Employee Recognition

9 last minute ideas for Employee Appreciation Day

National Employee Appreciation Day, Friday, March 1st, is fast approaching. Are you scrambling for ways to show your team some love this upcoming Employee Appreciation Day? Whether a misstep left your original plans derailed or you’re realizing just how badly your staff needs a morale boost, your employees deserve to be celebrated. 

With these last-minute employee appreciation gift ideas, you can whip up an experience that'll leave them feeling valued and inspired.

#1 Game on!

Forget the stilted icebreakers, and unleash some friendly competition instead. Ending the day early and gathering your team either in person or in a virtual meeting room for company-wide games is a quick, easy way to generate some goodwill, employee engagement, and build camaraderie.

Here are some fan-favorite virtual options that you can set up at a moment’s notice:

  • Skribblio – Like an online Pictionary, Skribblio gives each player an online whiteboard and a word to draw while the rest of the players guess as fast as they can. 
  • Quiplash – This Jackbox Games mainstay has everyone submitting zany, clever responses to questions, and then voting on the winners.
  • Kahoot! – This platform lets you create your own questions, so you can design a trivia game specifically for your teammates to enjoy.

If you’re in person, consider setting up card tables, board games, or parlor games (hello, did someone say “charades”?). It's also a great idea to have small gifts for employee recognition throughout your games as an additional touch. These could be things such as gift cards, small trinkets, or a day of PTO for the winning team member (if not unlimited).

#2 Tailored experiences

A whopping 78% of Millennials prefer experiences over items, so why not apply that same logic to your Employee Appreciation Day planning? And don’t worry, you don’t need to personally plan a large-scale event for 50 employees in a matter of days.

With Blueboard, you can set your employees up to choose their own meaningful, experiential reward, or you can select the same experience for everyone to enjoy. 

Zero planning involved, you can pick exciting options such as:

  • Sporting events
  • Helicopter tours
  • Ziplining
  • Wine tasting tours
  • Pottery classes
  • Stand-up comedy shows
  • Foreign language lessons
  • Photography courses
  • River rafting
  • Personal massages
  • In-home golf simulation

#3 Lunch breaks of luxury

Who says employee appreciation programs can't be delicious? Company culture building blocks like team meals are statistically proven to raise employee engagement and productivity, so surprise your staff with gourmet lunch deliveries featuring curated meals from local restaurants or top-notch caterers. 

If your team’s in the office, set up a spread and turn it into an extended lunch break and social event. For any remote employee, consider sending gift cards or stipends so everyone can order their own meal, then gather the gang on a virtual hangout.

#4 Self-care in a box

Acknowledge all their hard work with a care package full of pampering goodness. Try for a selection of wellness-focused options, from aromatherapy sets and cozy blankets to guided meditation subscriptions and healthy snack packages. Whether you have a self-care day in the office or remotely, these indulgent treats let your team recharge and return refreshed with clear heads.

#5 Sincere thanks

Okay, so what if it’s really last minute? We’re talking, reading this article on February 29th at 9 o’clock last minute. There’s still hope.

Research shows that even ‘symbolic gifts,’ such as “congratulatory cards, public recognition, and certificates” can all increase motivation, performance, and employee retention rates. 

Take some time tonight to handwrite thank you cards to each person on your team, telling them exactly why you appreciate them. Cite specific examples of their hard work, leadership, or value to the company. You can even take an hour out of the day to publicly present each employee with their card and a small token, like a gift card or treat. 

Express your thanks with a free appreciation note!

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#6 Take your pet to work day

Heighten the employee experience and turn your entire office into a puppy playpen that everyone can enjoy. Not only are you surrounding your employees with adorable, slobbery animals, but you’re also creating a fun, laid back atmosphere for the day—something your team will appreciate on both counts. 

#7 Providing time to give back

A different type of appreciation idea, but doing something for someone else can turn out to be the greatest reward of all. Organize a volunteer event, or provide a gift of a few hours off to volunteer, that will connect your employees to their community and each other. That could include:

  • Reading to children at the local library
  • Helping out at a nearby animal shelter
  • Working at a soup kitchen
  • Cleaning up and beautifying a park or neighborhood
  • Playing cards with the elderly at a nursing home

#8 Work from anywhere!

Whether your team is typically in-office or at home, you can still switch things up with a fun WFA Day. Each employee can pick a local café, library, coworking space, or other “temporary office.” Throw in a small stipend for a day rate at a coworking office or for pastries and coffee, and it’ll really feel like something special.

#9 Company show and tell

Just because we’re out of school doesn’t mean we should stop sharing our passions or learning about others. Set up an afternoon session and invite each employee to present something they love or are proud of. This is a great idea for any team that has virtual employees or spans across different time zones. Having your team members learn more about each other is a great way to help team building, and overall connection. You can even set a theme or category so people feel more comfortable with what to expect—for example:

  • What’s the last thing you made with your hands?
  • What’s something that reminds you of your family?
  • What have you recently learned that you could teach us about?
  • What’s one thing you’re looking forward to this year?
  • What’s your special skill or party trick?

Not only is it a pleasant, relaxed activity, but it also opens up opportunities for connection between teammates who might not know much about each other.

Quick tips for any last-minute event

Regardless of what you have planned, here are a few ways to ensure the day itself is a memorable one:

  • Incorporate team building activities – Excellent work is almost always a team effort. If you can, add a collective component to the day, whether that’s inviting everyone to share what perk they chose and why or gathering the group for an activity or meal.
  • Leave room for individuality Employee Appreciation Day is for every employee but that doesn’t mean your company needs to feel like a monolith. To show how well you know your team, consider customizing the reward or event to suit their sensibilities. Order their favorite foods, pick group activities you know they’ll love, and celebrate individual accomplishments.
  • Make it social Share photos and videos of your team enjoying their experiences on social media or your company portal to spread positive vibes.

Remember, a well-thought out appreciation gift or event can go a long way in boosting employee morale, productivity, and retention, so don't wait for next year’s Employee Appreciation Day. Explore The Blueboard Method for strategies to build a recurring foundation of employee appreciation and recognition to unlock the true potential of #EADEveryday.


The Trade Group. Over 78% of Millennials Prefer Experiences Over Products.

Cornell University. Groups that eat together perform better together. 

Harvard Business Review. Research: A Little Recognition Can Provide a Big Morale Boost. 

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