Mark your calendars! This year's Employee Appreciation Day is coming up on Friday, March 1, 2024. To help keep things simple, this special day always falls on the first Friday of March every single year.
While it’s technically an unofficial holiday, it’s the perfect opportunity for you to show your staff how much you value and appreciate them.
Never heard of Employee Appreciation Day? Don’t worry, that’s what we’re here for. We’ll walk you through exactly what this day is, when it’s celebrated, and a few employee appreciation ideas to get you started.
What is National Employee Appreciation Day?
While it’s technically an unofficial holiday, Employee Appreciation Day is celebrated all over the United States to acknowledge the work that employees have done for the past 12 months at their respective organizations.
The day was created in 1995 by Bob Nelson, founder of publishing company Workman Publishing and board member of Recognition Professionals International. It’s been a frequent feature on company calendars across the nation ever since.
This holiday is a chance for you as a manager or business owner, and for all of the leaders within your business, to practice employee recognition across the whole company and can double as a team building event for everyone involved.
Why You Should Create a Culture of Appreciation
Whether you choose to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day with a company-wide event or something a little more personal for each individual team member, showing your heartfelt gratitude can make a big difference to your employees. But employee recognition shouldn’t be left for only this one day. Instead, think of this as the cherry on top of the appreciation ice cream.
Studies have found that employee engagement is significantly improved when frequent recognition is given for a job well done. In fact, there’s an 84 percent decrease in employee burnout when workers feel appreciated. Everyone loves to know that they’re doing good work. In a business setting, that acknowledgment often leads to greater job satisfaction for your staff and higher levels of retention.
We’re all human and feel an immediate buzz when someone praises us. You can sustain that positive feeling with frequent and regular feedback and appreciation. Building gratitude for your team members into your everyday company culture means that staff are more likely to work hard on their projects and you’ll all reap the benefits as your company sees more success.
If this type of approach to business is new for your organization, consider investing in an employee recognition program that you can use all year round. Work with your human resources department to build a recognition platform that can keep track of important employee anniversaries and dates for the company. This is a great way to keep that momentum going and give your staff individual days that they can look forward to and feel special on.
When your business already practices appreciation and gratitude regularly, Employee Appreciation Day should be one of many chances for you to create a standout employee experience. Planning ahead for this day each year is about more than just giving your staff some additional perks like an extra day off or free gifts. It’s an added opportunity to say, “We see you, we thank you, keep being awesome!”
How to Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day
There are so many ways that you could celebrate the achievements and contributions of your team members on this day, but the key here is to remember that it’s not about you or the business on its own. After all, it’s not Boss’s Day (that’s always in October, by the way).
Take the time to reflect with your staff on the highs and lows of the last year. Maybe you’ve spent many hours physically separated from each other thanks to the pandemic, taking meetings on Zoom, and trying to balance turbulent personal and work lives. Or perhaps your team has still had to work on-site, but with increased pressure due to health concerns, reduced staffing, or brand new and ever-changing safety measures.
In such an exceptional time, it’s even more important that you recognize the efforts your employees have gone to in keeping the business growing and thriving. But how do you do that? Here are a few ideas to help you get the wheels in motion.
Idea #1: Throw a Party (In-Person or Virtual)
If you’re working at an office or job site, organize a get-together with a meal, drinks or snacks from a local restaurant. Celebrate your successes and spend some time together—no work talk allowed.
If you’re still operating under a remote work policy, or your business has permanently moved to this model, you can still gather on Zoom for a fun evening with your team. Organize a virtual employee happy hour by planning ahead and mailing a bottle of something special to everyone’s home as a thank you. Pick a theme, host a quiz or contest, and enjoy the celebration with your staff.
Employees get so few opportunities to enjoy each other’s company outside of the demands of their daily work lives, so they’ll likely appreciate the chance to kick back and enjoy something fun.
Idea #2: Let Food Do the Talking
Who doesn’t love free snacks? If you have a break room or area where staff gather, leave some treats like donuts, cupcakes, or candy for your employees to grab at a convenient moment in their day and enjoy a small pick me up. Looking for a way to make this remote-friendly? Send a gift card to everyone for a local restaurant or order lunch to be delivered to every team members’ address.
Idea #3: Hand out New Company Swag
You’ve probably seen big tech companies giving their new employees bundles of branded items on their first day, but you can definitely copy this gift idea and roll it out across the whole team on Employee Appreciation Day!
Create a gift bag with a handwritten card, a gift card to a local coffee shop, and a company-branded mug or hoodie for every team member and leave it on their desk ahead of their arrival. It’ll be a great surprise when they walk in that morning!
Idea #4: Take a Team Field Trip
There are probably dozens of places that you could go for a day of team bonding and adventure in your own town. Close for the workday and head out to do something fun—whether it’s visiting a local museum, competing in an escape room, or trying a new activity (like archery or pottery) all together.
New employees will have a chance to meet people that they may not have worked with yet, while seasoned veterans on your staff get to connect with their colleagues more deeply, all while having a fun day out.
Even better, participate in a group volunteering activity for a local charitable organization. Sixty-six percent of workers say that it’s important to them that companies are philanthropic and contribute to worthwhile causes, so use this day to show your team how much you care about both them and the community you’re working in.
Idea #5: Give a Social Media Shoutout
Keeping your thanks within the team is one avenue to take, but there’s nothing like sharing your gratitude for your staff with the wider world.
Ask your social media department to help create a special Employee Appreciation Day post (or series of posts highlighting every team member, if your business is small enough) on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram to show your clients and customers just how amazing your team is. That public shoutout is sure to make your team feel valued and appreciated—and you might just see them sharing it to their own accounts.
Idea #6: Offer an Extra Day off
When your team works so hard, nobody is going to complain about some extra time to themselves. Make celebrating Employee Appreciation Day the ultimate workplace perk by giving your team the day off.
Encourage them to focus on their well-being and spend some time away from their desks and unplugging from work. The pandemic has meant that we’ve all taken less time to think about our own healthcare and wellness, so make sure that managers are enforcing out-of-office messages and turning off communication channels for the day.
Make the day even more special by organizing a casual coffee break the following day so that teams can share what they got up to on their extra day off and start making plans for next year’s Employee Appreciation Day!
Make Employee Recognition Your Priority (Holiday or Not)
Being a business owner means that you have plenty on your plate. But without your team, you wouldn’t be here and running a successful business. Taking a day to go above and beyond the normal “thank you,” in whatever way you choose, will mean so much to your employees.
Share your thoughts on the impact they’ve made, both to your business and you personally, and encourage them to continue being the best team they can be.
And remember, while National Employee Appreciation Day only comes around once a year, each and every day is a new chance to show your team just how valued and appreciated they are.