up a teamed video game tournament with prizes or company swag for the last team standing that will keep them engaged.
Or, if you want to make an in-person event digital, try a virtual escape room. Like a physical escape room, teams solve riddles and complete puzzles within the time limit to “escape the room,” all from their remote location.
Employees are employers' most valuable asset. While showing appreciation should be a year-round practice, Employee Appreciation Day is a special time to focus on your staff members and go the extra mile. Not only does receiving praise increase morale, improve satisfaction, and reduce turnover, but it also makes your employees happy—which is the most important result of all.
As part of Employee Appreciation Day, don’t forget to add new benefits to your compensation package. PeopleKeep offers a wide variety of personalized benefits ranging from health to wellness to remote work perks that your employees will love. Simply contact us, and we’ll help you get started.