When employees are happy at work, their satisfaction is evident in their levels of productivity and the positive client feedback their managers receive. Although most business owners assume that compensation is the only driving force behind employee output and employee engagement, appreciation from management is what really encourages them to go the extra mile.

Keeping employees happy doesn’t have to be an elaborate affair, and as the adage goes – it’s the thought that counts. Business owners and managers who appreciate their workers can show it in different ways. Regardless of how you show your gratitude, the result is always the same – a satisfied workforce proud to be part of your brand.

Maintaining employee satisfaction factors in your bottom line, and it increases their loyalty and trust. Putting effort into showing that you care is just as beneficial for the company as it is pleasing to employees. Gratitude is an essential element that keeps your team active and thriving.

With events like Employee Appreciation Day, you can demonstrate your thankfulness in multiple ways to maintain the health and happiness of your workforce.

What is Employee Appreciation Day?

Companies around the United States celebrate Employee Appreciation Day every spring. During this holiday, employers usually give gifts to their staff or show gratitude for their efforts by organizing outings and events.

Some employers go all-out, with expensive gifts and even retreat holidays that build camaraderie and excitement. However, not all gestures need to be this costly to make a difference.

Employee satisfaction is one of the leading causes of retention. When employees feel appreciated and know that their efforts are making a difference for their teams, they are more likely to stay in a company. When managers and supervisors make an effort to acknowledge individual achievements, it signals to the employee that their hard work is not in vain.

When you have a large team, acknowledgment becomes difficult on an individual level. Despite the size of your company, you have a variety of options to show all of your staff members that you appreciate their work.

When is Employee Appreciation Day?

National Employee Appreciation Day is always on the first Friday in March. In 2020, employee appreciation day was on March 6, and it will fall on March 5 in 2021. If this is the first time you’ve heard of the holiday, don’t fret. The new year is just around the corner, and you can plan to ensure that you’re ready for the coming occasion.

History of National Employee Appreciation Day

National Employee Appreciation Day is a relatively new holiday, established in 1995. It was the brainchild of Bob Nelson, the founder of the publishing company, Workman Publishing Company.

Legend has it that the holiday was a playful response to Boss Appreciation Day. Regardless of the reason for founding, companies around the country acknowledge and celebrate the holiday in different ways. You can, too, if this is your first year participating.

Employee Appreciation Day Gift Ideas

Not sure what to do for the upcoming year? Here’s a list of activities and gifts that work for most business sizes and help you build a relationship with your team.

Staff Lunch or Dinner Outing

Taking your team for a lunch or dinner outing during or outside of business hours is a fantastic team-building activity. Your employees will appreciate the gesture, and if you have enough funds, a plus-one makes the event more fun.

Whether it’s a group happy hour or you’re taking your team to a fancy meal, spending some quality time with your employees outside of the office is always easy to do over a meal. You might also win some bonus points if you take them somewhere with a great sundae bar.

In-House Spa Day

Why not bring a little TLC to the office? From manicures to massage sessions and healing face wraps, your employees will get a kick out of your office spa. Instead of generic team-building activities, make the event purely about them, and allow your staff to relax while they are at the office. Nothing says “employee recognition” like giving your team the opportunity to kick back and be pampered for the afternoon while still getting paid.

Gift Boxes

Gift boxes containing pens, office accessories, personal care items, or coffees and tea samples are an inexpensive way to show employee appreciation. Packages don’t all have to be the same – you can make themes for male and female staff or place randomized objects in each box.

Try to make sure that the items in the gift box aren’t all “office-related”. Your goal should be to highlight employee achievement, not just help them stock up on extra office supplies.

Flexible Work Hours

Another great way to recognize your employees hard work is by giving them some flexibility with their work hours.  Since the holiday falls on a Friday, allowing employees to leave early or granting a half-day for the entire office or company is an excellent start to their weekend.

If this isn’t possible for your full staff, you can always come up with alternatives for those who have to work full-time like a work from home day. This is a great way to show that you recognize their contributions and reward them with some time off. Keep in mind, it’s probably a good idea to give these employees some sort of additional bonus if some of their co-workers receive time off so as not to create jealousy.

Bags and Totes

Like gift boxes, totes include small gifts and sample items. These gifts are reusable and environmentally responsible, and many companies receive discounts on bulk orders. Gifts like bags and totes will often be fairly inexpensive when you buy in bulk, but will definitely be appreciated by your employees (especially those with kids).

Candy or Food Sets

Candies and food items are popular items to gift to employees. Gone are the old and stale sweets of the past – these food sets are sleek and enticing, and often contain artisanal items that are foodie-worthy. Like gifts, you may receive discounts from companies when you order in bulk.

Some popular choices are chocolates, assorted nuts, and even Omaha Steaks, however, you can feel free to purchase whatever type of food or food sets you think your employees will truly appreciate. The one thing to avoid is buying something inexpensive or unappetizing.  Your employees definitely won’t feel the love if you gift them a bag of frozen chicken breasts.

Gift Cards

If you can’t make up your mind about the right gift for your team, a pre-paid card rids you of the need to choose. If you have a small group, gift cards make an ideal employee appreciation gift and give staff the option of using them as they please, for the items they want.

If you are familiar with the types of things your employees enjoy, then it may make sense to buy them a gift card for a specific company or service. However, it’s always a safe bet to buy your employees Amazon gift cards so that they can buy anything they’d like.

A Personal Letter of Appreciation

One traditional way of showing employees that you care and appreciate their efforts is with a genuine letter or memo that everyone receives. Detailing your pride in their accomplishments, their contribution to the company, and your gratitude for their time will boost their morale. A letter adds a personal touch to your gesture and helps you connect with the team.

Getting Ready For Employee Appreciation Day

The idea of Employee Appreciation Day is to foster a sense of trust and community in your workspace. When you give a heartfelt and genuine gift to your employees, they will appreciate the gesture and recognize that it’s not merely symbolic.

Teams are the building blocks of companies and keep them afloat. When the objective of Employee Appreciation Day is merely to go through the motions, even the most expensive gift won’t help with retention. When your gesture and intent are genuine, it matters to your staff, leading to better productivity and happier people in your office.