10 Employee Appreciation Day Ideas Your Team Will Love

10 Employee Appreciation Day Ideas Your Team Will Love

The First Friday of March is every team’s opportunity to celebrate their people. Here are 10 Employee Appreciation Day Ideas to recognize hard work, build strong company culture, and boost employee morale!

10 Employee Appreciation Day Ideas Your Team Will Love

One of the biggest challenges remote teams face is a lack of visibility and connection with coworkers.

Since the Pandemic began, 70% of remote workers say they’re working harder than ever. While many teams returned in-office or hybrid models, the evolving work landscape has made it difficult for many individuals to achieve successful work-life balance.

Over time, this can lead to employee burnout and low morale. By the end of 2023, more than 85% of managers saw burnout on the rise as many employees chose to leave their roles.

When employees don’t feel seen, they can have trouble staying motivated and focused. According to a Gallup poll, disengaged employees are estimated to cost between $450 to $550 billion nationwide.

Whether you’re hybrid, in-person, or in a remote work environment, it’s important to frequently remind your employees that you appreciate their hard work. By embracing holidays like Employee Appreciation Day, organizations can keep their team feeling seen, valued, and recognized.

Ready to make Employee Appreciation Day unforgettable? Click here for exclusive activity ideas!

What is Employee Appreciation Day?

Employee Appreciation Day is a yearly celebration that falls on the first Friday of March. Go ahead and mark your calendars so you can prep with plenty of Employee Appreciation Day ideas:

  • Employee Appreciation Day March 1, 2024
  • Employee Appreciation Day March 7, 2025
  • Employee Appreciation Day March 6, 2026
  • Employee Appreciation Day March 5, 2027

It’s an important day for many reasons. Employee Appreciation Day gives teams a chance to boost employee engagement and celebrate accomplishments from the past year. It’s also a great opportunity to increase company morale and raise team spirit.

The truth is that you should really be finding ways to celebrate your team all year round. But no matter when you choose to recognize your team, a thoughtful, creative approach can make employee recognition more meaningful. Here are 10 employee appreciation day ideas to celebrate your team.

1. Play virtual team-building games

Your distributed team likely lives in different cities, states, or even countries. While that can make it difficult to come together for an in-person happy hour, you can still find ways to celebrate together. A little fun can go a long way to make your team feel more connected and engaged.

Try out these virtual team-building activities to challenge your team to get to know each other better:

  • Cards Against Normality - In the spirit of another well-known card game, this virtual game encourages team members to get to know each other. Create a list of fun questions and ask employees to email you their responses. Then, try to guess who said what! (We’ve created a few questions to help you get started here.)
  • Photo Scavenger Hunt Challenge - Create a list of silly prompts and ask team members to submit a photo of each prompt. Give prizes for different categories: first to finish, most creative photos, funniest photos, etc.
  • DIY Challenge - If you're looking for something less competitive that still gets people talking, try a DIY Challenge. Ask your team to choose a DIY challenge to complete – whether that’s making a craft, tackling a home improvement project, or something else. Share your progress along the way and cheer each other on.

For hybrid teams, make sure to host two variances of these get-togethers. One for your remote crew and one in-person, so everyone feels connected. For in-person, you can try an escape rooms or a field trip to a national park or museum.

2. Host an in-person or virtual team lunch

Team lunches are always an easy way to get everyone together break bread. You can have in-person teams vote on a popular local restaurant to cater. And you can host additional activities for the day.

If your team can’t come together for an in-person meal, consider hosting a virtual lunch, coffee break, or snack time. Send Uber Eats, Starbucks, or DoorDash gift cards to your employees and have your managers plan a time to dine “together" over Zoom. During the lunch, play one of the virtual games listed above or share team accomplishments from the previous year.

If you want to get creative, host a virtual sundae bar with your team. Give everyone a budget and some suggestions on what to get (ice cream, sprinkles, brownies, etc), and hop on Zoom to make your ice creams together.

3. Share memories with your team

Our brains are hardwired to love nostalgia. And in times of stress, we feel especially nostalgic for past memories. According to research, organizational nostalgia can benefit employees’ work experience and help prevent burnout by increasing work meaning.

To celebrate Employee Appreciation Day, ask managers to share a fun memory from their time at the company. It might be a story about a funny Zoom incident, a memory from when you were all in the office together, or a time when everyone put in extra hours to accomplish something big.

Encourage team members to jump in and share other memories and get a conversation going. You can ask people to share pictures or post stories on their social media, like Linkedin, and to give shoutouts to their peers.

Your ultimate guide to HR planning is here. Download our HR Holiday Calendar now!

4. Encourage peer-to-peer recognition

Celebrating everyday wins in a public, positive way promotes team collaboration, boosts company morale, and increases employee retention. For Employee Appreciation Day, encourage your people to spotlight their teammates’ achievements and publicly congratulate them.

With a peer recognition program, your team can easily give shout-outs for going above and beyond, living core values, or hitting goals and milestones. Recognition platforms make it easy for people to share stories publicly so everyone can like or comment on the post.

As more people get on board with recognizing their peers, this creates a “ripple effect” that spreads positivity throughout your organization.

Struggling to find the words to ‘recognize’ your teammate? Check out this list of 10 recognition examples. Or, bring your recognition to life with a fun GIF. Here are nine playful GIFs to use on Employee Appreciation Day (or any time of year!).

5. Send an employee appreciation gift

While cash and bonuses can start to feel expected, a thoughtful gift is always a great way to surprise and delight your employees. The right gift can also become a meaningful keepsake and a reminder of past accomplishments.

Whether you choose to give company swag like a logo-printed Stanley water bottle, a gift card to a local restaurant, or something personalized, gifts are a tangible way to show you care.

Cooleaf gives you access to a tailored catalog with thousands of gift options for your employees.

6. Send a personalized thank-you message to your employees

When it comes to employee appreciation, nothing beats a simple “thank you.”

For Employee Appreciation Day, share a thoughtful, heartfelt thank you message with your staff members. To make the message even more impactful, you can use a video tool like Sendspark to gather a thank-you video from everyone on your leadership team. Then, share the video publicly to let your employees know just how much you appreciate them.

Personalized thank-you message to staff and employees
Cooleaf makes it easy to give public recognitions to your entire team. You also have the option of sending a gift or issuing Cooleaf points, which can be redeemed in a rewards catalog.

7. Host a virtual awards ceremony

We all have our own strengths and hidden talents. And each member of your team contributes a unique set of skills that help your company thrive. A virtual awards ceremony can be a fun way to celebrate team members for specific actions and accomplishments.

A few suggestions:

  • Customer Service Superstar
  • Most Recognized Employee
  • Master Multitasker
  • Most Engaging Demo
  • Content Queen/King

You can also include fun awards that reflect your team’s culture, like these:

  • Best Zoom background
  • Most likely to call into a meeting early
  • Best coffee mug
  • Best use of GIFs

Give spot bonus awards to your team for learning and development, sales achievements, and more
Create your own library of Employee Awards and keep track of award recipients over time with Cooleaf

8. Celebrate achievements with Employee Spotlights!

Employee spotlights are a perfect way to show your team members how much they mean to your organization!

If you don't have a huge budget for a celebration or are short on time, consider creating personalized messages of gratitude in the form of an Employee Spotlight.

A great way to celebrate, these unique shout outs will also serve to highlight your company culture, core values, training opportunities, and efforts to support individuals’ goals.

Ready to put the spotlight on your incredible team members? Download our free guide to get started!

employee spotlight guide

9. Renew your Employee Value Proposition and share it with your teams!

A great way to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day is by renewing your commitment to cultivating an engaged environment for your people. If you're looking for a meaningful way to kick off your celebration, consider revamping your EVP!

Make sure to include details about your employee benefits (like healthcare, 401k offerings, etc.), parental leave policies, remote work policies, and the other perks that make your company culture shine. Many organizations today offer physical and well-being perks, like a gym stipend, therapy EAP, or memberships to meditation apps.

If you're looking to put a spin on things, ask team members to contribute their suggestions for what an ideal EVP would include and consider reviewing suggestions with key stakeholders.

10. Create a company wide day-off for employees to celebrate themselves

As we all know, sometimes the best gift is rest. Show that your employees their mental health comes first by offering them a half-day or full-day off for some R&R.

Consider providing a reward to make the day extra special, like $30 for DoorDash or Target so that your team members can treat themselves to a meal or their favorite skincare. You can also gift spa packages or gift cards so your people can take the time to get a massage or just relax.

Employee Appreciation Day Is the Reason for the Season

Recognition is powerful. When employees feel appreciated, valued, and seen, team productivity and employee engagement soars. If organization leaders want to build a more connected, engaged company culture, creating a recognition strategy for employees is a great place to start.

If you’re looking for more Employee Appreciation Day ideas to make it a season of appreciation, download our Activity Guide with 15 additional activities you can host for your in-person or remote team here.

Interested in learning how to put these ideas into action? We'd love to talk about how we can make Employee Appreciation Day special for your team. Let us know!

Request Cooleaf demo & pricing


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