An image showing employees celebrating

How to Celebrate Your Employees on Employee Appreciation Day

January 17, 2024

Employee Appreciation Day is an important occasion on the corporate calendar, dedicated to recognizing and celebrating the hard work and dedication of employees.

It offers organizations the chance to express their gratitude and appreciation to their valuable staff for their contributions. Given the recent challenges in disengagement and burnout, this day presents employers with a meaningful opportunity to motivate and uplift their workforce.

The question is: How can you make Employee Appreciation Day impactful and memorable for your employees?

 In this blog post, we explore why Employee Appreciation Day is celebrated and provide you with actionable ideas and best practices for making this day truly special for your team.

Why is Employee Appreciation Day Celebrated?

Employee Appreciation Day is a nationally recognized day that falls on the first Friday in March every year. This holiday is specifically dedicated to celebrating and honoring an organization’s most important resource – its people.

Employee Appreciation Day was originally founded in 1995 by Bob Nelson, a founding board member of Recognition Professionals International (RPI). The day was originally started to celebrate the publication of Nelson’s book 1,001 Ways to Reward Employees and to remind employers of the importance of celebrating employees.

Since its origin, Employee Appreciation Day has gained significant traction. Organizations now embrace the day to say thank you to their employees, boost engagement, and foster a positive work environment. These celebrations have proven to be beneficial for organizations:

  1. Meaningful Recognition: It's a chance for organizations to formally recognize and appreciate their employees' efforts, which often go above and beyond their regular duties.
  2. Boost Morale: Recognizing and appreciating employees significantly boosts morale, leading to increased job satisfaction and productivity.
  3. Improve Retention: Showing appreciation can help with employee retention by making your staff feel valued and less likely to seek opportunities elsewhere. 
  4. Positive Workplace Culture: Celebrating your employees' dedication contributes to fostering a positive workplace culture where employees feel supported and motivated.

20 Employee Appreciation Day Ideas to Celebrate Your Staff

Fortunately, there are a myriad of ways to show appreciation to your employees on Employee Appreciation Day. From a simple, heartfelt handwritten note to catering lunch, you simply can’t go wrong.

Here are a few Employee Appreciation Day ideas, ranging from simple to elaborate, to help make the day special for your staff:

#1 Provide a Meaningful Gift

Consider giving personalized gifts or awards that reflect your employees' achievements and contributions. Personal touches go a long way in showing your appreciation. You can use a digital recognition and rewards platform like Inspirus Connects to automate employee gift-gifting.

#2 Take the Day Off

Allow your employees to take a day off with pay to relax, recharge, and spend quality time with their loved ones. Plus, Employee Appreciation Day is always on a Friday, giving your employees the perfect opportunity to have a three-day weekend.

#3 Cater Lunch for Employees

Organize a catered lunch with food trucks or provide gift cards to your employees’ favorite restaurants or food delivery apps, giving your team a chance to enjoy a delicious meal together.

#4 Send a Special Message from Management

A heartfelt message from top management expressing gratitude and highlighting individual and team accomplishments can be very meaningful. Tip: make the message extra meaningful by including a video from the leadership team.

#5 Pass Out Company Swag

No one has enough swag! Distribute company-branded merchandise like T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, water bottles, or mugs to employees as a token of appreciation for their dedication to the company.

#6 Host a Happy Hour

Use Employee Appreciation Day to encourage team bonding and strengthen employee relationships. Host a virtual or in-person happy hour where employees can unwind and socialize with colleagues and supervisors.

#7 Let Employees Volunteer

Looking for a way to give back to your community? Allow your team to volunteer for a cause they care about during work hours, promoting a sense of giving back.

#8 Organize Team Building Activities

Make Employee Appreciation Day fun for your staff by organizing a few team-building activities. Plan activities or workshops that encourage collaboration, communication, and team bonding. For instance, you could host a scavenger hunt, a puzzle competition, or play bingo.

#9 Provide Gift Packages

Create personalized gift packages tailored to individual preferences or needs. Such packages could include self-care items, company swag, and a water bottle.

#10 Treat Employees to a Sweet

Surprise your staff with a sweet treat during the day, whether it's a selection of chocolates, cupcakes, or a dessert bar. If you have remote employees, you can send them a gift card instead to ensure they are included.

#11 Offer a Floating Holiday

Say thank you to your employees by rewarding them with an additional floating holiday. Allowing them to take an additional day off to care for their wellbeing and mental health on any day they choose.

#12 Host a Spa Day

Treat your employees to a day of relaxation and rejuvenation by hosting a spa day. Set up massage stations and create a serene atmosphere with soothing music and aromatherapy. This event is perfect for de-stressing and showing your team that their wellbeing is valued.

#13 Provide Points in a Points-Based Recognition Platform

If your organization uses a points-based employee recognition and rewards platform, send your employees points along with a thoughtful digital message. Tip: include a video from your leadership team to make it extra meaningful!

#14 Donate to a Charity on Their Behalf

Show appreciation by making a meaningful impact. Select a range of charities and allow employees to choose where a donation will be made in their name. This not only acknowledges your employees but also supports causes they care about, reinforcing a sense of purpose and community involvement.

#15 Distribute Handwritten Notes

Personalize your appreciation with handwritten notes. Take the time to write a unique message for each employee, highlighting their contributions and thanking them for their hard work. This simple, thoughtful gesture can make employees feel valued and recognized.

#16 Host a Photo Booth or Head Shots

Add some fun to the workplace or an event by setting up a photo booth with props and backgrounds. Alternatively, offer professional headshot sessions for employees to update their professional profiles. Plus, it provides them with a memorable keepsake from the day.

#17 Pass Out Certificates

Make your team members feel truly valued by presenting them with personalized certificates. Tailor them to highlight individual accomplishments, milestones, or specific talents, such as outstanding performance, dedicated service, or remarkable teamwork. 

#18 Host a Raffle

Create excitement with a company raffle. Offer various prizes such as extra vacation days, gift cards, gadgets, or even a prime parking spot. This not only adds an element of fun but also gives employees a chance to win something valuable or useful.

#19 Rent Out an Event Space

Say thank you to your employees while strengthening team bonds by renting out an entertainment venue like a bowling alley, arcade, or movie theater. This kind of group outing is great for team building and allows employees to relax and enjoy themselves outside of the work environment.

#20 Bring in a Caricature Artist

Show your team a good time by renting out an entertainment venue like a bowling alley, arcade, or movie theater. This is great for team building and allows employees to relax and enjoy themselves outside of the work environment.

How to Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day Virtually

With the rise of hybrid and remote work models, not all employees are readily available in the office 24/7. Despite employees not being face-to-face, organizations can still make their employees feel valued and motivated through virtual means.

If you have hybrid or remote employees, here are a few ways you can celebrate them virtually on Employee Appreciation Day.

  • Host a Virtual Happy Hour: Connecting a dispersed workforce is challenging. Use Employee Appreciation Day as a way to reconnect your employees.
  • Send a Care Package: Employee wellbeing is a priority for both HR leaders and employees. Send your employees a thoughtful care package with self-care items to show they are appreciated.
  • Offer a Gift Card: Gift cards are the king of rewards! Provide all employees with a nice gift card or pre-paid card, allowing them to spend it as they wish.
  • Send a Digital Reward & Message: Use a rewards and recognition platform to send your remote employees a digital message and reward.
  • Give Them a Three-Day Weekend: Employee Appreciation Day falls on a Friday every year. Give your employees the gift of time and allow them to take a three-day weekend.
  • Donate to Charity: If you are looking for a way to give back to your community, honor your employees by donating to a charity on their behalf. Make it extra special by allowing employees to select the donation.

The key to celebrating remote employees is making sure they feel equally appreciated as those in the office. Embracing technology and innovative platforms enables companies to connect, celebrate, and express gratitude to their employees, regardless of physical distance. For instance, a digital rewards and recognition platform like Inspirus Connects can be a great way to celebrate remote employees and express gratitude.

Why Celebrate Your Employees on Employee Appreciation Day?

It's not a secret that employees enjoy being praised and recognized for their achievements and dedication at work. Recognition is a critical part of the employee experience – reinforcing an employee’s sense of purpose within an organization and boosting their morale. When employees feel valued and seen in the workplace, they thrive.

Recognizing your employees’ contributions and hard work on Employee Appreciation Day is one of the most impactful activities you can do. Yet, 83% of organizations suffer from a lack of frequent employee recognition. In the fast pace of life, recognition can often be forgotten or overlooked. Fortunately, Employee Appreciation Day provides employers the perfect opportunity to catch up on much-needed recognition. 

Here's why you should celebrate it. Employee recognition is a powerful tool that can boost morale, motivation, and job satisfaction - and its impact is often understated:

  • 80% of employees would work harder if they felt better appreciated (Zippia).
  • Employees who are recognized are nearly 6x more likely to stay at their jobs than those who aren’t (Zippia).
  • Employee recognition can increase employee engagement, productivity, and performance by 14% (Deloitte).

Remember, though, Employee Appreciation Day isn’t the only day you should recognize employees. Be sure to express gratitude to your employees on other days, whether it’s on a nationally recognized day, like International Nurses Day, or for a major achievement.

Not sure what dates to celebrate your employees on? Check out our 2024 recognition calendar for ideas on when to recognize your employees.

Boost Morale on Employee Appreciation Day with Inspirus

Celebrating Employee appreciation Day is one of the most understated employee recognition and engagement strategies. With record-high disengagement levels and employee happiness on the decline, showing your employees appreciation and gratitude is more important than ever.

Inspirus offers a special recognition program that empowers organizations to show their employees how valued they are. This digital program empowers employees to select a gift that’s meaningful to them – and aligned to your budget - from over 2,500+ trusted brands.

If you are looking for a way to make your employees feel truly valued on Employee Appreciation Day, talk with one of our specialists!

Graphic that says "Boost morale with a meaningful gift this employee appreciation day. Celebrate employees with a special gift from the brands they know and love. Learn more." Graphic also shows logos, including Weber, Fandango, Apple, Grubhub, Cabela's, Airbnb, Black + Decker"

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Employee Appreciation Day always on a Friday?

Yes, Employee Appreciation Day is traditionally observed on the first Friday of March each year. For example, Employee Appreciation Day will be Friday, March 1st in 2024.

Is there a National Employee Appreciation Week?

While there isn't an officially recognized National Employee Appreciation Week, some organizations choose to extend the celebration, dedicating an entire week to various employee appreciation activities.

What date is National Employee Appreciation Day?

National Employee Appreciation Day falls on the first Friday of March. In 2024, for instance, it will be observed on March 1st.

What should employers do for Employee Appreciation Day?

Employers should plan activities or gestures that acknowledge and celebrate their employees' contributions, such as hosting an event, giving personalized acknowledgments, or offering special perks or bonuses. A message and gift, small or big, on Employee Appreciation Day can go a long way in boosting morale and job satisfaction.

How do you thank employees for appreciation?

Thanking employees effectively involves sincere, personalized recognition of their efforts, which can be expressed through thank-you notes, public acknowledgments, or small tokens of appreciation.