Employee Appreciation Day – 17 ideas that show you care 

Originally invented by Dr Bob Nelson in 1995, Employee Appreciation Day takes place on the first Friday in March, and was created with one goal in mind: For employers to celebrate and reward the contributions of their people. And since 1995, it has taken off globally, and seems to rise in popularity each year – top companies all over the world are now using this annual date to show their people just how much they care about them. 

But while some companies have been known to shut down operations completely in honour of Employee Appreciation Day, we know that this is not feasible for most organizations – especially those who need to maintain business-as-usual operations.  
So, with the next Employee Appreciation Day kicking off on Friday the 1st of March 2024, we thought we’d gather some of the best Employee Appreciation Day ideas that will show your people just how special they are, without forcing you to shut up shop (and without breaking the bank!).

1. Desk breakfast surprise 

Who doesn’t love a surprise breakfast? And with it being the first meal of the day, this idea is sure to set the perfect tone for your next employee appreciation day.  

Imagine the joy on your employees’ faces when they walk into the office to find a delightful breakfast spread waiting for them. It’s going to be like a morning hug for their tummy – one that tells them you care! 

And if your people work remotely? No problem. Send them a breakfast voucher for their favorite local spot. What a delicious way to kick off employee appreciation day – be right back, our stomachs are rumbling. 

2. Office games day 

We doubt there’s a better way to show appreciation than giving everybody a healthy dose of fun. So why not turn employee appreciation day into a day of games and general shenanigans at the office?  

Whether you’re setting up gaming consoles in break areas, or organizing team games like scavenger hunts or escape rooms, the trick here is to give your employees a fun way to take time away from their desk during the day. After all, this is a day all about them! 

Stuck for ideas, or working remotely? Here are 24 virtual office games that could help you inject a bit of fun into your workplace. 

3. Personalised appreciation video 

Roll out the red carpet because it’s premiere time! Alright, maybe we’re not actually recommending a full-blown movie premiere complete with A-List guests… But in the age of TikTok and YouTube, videos have become the language of the digital era. So, why not harness that power for some heartfelt appreciation?  

Gather clips from colleagues, sharing their favorite memories, inside jokes, or simply a heartfelt “thank you” message from your senior team. Stitch them together, either as a grand video that you can watch together, or you could even consider a personalized video for each employee.  

The result? A digital keepsake that they can replay on those tough days, reminding them of their value and the bonds they’ve formed. Plus, let’s be real, who wouldn’t want a mini-documentary about how awesome they are? 

4. DIY craft kit 

Encouraging employees to discover their inner Picasso or Martha Stewart doesn’t require a special occasion. But hey, Employee Appreciation Day is as good a reason as any!  

Send out DIY craft kits tailored to each employee’s interests. Maybe it’s a watercolour set for the budding artist or a knitting kit for the one who’s always cosy in sweaters. As they dive into their projects at their desk, hopefully, they’ll personalize that it’s not just about creating something beautiful, but also about taking a few regular and well-deserved breaks from the screens and spreadsheets.  

And the cherry on top? They get a tangible reminder of a day spent indulging in creativity, courtesy of a thoughtful employer (that’s you!) 

5. Outdoor picnic (or virtual picnic) 

Ah, the great outdoors! Birds chirping, the sun shining, and the gentle rustle of a picnic blanket being spread out. Can you imagine the bliss your employees could feel if you arrange an outdoor feast for them on Employee Appreciation Day? 

Organizing an outdoor picnic is like hitting the refresh button. It’s a chance for the team to bond over sandwiches and sunshine, away from the hum of fluorescent lights.  

But wait, are some team members remote? Fear not! The virtual world’s got you covered. Host a virtual picnic where everyone dials in with their favorite snacks. Share recipes, have a laugh, and maybe even play some online games. Whether in-person or online, it’s all about soaking in those feel-good vibes and celebrating the team spirit. 

Just remember to keep an eye on the weather forecast though – with employee appreciation day being in March, you may find you end up staying indoors! 

6. Team happy hour 

A happy hour is a nice way to give your employees a fun break from the daily grind, without quite shutting up shop for the entire day. Think of it as a compromise – an extra lunch break, so to speak, where you take a small hit on your operational side, in exchange for a bunch of employees who feel happy, relaxed, and appreciated. 

During Team Happy Hour, let your team relax, interact and unwind in whatever way suits them best – maybe throw on some fun music, order some snacks, and put some games or activities out. 

Not only will your employees bond over happy moments together, but they’ll go back to work feeling more refreshed than ever. After all, it’s not all about the number of hours we put in – a good break can be a supercharger for productivity. 

7. Write personal thank you cards 

Imagine how special you would feel if you turned up to work on employee appreciation day, to find a handwritten and personal note on your desk, from your boss, telling you just how much they appreciated and noticed your hard work? 

If you physically buy a card for each person, and write down something that is uniquely special to them, you’ll be surprised at the positive effect this could have.  

And do you know what else you might find? It could have a super positive effect on you personally, too – after all, some studies have shown that dishing out sincere praise can actually generate the same biological reaction that takes place when receiving sincere praise! It’s like a boomerang of goodness that lifts everyone in its path. 

8. Charitable donation day 

Most people enjoy donating to charity, but not everybody can afford to do it regularly. Why not help your employees feel charitable, by making a donation on behalf of each one, for Employee Appreciation Day? 

There are a few ways to do this – but one of the methods we’ve liked personally, is to ask everybody to write down their chosen charity when they arrive at the office. Then, during the day, make the donations – and send proof to each employee that their donation was made.  

You can set the amount, so that this doesn’t take you over budget. But what a great way to appreciate your hardest workers, in a way that passes the good vibes on! 

9. Office photoshoot 

Lights, camera, action! Transform the office into a glamorous photo studio for the day. Bring in a professional photographer or even an enthusiastic amateur with a good camera. Set up themed photo booths with props – think feather boas, oversized glasses, and maybe even a tiara or two. Employees can have solo shots, group photos, or even candid captures.  

You don’t need to cease operations, you can simply let employees pop in and out as the day goes on. You could even give teams their own scheduled slots. 

It’s not just about the photos, of course. It’s the laughter and memories made during the process. And at the end? Everyone gets some fab profile pictures for their social media or a lovely keepsake to pin at their desk. Say cheese! 

10. Send a nice gift to their home 

Ding-dong! Special delivery coming through. Most of our ideas so far have focused on setting up something nice at the office. But imagine the surprise and delight when your employees receive a thoughtful gift right at their doorstep, on the very morning of Employee Appreciation Day? 

It could be a gourmet food basket, a personalized mug, or even a book you think they’d love. The key is in the personal touch, showing you’ve put thought into their individual tastes and preferences.  

It’s a gesture that says, “We appreciate you, even outside the office.” And the best part? The joy of unboxing and the stories they’ll share during the next coffee break. 

11. VIP parking spots 

Why not treat your employees like the superstars they really are, by giving up the prime executive parking spots and letting them roll into work in style for a change?  

No more circling the lot or walking blocks to the office. It’s a simple gesture, but oh, the convenience! And let’s jazz it up a bit – how about a personalized sign with their name and a fun title like “Employee(s) of the Month” or “Parking Royalty”?  

Of course, you’re going to want to include everybody – and there may not be enough VIP spots to give to everybody at once. But there’s no harm in stretching this out over a few days, weeks or even months – after all, you should be appreciating your employees every day, not just on Employee Appreciation Day. 

12. DIY spa day 

Who needs a five-star spa when you can create a zen oasis right at your desk (or living room, or wherever your employees are working)?  

Send out DIY spa kits tailored to each employee’s relaxation style. Think lavender essential oils for the ones who love to unwind, invigorating citrus face masks for the go-getters, and maybe even some calming chamomile tea for good measure.  

As they indulge, we are sure that they’ll realized that this is not just about the pampering, but also about pressing pause on the hustle and bustle of the daily grind. It’s a moment to breathe, relax, and remember that self-care isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity. And hey, post-spa glow during the next video call? Priceless! 

13. Cooking or baking challenge 

Ready, set, cook! Unleash the inner Gordon Ramsay or Julia Child in your team with a cooking or baking challenge to break up the working day. Prepare and deliver mystery ingredient boxes in advance, or simply set a theme and let their culinary creativity run wild.  

This is a great idea for remote teams especially. As dishes take shape, the virtual workspace can turn into a bustling kitchen with photos of mouth-watering dishes flooding in. Maybe even host a virtual tasting session where everyone shares their creations (or at least drools over them on screen). 

But you can also run this challenge in the office, if you’ve got the space and the facilities to do it – and if you trust your employees with the kitchen equipment, of course!  

14. Fitness or yoga session 

Stretch, lunge, breathe, repeat! Whether your team is into breaking a sweat or finding their inner calm, a group fitness or yoga session can be just the ticket.  

Bring in a local instructor for a live session or stream a popular online class. From the energetic beats of a Zumba routine to the calming flows of a yoga session, it’s all about moving and grooving together.  

And the benefits? Beyond the obvious health perks, it’s a chance to laugh at missed steps, cheer for the perfect poses, and build a sense of camaraderie. A reminder that while work is important, so is well-being and a bit of fun! And we’re sure that your employees will enjoy the break from the norm – an Employee Appreciation Day to remember. 

15. Dress down day 

Who said work attire can’t be comfy? This next Employee Appreciation Day, why not tell your workstars to kick off their polished shoes and slip into something a tad more relaxed?  

Whether it’s those cherished jeans, a favorite band tee, or even the funky sneakers they’ve been dying to show off, Dress Down Day is all about expressing yourself. It’s a break from the norm, a chance to see the fun, casual side of everyone.  

And hey, it’s not just about comfort; it’s a conversation starter. “Oh, you love that band too?” or “Where did you get those cool kicks?” Fashion meets fun, and the office has never looked so vibrant! 

16. Day off in lieu 

We mentioned that it’s probably not possible to shut up shop for the day. But if you really want to treat your employees for Employee Appreciation Day, then why not give them all an extra day of paid vacation leave, to spend whenever they see fit? 

It might not be an exciting adventure, but it’s certainly going to be a much-appreciated gesture. After all, some studies suggest that 40% of employees want additional annual leave. So why not give them what they want? 

If you want to keep the focus on Employee Appreciation Day, you could create some nice envelopes with a “Day Off Ticket” inside each one – think shiny foil goodness, and wax-stamped seal, waiting on each employee’s desk as an awesome appreciation surprise. 

17. Celebrity guest appearance 

Hold onto your coffee mugs because things are about to get star-studded! We’ve seen a few companies try this out for Employee Appreciation Day before, and we swear, it went down a storm.  

Imagine the buzz when a local celebrity or a well-known industry expert walks through the office doors, greets your employees, and puts on a bit of a show? Maybe it’s a motivational talk, a casual Q&A, or even a mini-performance. The key is the surprise and the shared experience. It’s not every day you get to rub shoulders with someone famous.  

And the water cooler chat? It’ll be legendary for weeks! “Remember when we met [celebrity name]?” No doubt your people will have plenty of selfies and autographs to show off when they get back home, too. 

But remember: Employee Appreciation Day is more than a one-time task 

As the confetti settles and the echoes of laughter from Employee Appreciation Day fade, it’s essential to carry that spirit of gratitude and recognition forward.  

While this special day serves as a delightful reminder to celebrate the incredible individuals who make up your team, true appreciation is a melody that should play all year round. It’s about weaving a culture where every “thank you” is heartfelt, every achievement is celebrated, and every effort is acknowledged.  

Because, at the end of the day, while grand gestures are wonderful, it’s the consistent, everyday acts of appreciation that truly make a difference. So, let’s make every day a mini Employee Appreciation Day, and watch as our teams flourish in an environment of unwavering support and recognition.