An image showing a person holding a small gift

Heartfelt Tokens: DIY Employee Appreciation Gifts to Show Your Gratitude

January 15, 2024

The word lagniappe (lan-Yap) is a Creole term referring to “a little something extra.” Generally considered from a sales and marketing standpoint, it has applicability in employee relations as well.

While employees receive a paycheck for doing the work they’ve been hired to do, they also appreciate a little something extra from time to time. Those tokens of appreciation can mean a lot—especially when they’re of the do-it-yourself (DIY) variety. The value doesn’t have to be high; it’s the personal nature of DIY gifts that really make an impact. 

This type of employee gift giving serves as a tangible expression of gratitude, acknowledging an employee’s contributions, and helping to foster connections between employees and their managers. Research supports the value of these efforts. As Human Resource Executive reports, a survey of more than 1500 employees in the US revealed that more than three-quarters of respondents said that a meaningful gift makes them feel appreciated at work. 

Benefits of DIY Employee Appreciation Gifts

Handmade gifts are, by their very nature, personal, which adds to their impact. DIY gifts demonstrate thoughtfulness, creativity, and the recognition of individual employees’ interests. Going above any beyond to recognize employees can help boost morale and contribute to a positive work environment. 

In many organizations, it’s not uncommon for employees to feel unappreciated. Managers and supervisors are often busy and sometimes fail to take the time to recognize employees’ efforts. This can be especially true for high-performing employees whose exceptional contributions are often taken for granted.

DIY gifts can help to enhance employee-manager relationships. When a manager takes the time to not only recognize an employee’s efforts, but to also invest their own time in creating a heartfelt token of that appreciation, relationships are boosted. Consider, also, that the impact of these efforts isn’t limited just to the employee receiving the recognition. Others notice as well and their engagement and contributions are also likely to be boosted.

Here we take a look at a few ideas for DIY employee appreciation gifts that can make a positive impact.

Customized Thank-You Cards

In a digital age, a return to analog can make a big impact—in other words, handwritten notes vs. text messages or emails succinctly send a clear message: you matter to me. Handwritten notes signal that you cared enough to invest your time and effort to acknowledge an employee’s contributions. And these personalized missives are remembered. In fact, many employees report that they save the handwritten thank you notes they receive; you probably can’t say the same about text messages or emails. 

Tailor your handwritten message to the employee you’re recognizing and consider whether creating a personalized card (rather than buying a card) can add to the impact of your efforts. Keep in mind it’s not your artistic ability that matters—it’s the thought that counts!

Handmade Desk Décor

DIY desk accessories have both personal and practical value for employees. These can range from simple pencil holders and desk organizers to more complex projects—like a wooden desk organizer that can double as a planter.

Some other ideas: decorating a cork board, creating a perpetual calendar, or making a concrete paperweight that can also hold notes or photos. These items aren’t just functional they can also add unique aesthetic to the office. And, even employees working remotely will value the effort and have something nearby to help them remember their colleagues back in the physical workspace.

Personalized Office Plants

Plants brighten up any setting, including work settings. Office plans have also been proven to have soothing and stress-relieving qualities. They can help reduce feelings of anxiety, improve air quality, and promote self-care.

There are a wide array of ways to personalize potted plants, not only through the vegetation, but through the container as well. Be sure to take into consideration the type of plant this is most likely to thrive in the environment it will be in.

Handcrafted Snack Jars

Handcrafted snack jars pack a two-for-one punch—employees will enjoy an edible treat and a reusable container that will help them remember your appreciative gesture for a long time. They also create an opportunity for  natural connections between colleagues as employees share their treats—and where they came from—with others.

You don’t have to be a culinary expert to leverage this easy DIY opportunity for recognition. Consider:

  • Combining a variety of nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and chocolate chips for a tasty trail mix.
  • Layer yogurt, granola, and fresh fruit in a mason jar for a treat that’s both healthy and visually appealing.
  • Create your own granola mix with oats, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits; package it in a unique jar or container for a convenient and healthy option.

There’s no limit to the colorful—and tasty—treat combinations you could come up with and they can be based on homemade treats, or treats bought at the store and packaged in a clever way.

Homemade Photo Frames

Memories matter—whether they’re of the personal or professional type. And what better way to preserve memories than through a DIY photo frame recognizing your achievements or milestones. Reminiscing about past experiences can be powerful, not only in our personal lives, but with our work life connections as well. 

Photo frames can be a very visible, and tangible, way to preserve and showcase memories. Capturing and sharing moments from team-building activities, company events, or even casual snapshots can create camaraderie and demonstrate the power of collaboration. In addition to the image selected, the frame itself can make an impact.

  • A simple cardboard frame can be created by cutting a piece of cardboard just a few inches bigger than the photo, cutting out a spot for the photo, and painting or decorating the cardboard as desired.
  • For those with more advanced construction skills, wooden frames can be easy to make and can be enhanced with add-ons like dried flowers, pins, buttons, or other accoutrements. 
  • Popsicle frames—even grade school children can make popsicle frames; you could do. Then decorate them with paint, glitter, or tape.
  • Or…buy a themed frame that aligns with the photo you’re sharing.

It doesn’t have to be complex—just memorable.

Personalized Work Tote Bags

Customized tote bags offer a combination of practicality and style and can serve as a very versatile accessory. Available in many forms, and increasingly made from eco-friendly materials, tote bags can be used in the workplace, or for casual personal outings. 

Plain bags can be purchased and then augmented to make them more personal by:

  • Using fabric markers or paint and stencils to create a design.
  • Using iron-on patches to add a personal touch.
  • Hand embroidering bags.
  • Using fabric glue and embellishments.
  • Selecting a photo image to have added to the bag.

Handmade Inspirational Quote Boards

Inspirational quotes can help boost mood, increase productivity, and foster a sense of optimism in the workplace. Whether the quotes come from inspirational leaders in the public eye, your own internal leaders or customers, or from the troves of fiction and movie-inspired quotes, these impactful sayings can pack a punch. 

Choose a quote based on what you’re recognizing an employee for. Then select materials that might include a board or finished grade wood, sicker letters, primer, and paint. Apply primer and let it dry. Paint your board with a base color and then arrange your sticker letters to create your quote. Add personal touches like decorative elements or artwork. Or you might use mini clothespins to attach quote cards to the board.

Celebratory Office Bulletin Boards

Celebratory office boards can be used to recognize employees in an ongoing way. This can be a physical or digital space where you share information about employee achievements and milestones, recognizing them publicly. These group celebration boards can also inspire employees to recognize each other. What a great way to inspire other employees, boost morale, and demonstrate your appreciate for employees’ efforts.


As you can see there are a number of meaningful ways you can use DIY employee appreciation gifts to recognize and inspire your staff members. Hopefully these ideas have spiked some personal creativity and prompted you to think about how you might apply your own DIY talents to showing employees how much you appreciate them. Even the simplest of efforts can go a long way toward boosting engagement, morale, and longevity. 

DIY gifts can foster stronger connections and build powerful relationships. Embrace the culture of appreciation through heartful DIY gifts your employees will love and treasure. 

Check out other easy, budget-friendly employee appreciation ideas here.

Graphic that says "Unlock the power of appreciation. Discover how employee appreciation can boost engagement, productivity, and more. Learn more."