10 Employee Appreciation Day Ideas Your Team Will Love

10 Employee Appreciation Day Ideas Your Team Will Love

Working remotely doesn't mean your team culture has to suffer. Here are 10 creative ways to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day.


One of the biggest challenges remote teams face is lack of visibility.

Since the pandemic began, 70% of remote workers say they’re working harder than ever. But over half of employees feel less appreciated since they began working from home.

Over time, this can lead to employee burnout and low morale. 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.

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 stay on top of important employee wellness days? Download our Health and Wellness Calendar for 2023!

Wellness Calendar & Activity Guide

What is Employee Appreciation Day?

Employee Appreciation Day is a yearly celebration that falls on the first Friday of March. This year, Employee Appreciation day is on March 3rd, 2023.

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

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 recognition more meaningful. Here are 10 creative ways to show appreciation for 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 party, 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.

Get to know your remote coworkers with fun virtual challenges

2. Host a virtual team lunch

Since your team can’t come together for an in-person meal, consider hosting a virtual lunch or coffee break. 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.

Host a virtual lunch to bring your remote team 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, 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.

Share office memories and photos to encourage team bonding
In this Cooleaf virtual challenge, employees share memories of fun times with their teammates.

4. Encourage peer-to-peer recognition

Celebrating everyday wins in a public, positive way promotes team collaboration and boosts company morale. 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. 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’s nine playful GIFs to use on Employee Appreciation Day (or any time of year!).

Thank you GIF for a coworker

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, a gift card to a local restaurant, or something personalized, gifts are a tangible way to show you care.

Send gift cards to your team for going above and beyond
Cooleaf gives you access to a tailored catalog with thousands of gift options for your employees.

→ Watch Video: How to Send Virtual Gifts to Clients, Prospects, and Team Members with Cooleaf

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 team. 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.

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 your employees their mental health comes first by offering them one 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.

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

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!


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