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The 38 Best Employee Appreciation Ideas of 2024 [Free & Paid]

Maria Kharlantseva, April 4, 2024
employee appreciation ideas

When employees feel engaged and appreciated for their loyalty and all of the hard work they’re putting in day after day, they’ll be happy and satisfied with their working environment. And in return, they will be automatically encouraged to continue giving their best efforts at work. As a manager or a team leader, it can be quite tricky to come up with good paid and free employee appreciation ideas. So, if you’re struggling with ideas for employee appreciation, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’re going to cover 38 unique ways you can show appreciation for your employees at work.

Employee of the Week Award

the 38 best employee appreciation ideas of 2023 [free & paid]

One of the most popular employee appreciation ideas is to create and give out an Employee of the Week award. Most managers that give out this award measure it on the basis of performance (whatever that may look like in your company/department).

To give you an example, if you’re running a lead generation business, the employee that has generated the most leads for the company over the last week gets the award. The award itself can look different from company to company. Some managers simply recognize the employee’s performance, while others give them a monetary reward.

Check Up on Employees Who Are Off Sick or Absent

Sometimes, caring and checking in on someone is all they need to feel appreciated. So, if you have a member of staff that is sick or absent from work, check in on them. Let them know that you’re thinking about them and wish them well. You can take things one step further by sending them a little gift to their home address. This can be as simple as flowers or a box of chocolates.

Using software such as Everhour, you can quickly and easily see which staff members are off work for the day (using the attendance tracker). With that information at hand, you can decide how you want to show the staff currently away from work that you appreciate them.

Everhour is the top choice for small businesses and small to mid-size teams of 5 to 50 members, including professionals like software developers, marketers, designers, consultants, lawyers, you name it!

Seamlessly integrating with popular project management tools like Asana, Trello, and Jira, its user-friendly interface and customizable reports make it the ultimate time tracking solution for small and mid-size teams.

With dedicated support ensuring you receive timely assistance, our team is here to help you promptly and with a smile!

A Surprise Desk or Office Upgrade

Do your employees rely on their setup to perform well at work? If that’s the case, one very unique way you can show your best-performing staff that you appreciate them is to invest in items and products that will impact their day-to-day work operation.

For example, if you run a sales company, your best-performing staff could greatly benefit from a better microphone, a standing desk (to alternate their position throughout the day), or virtually any other accessory or product that will make their work easier, more efficient, and overall better.

Extra Time Off

One of the best ways to incentivize employees is by handing out extra time off when it’s truly deserved. That way, when one staff member performs exceptionally well during a project, they get extra time off.

This not only affects them in a positive way, but everyone else on the team will see that there is a point in putting in the work. At the end of the day, who doesn’t like an extra day off of work?

A Gift Card

Gift cards are simple, effective, and when delivered with the right message, they will go a long way. The beauty of gift cards is that you can load them up with as much money as you want, and you don’t even need to know what your particular staff member likes. This is because there are many gift cards nowadays that cover a large variety of stores, restaurants, entertainment facilities, and more.

Let Them Draw Their Gift From the Mystery Box

If you’re not sure what every member of your team is into, one very easy way to show that you appreciate their hard work and dedication at the company is by creating a mystery box. Inside the mystery box, there will be gifts, rewards, and virtually anything else you want written on a piece of paper.

And when you want to show a member of staff that you appreciate them, let me draw their gift from the box. That way, they get a gift that is completely random, and you won’t be under any pressure if they like the gift or not. At the end of the day, they can’t be upset with you because they drew it themselves.

Aside from gifts and money, another great way to reward your highest-performing staff is by funding their professional development. Granted, this isn’t always a viable option, but if you’re in an industry where professional development and certifications are a necessity to climb the ladder, your staff will greatly appreciate your efforts to help them in their career.

For example, cyber security specialists are widely recognized by their certifications, which are not cheap. So, if an employee has performed exceptionally well during the last several months, it won’t cost you much to fund their professional development. At the end of the day, if employees stay motivated and loyal to your company, you and the business will benefit from their new knowledge and expertise too.

Flexible Work Arrangements

In this day and age, it’s everyone’s dream to have the flexibility to choose exactly how, when, and where they get to work from. And one of the best ways to show employees that you trust them and appreciate them is to give them the freedom to decide how, when, and where they want to work.

the 38 best employee appreciation ideas of 2023 [free & paid]
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Granted, each role is different, and super flexible and hybrid work arrangements might not be practical, but if your employee has never disappointed you, it’s only fair that you give them the flexibility to decide for themselves. And who knows, they may become even more productive than they have been so far.

Public Recognition

Showing appreciation in private is great. However, your message will be significantly more impactful if it’s done in public. Your employees are people, and despite being equal in the workplace, people are still competitive, and they want everyone to think that they are great at their job.

There are several ways you can go about recognizing your employee’s hard work in public, including mentioning it at a company-wide meeting, on social media, or on the company website. This will greatly increase employee experience and make everyone feel that

Celebrate Their Birthday at Work

Birthdays are very personal, so remembering when someone’s birthday is, especially at work, shows that you are paying attention and you care about the person. With this idea, you don’t need to have a full-blown party. Instead, you can bring in a cake, order some food in the office, or do anything else that the staff member in name enjoys doing.

the 38 best employee appreciation ideas of 2023 [free & paid]

Before you pull the trigger on this appreciation idea, it’s a good idea to find out (way in advance so it’s not suspicious) if your staff are up for celebrating their birthdays at work. Some people might simply prefer to keep it under the radar.

Take Them Out to Lunch

Who doesn’t love food? Most of your staff either bring out their own lunch or order a takeaway while at work. So, surprising your high-performing staff member with a paid-for lunch during work hours is a great way to surprise them and show them that you deeply care about them and that their great performance hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Granted, this might not always work, especially if your place of work is out of town. In such a case, order them a takeaway from their favorite restaurant that day.

Start a Walk/Bike to Work Initiative

If most of your staff live close to the office, start a walk/bike to work initiative. And the person that has covered the most kilometers or has done the most times will get a reward at the end of the time period. To make things even more fun, you can do the initiative for charity – where you’ll donate the reward to a charity chosen by the winner.

Staff Loyalty Gifts

Employee retention is one of the biggest challenges businesses face in today’s business world. And one great way you can not only increase staff retention but also show them that you appreciate them for their loyalty is by creating a staff loyalty initiative.

The way this scheme will work is every time a staff member works at the company for a certain amount of time, they get a certain gift. Here, it’s important that you recognize what your staff actually cares about and give them what they want. Otherwise, the goal of this appreciation idea won’t work. The large majority of people mostly care about money, so having a decent monetary incentive that reflects their time spent at your company is a great idea.

Create an Employee Appreciation Board

Similar to the hall of fame, an employee appreciation board will feature every member of staff that has put in the work and has truly deserved their place. To make the employee appreciation board hold value, don’t include just about everyone.

Make sure that their place is earned. That way, the staff who are on there will feel better about themselves, while those who are yet to make it on the appreciation board will continue to work towards it.

Ask Your Employees What They’d Like

While this isn’t one of the most creative ways to recognize employees, it’s a good tactic to use if you’re not sure what the staff member is interested in. So, pull them to one side, explain what it is that you want to do, and simply ask them. Chances are that most staff members will have something in mind – be it a gift card, a takeaway, an upgrade to their office workspace, or similar.

Chip In on Their Commute

Unless your staff members are walking or biking to work, commuting can cost them quite a considerable amount from their wages every month. If you have a hard-working staff member that has performed exceptionally well, it won’t cost you much to pay for their Uber (or similar alternative) for the week or for the month).

Let Them Bring in Their Pet to Work

Not every business can have pets at the workplace (restaurants, hotels, and similar), but 99% of office-based businesses can. So, if you know that the staff member has a pet that they love & can bring to work, let them know that they can do so for a period of time.

the 38 best employee appreciation ideas of 2023 [free & paid]

Before you do that, make sure that none of the staff in the office are allergic to animals and that they are okay with having an animal around the office for some time.

Let Them Spin the Wheel

This one is super interesting, as their appreciation reward is really based on their luck. What you need to do to create the wheel is, get the wheel, stick it on the wall where everyone can see it, and stick pieces of paper with all the different gifts/rewards they can get. And every time you want to show an employee how much you appreciate them, ask them to spin the wheel of fortune.

Casual Dress Day

If your staff wear suits or formal clothing to work every day, once in a while, you can let all or a select few of your staff members come into work dressed completely casually. There are many benefits to this, including making your staff feel comfortable in their own casual clothes while at work. This is easily one of the best free staff appreciation ideas out there.

Plan a Staff Holiday Abroad

Has your whole team performed exceptionally well over the last year? One of the best ways to show them that you truly care about their efforts is to take the entire office on holiday abroad. What’s more, is that you can set up the holiday in a way that you and your team can still get some work done while enjoying your time away. There are plenty of hotels and resorts all over the world that can accommodate companies taking their staff abroad who also need to get work done while away from the office.

Personalized Gifts

If you know that a member of your staff is really into a particular sport, activity, or virtually anything – getting them a personalized gift will hit pretty close to home. Some ideas include t-shirts with their favorite sports team, mugs, accessories, and even plush toys (you’re never too old for those).

Commemorate Important Personal Milestones

At some point in time, some of your staff members will get married, have a baby, or buy a house. These are some of the most significant personal milestones any person will ever achieve, and they’re worth celebrating.

the 38 best employee appreciation ideas of 2023 [free & paid]

So, if you know about such a milestone, recognize that it’s important for your staff member, and show them that you appreciate them. The appreciation can be anything from extra time off work to a gift voucher for a relevant store.

Acknowledge Non-Workplace Achievements

Just because an achievement isn’t work-related, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be celebrated. One great way to show your members of staff that you care about them as individuals is by acknowledging their non-work-related achievements. These can be anything, from winning a medal at a marathon to starring in a role at the local theater.

A Thank You Video Message

Sure, telling a member of staff that you really appreciate their effort at work is a great way to show appreciation for their loyalty and dedication to the company. However, if you want to take your message further and show that you really want to put in the effort to show your staff that you care, creating a thank you video message is a great way to do that.

The Ultimate Office Trophy

Much like titles and trophies in sports, your dedicated office trophy can get passed around to the member of staff that most deserve it. We recommend giving the trophy to the best-performing staff member over the last month, as that is a long-enough time period for them to enjoy it and be worth fighting for. This idea is great, as while everyone else chases the trophy, the trophy holder will strive to keep it to themselves for an extra month.

Create an Employee Emergency Fund

Sometimes, unfortunate events take place in our lives. And truthfully, you never know when or who may be affected. One fantastic way to show your staff that you really appreciate their efforts is to have a funded employee emergency fund.

That way, if a staff member is really struggling financially, they can come to you and seek financial help privately. They will remember you and your thoughtfulness for the rest of the time, and you can rest assured that their loyalty to the company will be tenfold.

Pay for Their Cinema Tickets (Don’t Forget the Popcorn)

New movies come out all the time. And while watching movies at home is something most of us do, going to the cinema to watch a movie premiere is a completely different experience. So, if you know that a member of staff is looking forward to the release of a particular movie, buy their tickets in advance and give them to them a week or two before the premiere. They’ll be shocked and will remember your thoughtfulness for a long time.

Let Them Go Off Work Early

Is a staff member performing exceptionally well? Surprise them by simply letting them know that they can log off for the day and head home early. They will be surprised, very appreciative, and will remember it for a long time.

the 38 best employee appreciation ideas of 2023 [free & paid]

This type of appreciation is great because it affects everyone. Other members of staff will see your good deed and will go up a gear to hopefully get an early finish to their work day too in the future.

Treat Your Staff to a Dinner

Once in a while, showing appreciation to your employees can be done as easily as taking them out to dinner at a fancy restaurant. That way, the team can get together and have a few hours of fun with their co-workers while chatting about work, life, and personal and professional goals. Paid-for dinners are not only more delicious, but they’re also a great way to boost morale at the company.

A Monthly Subscription to Their Favorite Streaming Platform

There’s a high chance that almost every single one of your employees watches movies on Netflix, Disney+, or a similar streaming platform. Once in a while, you can surprise them with a paid monthly subscription to a streaming platform that they’ve wanted to check out and are yet to use.

A Starbucks Voucher

Almost everyone we know loves drinking coffee, tea, or another beverage before, during, and after work. One great and very simple appreciation idea is to give your best-performing member of staff a Starbucks voucher that they can then spend on whatever they want. And if there is no Starbucks around, there is a coffee shop or another store nearby that sells delicious food and beverages.

Host a Happy Hour at Work

Just wrapped up a big project? Celebrate it in style by hosting a happy hour at work. Your staff will love it as it’s one of the most fun employee appreciation ideas out there. Happy hours don’t always have to include alcohol, but if they do, it’s wise to host the event on Friday afternoon – for obvious reasons.

Take Your Staff to a Sporting Event

Sporting events often have a great and very uplifting atmosphere. Even if half of your staff aren’t a fan of a particular sport, witnessing a popular sporting event in real life is something they’ll remember for a long time. And if you want to take things a little bit further, you can also book a private room or a box at the event that serves food and drinks and is exclusive to your staff.

Host Company Events

the 38 best employee appreciation ideas of 2023 [free & paid]

Whether you’re running a big or a small company, company events are crucial for bringing all of your staff closer together in a non-working environment. There, they can socialize, get to know themselves better, and see that the company actually cares about them by hosting fun events where they are not expected to work or not be themselves.

Create Department Specific Awards

If you’re running a larger company, some awards might only be relevant for specific members of staff. That’s why it’s crucial that you create department-specific awards that are relevant to each member of staff within the specific department. That way, no one gets left behind and left unappreciated.

To give you an example, if you have a sales team, a customer service team, and a marketing team within the company, you can create the following awards:

  • A Sales Star Award
  • A Customer Service Champion Award
  • A Marketing Mastermind Award

A Company-Wide Work From Home Day

Working from home has become the norm in today’s business world. So, if your staff can do their jobs remotely, surprise them with a work-from-home day. They’d greatly appreciate not having to commute to work and wake up a little bit later than they normally do on a work day.

Encourage Employee Feedback

Nobody is perfect. So, one great way to show employees that you appreciate them is to ask them for some feedback on the ways you’re managing the team and setting expectations. During this time, they can share all the positives and negatives of having you as their manager, and that way, you can work towards improving on the constructive criticism that you’ve received.

For employees, it’s important to feel heard and have a say in the way the company is run. And only true leaders recognize that employee feedback is key to making the staff happier and more satisfied at work.

Saying “Thank You” Goes a Long Way

Most managers and team leaders get so caught up with coming up with a creative way to show their employees they care that they forget the most simple way of showing appreciation – saying thank you. Pulling your employee aside and genuinely thanking them for their effort will go such a long way, and if they have respect for you, it will stay with them for a very long time.

Employee Appreciation Ideas: Conclusion

Showing appreciation to employees is a great way to boost their morale at work, keep them happy, and make sure they continue performing the way they do (or better). Appreciating your staff doesn’t have to cost a lot of money (though there are many things that you can do if you decide to splash some cash).

Above, we’ve provided you with 38 unique ideas for staff appreciation. So hopefully, you’ve managed to find at least a handful of ideas for employee recognition that are relevant to your company and staff.

Maria Kharlantseva

Maria is a proud content guardian with experience working for international teams and projects of different complexities. Maria has a passion for fantasy novels, music, black-and-white films, and nitpicking (because there is always room for improvement!).