Back to blog

17 Employee Appreciation Day Ideas

17 Employee Appreciation Day Ideas
Daisy Rogozinsky
January 18, 2023

Feeling appreciated has been recognized by psychologists to be a fundamental human need, making Employee Appreciation Day, celebrated every March, the perfect occasion to pause and thank your team for all their hard work.

Since Snappy's mission is all about spreading workplace happiness, this is naturally one of our favorite days of the year. An annual occasion during which employers around the world take the time to celebrate their employees - recognizing their dedication and hard work, it's a unique opportunity to do something special for your devoted teams, one we are here to help you embrace. 

About Employee Appreciation Day

The first Employee Appreciation Day was celebrated in 1995. It was established by Bob Nelson, a founding board member of Recognition Professionals International, to remind employers and managers that employer-employee relations are foundational for organizational success. 

While employee appreciation was by no means a new concept in 1995, Nelson's effort to have this day marked on calendars nationwide helped spread an understanding of the importance of employee appreciation. 

Today, it has become  a respected American tradition honored by top companies nationwide. Leaders striving for a people-focused organization can use this holiday as an opportunity to drive employee happiness and improve business outcomes. 

When is Employee Appreciation Day?

Employee Appreciation Day is celebrated every year on the first Friday in March. Employee Appreciation Day 2024 will be observed on Friday, March 1st.

To help make 2023 Employee Appreciation Day in your company as impactful and inspiring as possible, we've put together 19 ideas for fun, thoughtful ways to make your employees feel seen and appreciated.

Creative appreciation day ideas for 2024

If your organization isn't already in the practice of celebrating Employee Appreciation Day, 2023 is the perfect time to start. 

Not sure where to begin? We’ve got you covered with Employee Appreciation Day ideas that will help you celebrate your team this month and beyond! Each of these ideas can easily be used to also express appreciation throughout the year!

1. Delight with a meaningful gift

If you're aiming to make your employees feel appreciated, there's no better place to start than with an employee appreciation gift. In fact, 90.3% of Americans report that receiving a gift makes them feel valued. There's just nothing like the experience of opening a gift from a person who took the time to think of you and what you might like to receive.

Employee appreciation day ideas for large companies need to be done smartly. While gifting a large staff can be tricky, there are solutions for making the process more meaningful and thoughtful. Snappy makes sending unique appreciation gifts for employees easy no matter how large your workforce is. 

To make your Employee Appreciation Day gift even more personal and special, don't forget to include an employee appreciation message along with it. Not sure what to write? Try one of these Employee Appreciation Day quotes.

Use Employee Appreciation Day Notes to Make it More Personal

  • "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." – Helen Keller
  • "Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships." – Michael Jordan
  • "The only way to do great work is to love what you do."– Steve Jobs
  • "Everyone wants to be appreciated, so if you appreciate someone, don't keep it a secret."– Mary Kay Ash
  • "Work hard, have fun, make history." - Jeff Bezos
  • "If you work hard enough and assert yourself, and use your mind and imagination, you can shape the world to your desires." - Malcolm Gladwell
Quick Tip: Focus on making your gift as memorable as possible

Everyone loves a gift – but it’s the meaningful ones that stand out above the rest. Check out our guide to make your gift even more memorable this Employee Appreciation Day. ‍And, don’t forget to add a personalized note or video greeting to express your appreciation along with the gift!

2. Have an innovation day

Make Employee Appreciation Day special by turning it into an innovation day during which employees can a fun project to work on for the day. Start the day by hearing feedback from employees and letting them pitch their vision and ideas for the company and its future. Allow every employee to pick a project related to the company that they want to work on for the day. At the end of the day, let everybody go around and present what they worked on.

Not only is this a great way to let employees have fun on Employee Appreciation Day, but it also promotes values of creativity and innovation, contributing to your company culture. Best of all, you'll find that your talented employees can come up with all sorts of exciting ideas that you never knew your company needed!

3. Make Friday a half-day

Let's be honest, sometimes there is no better reward than some time off. Surprise your employees one week before Employee Appreciation Day by making an announcement at lunch that they are welcome to go home early. You're sure to see an office full of smiling faces as people get to jump into their weekend plans a bit early or just take the afternoon off to relax. 

4. Surprise them with with a food truck 

Good food is a love language. Create a fun lunchtime (or after-work) experience by hiring a local food truck to visit your office. In fact, you can even hire more than one truck if you want to give your employees multiple options. People will get to enjoy the yummy food while mingling and having some fun. 

Have a team of remote employees?  This Employee Appreciation Day, you can send your team a free meal and set up a fun meal-time activity. It’s a great way to share some laughs while also showing thanks while bonding over a timeless icebreaker and bonding activity - eating!

Quick Tip: Make sure work isn’t discussed

Don’t turn a fun lunch hour into an occasion to talk about work! At Snappy, we host a virtual lunch every Friday where work chit-chat is avoided, so team members can get to know each other on a personal level.

Since we’ve pivoted to a remote working environment, we’ve also started hosting lunch activities, including virtual game shows, breathework classes, cooking classes, and a lot more!  This has proven to be a great way to encourage employee engagement in a hybrid work environment!

5. Give a public shoutout

While receiving recognition directly can be incredibly heartwarming, sometimes it's even more meaningful when given in a public manner. Praising your employees publicly in honor of Employee Appreciation Day sends them the message that you are truly proud of them and want to show them off to the world. 

You can give your employees public recognition in many different places, including pretty much any customer-facing channel from social media to your website to even a billboard - get creative! If your staff is small, you can post individual photos, bios, and achievements. But if you have a larger workforce of hundreds of employees, it's just as impactful to post a staff group photo and a heartfelt message about how grateful you are for everybody's hard work. 

This is also a great opportunity to surprise employees by updating the company's about us page so that it features fun photos and highlights the different teams in an engaging and meaningful way.

6. Donate to a cause of their choice

If your organization prides itself on its social responsibility and philanthropic values, a great way to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day is to make a donation in your employees' names. There are two ways to do this. You can either give each employee a budget and let them donate to the cause of their choice or you can let everybody vote on which cause to send a single bulk donation to. Whichever option you go for, Snappy makes it easy by offering charitable donations as a gift option. 

7. Invest in an educational program

As learning and development emerge as a top value for the modern employee, education proves to be a highly desirable reward. That's what makes professional development one of the great ideas for Employee Appreciation Day. Ahead of the date, approve a budget for each employee that they can put toward a professional development course, class, workshop, or conference of their choosing. Not only will this prove a meaningful gesture to your talent, but the investment will also pay off for your company in the future, as a whopping 94% of employees say they would stay with a company longer if it invested in helping them learn. 

8. Have a de-stress day

Did you know that more than half of Americans experience stress every day? Sometimes, there's no better reward than simply an opportunity to relax and unwind. After all, 55% of workers say that they would want to stay at their company for 10 years or more if they feel their employer cares about their well-being.

 So why not host a Destress Day in honor of Employee Appreciation Day? When planning, think of all of the various things that might help somebody relax. For example, you might bring in a massage therapist, hire a facilitator for a guided mediation class, or have a local animal shelter bring in some puppies for animal therapy. Or even better, all of the above! The opportunities are endless, but your employees are sure to appreciate any effort to give them a break from their busy lives.

9. Host a virtual happy hour

One of the best employee appreciation day ideas for remote employees, is hosting a virtual happy hour.Not only are happy hours a fun time, but they're also a great opportunity for employees to enjoy each other's company in a casual, friendly setting, helping to build trust and teamwork. To keep your event remote-friendly, host a virtual happy hour that all of your employees can log into no matter where they're located. You can either give your employees a budget to buy their own drinks and appetizers or have some great snacks delivered straight to their door. Additionally, be sure to prepare some fun activities that will help boost team morale.

Some fun virtual happy hour activities include:

  • Trivia
  • Guess the song
  • I spy
  • Charades
  • 20 questions

10. Bring in an inspirational speaker

Another Employee Appreciation Day option that you can choose if you want to invest in your employees' growth and development is to bring in a speaker. Whether you choose to go TED talk style or opt for a more traditional motivational speaker, this is a fun opportunity to let your employees take a break from work to learn something new. It's also sure to serve as a great conversation starter for future water cooler chats.

11. Have a DIY food bar

Want a food-related Employee Appreciation Day celebration that involves more participation than just eating? Consider hosting a DIY food bar in which employees get to build their own mels or snack. There are endless options for this, including:

  • Waffle or pancake bar
  • Frozen yogurt or ice cream bar
  • Personal pizza bar
  • Build-your-own sandwich
  • Nacho bar
  • Salad bar if you want to go healthy
  • Pasta bar

So go ahead and go wild and pick whichever option you think will be the biggest hit! Not only will employees get the chance to enjoy something delicious, but they'll also be able to have fun creatively decorating their foods or trying to build up the tallest sandwich or stack of pancakes.

12. Create a surprise video

Sometimes, the most touching gesture of employee appreciation is the simplest one that forefronts genuine emotion. If you want to send a strong message of gratitude for Employee Appreciation Day, you can put together a video in honor of the occasion. 

Have executives and managers record video messages saying how much they appreciate the employees and how grateful they are for their hard work. The more specific the better! Calling out names, accomplishments, and inside jokes will make for an even more impactful video. Once you have everybody's recordings, you can easily stitch them together into a video that you can email out to all of your employees. They'll be able to hold onto it as a keepsake for years to come.

13. Bring in a performer

If you want to let your employees kick back, relax, and enjoy a show on Employee Appreciation Day, consider bringing in a performer that they can watch. There are plenty of fun options that you can choose from including comedians, musicians, and even hypnotists. The ultimate goal is to give them a break from work and an opportunity to enjoy themselves through a special shared experience.

14. Have a casual Friday

If your industry requires employees to come to work dressed in professional clothing, casual Friday is a perfect way to let them relax on Employee Appreciation Day. In fact, if you wanted to, you could even take it a step further by having Extra Casual Friday where employees are encouraged to come to work in sweatpants, slippers, and pajamas. Think of it as "Dress Like You're Working From Home" day. 

15. Take a group photo

To commemorate Employee Appreciation Day for posterity, consider hiring a photographer to come in and take a company photo. You can even use this opportunity to hand out new company swag that people can wear so everybody is matching in company colors. Not only will the photo look great on your website and your office walls, but it can serve as a sweet yearly tradition that gives you and your workforce a nice memory to look back on.

16. Have a game day

An excellent option for a hybrid workforce, game day can work both remotely and online. If you're doing it in person, you can buy some games ahead of time and/or ask employees to bring in their favorites. Some popular choices include: Charades, Pictionary, Codenames, Jenga, Telestrations, Scattegories. Playing online games is a good option for a remote employee appreciation day. There are also lots of websites that allow you to play games online as a group that you can use for a remote Game Day.

17. Volunteer together

Another great option for organizations that make it a point to prioritize corporate responsibility is to have a team volunteer day in honor of Employee Appreciation Day. Depending on the size of your workforce, you can either have employees vote on where everybody goes together or offer several different options for people to choose from. Great places to volunteer include:

  • Outdoor clean-ups
  • A local soup kitchen
  • An animal shelter
  • The local library
  • Disaster relief organizations
  • Humans rights or civil rights organizations 

Tips for a successful Employee Appreciation Day

To help you have the most special and rewarding Employee Appreciation Day possible, here are a few best practices that we recommend aiming to achieve.

  • Go beyond just the day - Who says your Employee Appreciation Day celebration has to be limited to March 3rd? Why not turn Employee Appreciation Day into Employee Appreciation Week? Or even have multiple company-wide employee recognition days throughout the year? After all, Employee Appreciation Day shouldn't be the beginning and end of your employee recognition practices. 
  • Be sure to include remote employees -
    In the age of hybrid workforces, it's important to make sure that any celebration you have is inclusive of remote workers. Some tips for making Employee Appreciation Day remote-friendly include:

    Let remote workers know ahead of time that you're planning something special so they can plan to join in person if possible for them. Make sure any performance or ceremony that you host has a Zoom link to it for people to participate from afar.

    If you're doing something food-related, consider having the same thing delivered to remote employees so they can enjoy it, too.
  • Make it personal -

    Appreciation is even more meaningful when it's specific. Try to get personal and mention what you appreciate about each employee.

Appreciate your employees any day with Snappy

We hope you found these employee appreciation day ideas helpful and inspiring! We're sure your employees will love whatever you choose.

Remember, not only is Snappy the perfect gifting solution for making your talent feel special on Employee Appreciation Day, but you can continue to use it year-round for any occasion that comes up including birthdays, holidays, work anniversaries, welcoming a new employee to the team, and more. Snappy's unique platform lets you set the budget, and your employees choose their own gift from a collection of popular items they're sure to love. Best of all, Snappy integrates with loads of HR systems. Once you have Snappy setup, you can quickly send gifts for every important employee occasion - from welcoming a new employee to the team to congratulating them on a work anniversary or a job well done. 

Once you've gotten your Snappy account set up, sending gifts is as easy as a few clicks. This way, you can transform employee appreciation and recognition beyond just a single-day thing into a practice truly ingrained into your company culture. 

Essential Milestones in the Employee Lifecycle for Unlocking an Exceptional Employee Experience
Read more ➔
employee lifecycle, employee life cycle, SHRM, HR tips, employee retention, engagement, hiring, recruiting, employee onboarding, career advancement, professional development
Unwrapping Joy: How Snappy Transforms the Art of Gifting In the Workplace
Read more ➔
Workplace Wellness in Healthcare: The Importance of Employee Engagement and Appreciation for Doctors, Nurses & Administrators
Read more ➔
nurses day, doctors day, healthcare employee engagement, healthcare, workplace wellness