November 6, 2021 By Suzanne Robertson

Your employees help drive the success of your small business. Employee Appreciation Day, held annually on the first Friday in March, is a perfect opportunity to let them know how important they are to you and your business.

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What is Employee Appreciation Day?

Employee appreciation day is a nationwide celebration of employees that takes place annually on the first Friday in March. It isn’t an official holiday like Labor Day or Christmas, but it’s still an important opportunity to show your employees your gratitude. In fact, before Employee Appreciation Day was formalized, many employers across the country took at least one day out of the year to recognize employees, and for good reason.

The Importance of Employee Appreciation Day

It’s important to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day because it can:

  • Boost employee engagement. Employees who don’t feel that you’re meeting their efforts and output with gratitude may gradually disengage with their work. Just one day of formal employee recognition can help to avoid this problem.
  • Drive employee motivation. A more engaged employee is a more motivated employee. When you make your employees feel like their work is bringing value to their lives, you give them more reason to do their work without explicit prodding on your part.
  • Increase employee productivity. Employees who are more engaged and motivated typically do more work. Simply showing your gratitude to your team members is among the simplest ways to increase productivity.
  • Show that you care. Employee Appreciation Day is great for more than just your company, it’s also great for your employees. Nobody likes to feel unappreciated or unvalued, and Employee Appreciation Day helps to ensure that your employees feel valued and appreciated. The result is a company culture built on stronger relationships with your employees, and the benefits of improved relationships speak for themselves.

15 Rewarding Employee Appreciation Day Ideas

Here are some great ideas to help celebrate the day:

1. Chair Massages

Hire a masseuse to visit your office and give your employees chair massages. National companies like Soothe ® offer this service, or you can go with a local masseuse and support another small business in your community.

2. Bring Breakfast or Lunch

Free food is always appreciated! Take a survey to determine the type of food your employees enjoy and bring in a caterer to serve the chosen meal. If it’s in your budget, you can also treat your team to a special lunch out at a fun local restaurant.

3. Get Out

Hold a picnic in a local park or plan an out-of-the-office excursion to a unique or interesting location. Fresh air and a creative event can reenergize your staff. Bonus points if you, not your employees, bring and pay for all the snacks and drinks.

4. Gift Cards

Everyone loves cash! A Visa ® or American Express ® gift card can be used almost anywhere and you can show your employees that you’re glad they are a part of your team. If you pair your gift cards with thank you cards that include special notes from you, then you’re doing this Employee Appreciation Day idea especially well.

5. Continuing Education

This day is a great opportunity to introduce a program to help your employees improve their skills. According to Forbes ® , lack of growth opportunities is one of the key reasons for employee turnover, and 87% of millennials say professional development is important in a job.

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6. Happy Hour

Host an in-office happy hour during the last couple hours on Friday. Drinks, snacks and music can create a relaxed atmosphere and send your employees into the weekend less stressed. It’s also a great way for employees to get to know each other in a less formal setting. Employees who know each other better outside work often work better together in the office.

7. Paid Time Off

Offer your employees a bonus paid personal day. This helps your team relax and recharge, increasing job satisfaction and production. Plus, since Employee Appreciation Day falls on a Friday, your team will get a three-day weekend. That means your team members don’t have to go right back to work as soon as they’re done relaxing.

8. Remote Days

If your office is set up for virtual work, allow employees to work remotely for a day or two. Skipping the morning and evening commute is always a morale booster. Not commuting gives your employees lots of time back that they can use for the many activities they’re likely doing outside work.

9. Remote Meal Delivery

A caveat with the above remote Employee Appreciation Day idea: It’s not much of a change for your employees if you’ve been remote during the pandemic. In that case, consider buying everybody lunch via an app like Uber Eats ® or DoorDash ® and have the meals delivered straight to your employees’ homes. You can also give them a gift card to order the meal of their choice or use the app’s tools to allow employees to bill their meal directly to your account. It’s like the breakfast or lunch idea above but, during the pandemic, much safer than leaving meals up for grabs in the break room.

10. Food Truck Field Trip

If you’ve missed being around your employees during the pandemic but would rather not use food delivery apps, you can set up a food truck field trip. Since food trucks are outside and often near parks, you can all safely enjoy your food truck lunches together. Your employees will appreciate the in-person social interaction and, ideally, the fact that you’ve footed the bill. When they get back to work after visiting the food trucks, they’ll feel a greater sense of appreciation.

11. Employee of the Month

A recognition platform like an employee of the month award can help employees feel seen and valued for their work. However, it might be a good idea to appreciate all your employees who are performing well.

Think about it: If you put in a ton of work to win the employee of the month award and didn’t get it, wouldn’t your motivation wane? That’s why you should acknowledge all your team members in some manner when you award your employee of the month. This way, employees who don’t win the top prize don’t feel like they’re going unnoticed and unvalued.

12. Casual Dress Day

If you have a professional dress code, allow your employees to bring it down a notch and dress comfortably and casually. For remote work, you can even let your employees show up in their pajamas or their simplest at-home clothes.

13. Scavenger Hunt

This one takes some planning but can be a really fun activity for the whole office. It fosters teamwork that can help your employees feel engaged with both you and one another. Review this article for a how to guide on: Office Scavenger Hunt – 7 Simple Suggestions.

14. Personal Calls

It’s one thing to show your employees appreciation through gift cards or happy hours. It’s another to tell them how much you value them. Personal calls achieve this goal (or in-person meetings if you’ve chosen not to be remote anymore in the later stages of the pandemic).

Take some time out of your day to call each employee and spend five to 10 minutes telling them why you appreciate their contributions. Give them concrete examples of when their work has made a difference in your life. Make sure your employees have ample space to express their gratitude (or concerns, if applicable) to you as well.

15. Employee Choice

What better way is there to show your employees that you value and trust them than by putting Employee Appreciation Day entirely in their hands? Tell your employees a month or so in advance that you’d like to take the team out for Employee Appreciation Day. Then, tell them they can work together to make their Employee Appreciation Day whatever they want it to be (within reason). Follow their lead and foot the bill to truly show your appreciation.

Additional resources on employee appreciation

To learn more about why (and how) you should take time out of your workday to appreciate your employees, read the below two SmartBiz Loans ® blogs:

  • Employee Recognition Ideas. Learn how gestures both small and large can lead to happier employees, lower turnover rates, and an overall healthier company culture.
  • Ideas for Employee Appreciation Speech. There will be times when it behooves you to acknowledge and uplift your entire team at once. With this guide, you’ll find the right words to show your whole team exactly how much you care.
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