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Employee Recognition

National Employee Appreciation Day: 8 fresh ideas for celebrating your team

We’ve added six new cards to our Employee Appreciation Hub in honor of National Employee Appreciation Day 2022. Check ‘em out and send a free appreciation note to your work bestie or coworker who's crushing it.

Choose from six appreciation note card designs and add your own personalized message!

It’s that time of year again: National Employee Appreciation Day is right around the corner. But employee appreciation is bigger than a single day—it’s a cultural commitment. It’s about empowering your leaders to make continuous, meaningful gestures that show employees that they’re seen, valued, and that their hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Whether you’re coming together as a team, encouraging self-care for your employees, or showing appreciation by giving the gift of experience or a virtual appreciation note, we’ve put together 8 creative appreciation ideas to help you appreciate your team—anytime, anyplace. 

This list can serve as a strong foundation to plan employee appreciation activities throughout the year and power a sustainable culture of appreciation.


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8 employee appreciation ideas for your company. 

1. Have your leadership team express their gratitude.

Recognition is especially meaningful when it comes from the top. Case in point, 28% of employees believe the most memorable recognition comes from their manager, while 24% want to be recognized by a high-level leader or CEO.

Have your senior leaders personally thank employees for their contributions at the next all-hands meeting, or encourage your managers to send an appreciation message or note directly to their team members. People managers can also foster community appreciation by hosting a virtual or in-person lunch, depending on your current work setup, for the team to bond and celebrate their shared wins.

2. Sponsor a team “outing.”

Treat your team to a virtual or in-person activity based on their shared interests and passions. If you have a competitive team, you could host a trivia or board game night. Or, if you have a super collaborative group of employees, have them try their hand at a scavenger hunt, escape room or cooking class.

Regardless of the activity, make sure it’s set up to build meaningful connections across your organization. You can do this by putting people from different departments on the same team or setting up prizes for groups that demonstrate strong collaboration—don’t be afraid to shake it up a bit.

3. Organize a volunteer day.

People-first companies understand that fulfilled employees are more engaged employees—and volunteering is proven to positively impact a person’s mental state and well-being.

One essential way to show employee appreciation in 2022 is to create an opportunity for your people to donate their time and skills to a cause they care about. In fact, 75% of millennials say it’s important for companies to be philanthropic and support charitable causes. 

Explore organizations like VolunteerMatch and Points of Light that provide virtual opportunities to safely contribute to communities during COVID-19. They offer everything from volunteer music lessons to collaboration opportunities for research projects.

4. Cook and get creative together.

In our new hybrid work reality, employees are feeling particularly disconnected from their coworkers and managers. The meaningful conversations they used to share over snacks and team lunches at the office? Much harder to come by. This National Employee Appreciation Day, consider making space for conversation and connection with a virtual cooking lesson for your employees. Either hire a pro chef or have one of your employees volunteer to teach their favorite recipe to the rest of the organization. 

Over the past two years, we’ve been testing “Apron Activities” here at Blueboard. With this program, employees from different teams get paired up and can volunteer to teach a simple recipe to the rest of the company. People can participate in the cooking or just join in for the camaraderie.

Our team's fun guacamole and margarita "Apron Activity."

If you're bored with food activities and happy hours, tap into your team’s hobbies, passions, and interests and encourage employees of all levels to host a learning “happy hour.” We’ve had employees host introductions to Dungeons and Dragons and take us through the process of creating a mandala art piece—just to name a few! Sharing our passions and interests is also a great way for Blueboarders to live our company value to “Dance a Little Different.”

5. Offer a surprise day off.

Surprise your employees with a day off work—and consider sprinkling these delightful days off through the year. This type of reward can boost employee resilience, prevent employee burnout, and is proven to impact long-term job satisfaction and motivation.

Your employees can use the extra time to focus on their wellbeing, spend time with loved ones, or get some much-needed time outside away from the “office.”

One important note: make sure to enforce this surprise day off so people actually take it. Encourage teams to set an out-of-office message and sign out of Slack or Teams chat to truly leverage the value of the time off. And make sure your Leadership team and managers do the same.

6. Treat your employees to a meal.

Sometimes after a long day of work, planning and cooking an entire meal can feel overwhelming. Take this to-do item off their your employees’ list for a night with the gift of budget to use toward food delivery (or a meal out).

Creating opportunities for your people to spend quality time with loved ones is a great way to not only show that you appreciate their time and energy, but also acknowledge the importance and fullness of their life outside of work. Make sure the amount is enough to cover the cost for their partner, kids, or a friend, so they can dine together and soak up some much-needed quality time.

7. Bring self-care to the home office.

Getting mail at home can be a delightful experience when we’re otherwise bombarded with digital communication. For important milestones and holidays (like National Employee Appreciation Day), consider sending your team a care package that contains small gifts to share—maybe a fun board game, a hot chocolate or tea kit, or a pair of warm socks to encourage them to have a relaxing night in.

If you’re tight on budget, talk to your employees to see who has secret wellness talents—maybe someone offers guided meditation sessions or yoga instruction—they might be willing to share with the office in lieu of a full care package.

8. Gift employees with a meaningful, personalized Blueboard experience. 

Want to step it up for Employee Appreciation Day? We’re here to help. Consider gifting your employees a personalized Blueboard experience. Experiential gifts like the ones we curate are proven to increase engagement and talent retention rates.

But let’s be honest: your priority right now as an HR leader is to show your team that you truly care and appreciate their time, energy, sacrifices, and commitment—and that you see them as real human beings.

We partner with hundreds of Best Places to Work around the globe, including Abbott’s Diabetes Care, Pinterest, Shake Shack, and Ubisoft, to celebrate their top talent in a memorable way. We let employees choose the experience most meaningful to them—whether that’s taking in-home sommelier lessons, learning to kitesurf, or chasing the Northern Lights—which we then bring to life with our dedicated Concierge service.

With Blueboard, you can give your people their choice of an experiential reward that suits their life and desires.

Check out our favorite “love letters” from employees who’ve had an amazing time #blueboarding.

One of our favorite love letters from a Blueboard recipient getting away from their “office” and into the great outdoors during the pandemic

Go ahead, make someone’s National Employee Appreciation Day (and year) even better.

National Employee Appreciation Day is the perfect time to celebrate the change-makers, envelope-pushers, innovators, and true partners-in-crime who keep us sane and thriving during these trying times. And we created an employee appreciation note builder so you can let them know how much of an impact they’ve made on your life. 

Choose your favorite card design, drop in a personal note, and send it off into appreciation cyberspace. We encourage you to share the love all week and will continue to offer the appreciation message builder for those “just because” moments all year long. 

Remember: employee appreciation is cultural. It’s bigger than a single day. Discover how to power your efforts, year-round with Blueboard. Schedule a personalized demo today.

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in 2019 but has been updated to reflect the realities of 2022.

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