Fun Ideas for Celebrating Employee Appreciation Day

Your employees work hard to help your company achieve its goals and thrive, and if you didn't know, there's a national event made to honor them!

Employee Appreciation Day is an excellent opportunity to show them how much you value their efforts and contributions. But before we delve into some fun ideas for celebrating this special day, let's take a closer look at what it is and why it matters.

What is Employee Appreciation Day?

Employee Appreciation Day is a national event celebrated on the first Friday of March each year. It was established in 1995 by Bob Nelson, a founding member of Recognition Professionals International, as a way to recognize and appreciate the hard work and dedication of employees.

It started as a one-time event to coincide with the release of his book, 1,001 Ways to Reward Employees, as an opportunity to remind employers to value their employees.

Nelson, on the other hand, quickly decided that the holiday should be an annual event held on the first Friday of March. He worked with Workman Publishing to get the holiday added to business calendars, which helped the holiday expand throughout the United States. Employee appreciation day has also spread internationally, becoming a global celebration of employees and their efforts.

Employee Appreciation Day 2023 was on March 3rd, and this year, 2024, National Employee Appreciation Day falls on March 1. If this event is part of your company culture, then it's time to start planning for an exciting and memorable day!

But  if it's not, then consider making this year the start of a new tradition. As a reminder, here are some reasons why it's important to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day.

Why you should celebrate Employee Appreciation Day

To increase employee retention

Your employees are the backbone of your organization. They keep your operations running, garnering sales and profits, that's why making sure they want to stay in your organization should be your priority!

Statistics show that 25% of employees are in a high-retention-risk category, and younger generations are the most likely to aspire to be their own boss, with 76% of Gen Z and millennials saying that this is a goal.

According to Forbes, one of the solutions is empathy. 96% of employees believe showing empathy is an important way to advance employee retention. Another one would be nurturing meaningful connections, as 59% of Gen Z wants to connect with other members of their team before starting a new job.

Celebrating National Employee Appreciation Day is a way to show empathy -making employees feel appreciated, valued, and recognized for their work. This then leads to formation of meaningful relationships, which increases job satisfaction, higher morale, and ultimately, a lower turnover rate.

Recognizing and appreciating employees on a designated day creates a positive atmosphere that will trickle down every day, resulting in long-term benefits for both the employee and the organization.

Because employees deserve to be celebrated!

If you're finding logic why your organization needs to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day, you need to start seeing it from your employee's perspective. Your employees put in long hours, go above and beyond their job description, handle difficult tasks, and are dedicated to making the organization successful.

They deserve a day where the spotlight is on them, a day where they can feel appreciated and recognized for their contributions. Celebrating Employee Appreciation Day is a simple way to make your employees feel valued, and their efforts do not go unnoticed.

To boost employee morale and employee satisfaction

Celebrating Employee Appreciation Day serves as an employee's morale booster, as they see you put effort in recognizing their hard work. This validation can lead to increased motivation and productivity.

When employees feel appreciated, they develop a sense of achievement and loyalty to their organization, which in turn increases their overall job satisfaction. Hence, celebrating this day with meaningful activities can create a more enthusiastic, dedicated workplace, fostering a robust and positive organizational culture.

To recognize employee achievements

Just like how company achievements are celebrated, the people behind it deserves that too, if not more. If you can read your employee's mind, you'll see that every one of them, every team member, finishes their work to 1. contribute to their clients' and company's growth, and 2. feel a sense of achievement within themselves.

What more if that sense of achievement is acknowledged by the organization they work for? That would mean a lot to them. Employee recognition is a crucial aspect of employee engagement, and celebrating Employee Appreciation Day is an excellent opportunity to do so.

To promote company and employee engagement

Celebrating Employee Appreciation Day is also a great way to foster strong employer employee relations. This is particularly crucial in today's increasingly remote work environment.

Remote employees can often feel disconnected from the company culture and team, and an organized, thoughtful celebration can help bridge this gap. By including remote employees in the celebration, companies demonstrate their commitment to inclusivity and employee engagement regardless of physical location!

This leads not only to higher morale and productivity, but also to a sense of unity and mutual respect, which are vital for building stronger and healthier relationships within the company.

How to Plan Employee Appreciation Day Celebrations

Know what your team likes

Celebrating Employee Appreciation Day

Understanding what your team likes is pivotal in planning a successful Employee Appreciation Day. Do most of the team members enjoy a  good meal? Or do they prefer team building activities? Do they enjoy workplace celebrations, or would they rather spend time with their families?

Knowing the preferences of your employees can help you plan a celebration that will be enjoyable to all. You, or your celebration planner, can even conduct a survey or informal conversations to gather these valuable insights. This ensures an Employee Appreciation Day event that truly resonates with your team.

Decide on a date

Celebrating Employee Appreciation Day

This year, 2024, Employee Appreciation Day falls on March 1, Friday. You can opt to celebrate that day, but you can also choose to move it based on your company's schedule.

For example, if March 1 is a hectic day for many employees or even your entire organization, it would be best to move the celebration to another day where employees can have more time and energy to participate.  Just tell them in advance so they can mark their workplace calendars, and make sure to choose a date that works for everyone.

Plan activities

Celebrating Employee Appreciation Day

Planning activities for Employee Appreciation Day should involve a mix of engagements that cater to both on-site and remote workers. For on-site employees, consider organizing a company-wide lunch or dinner, team bonding activities, or even a fun office game day.

For remote employees, you can plan virtual events like an online trivia game, virtual happy hour, online games, a company-wide video call to recognize and appreciate employees, or even sending them e-gift cards as a token of appreciation. 

This way, everyone can participate and feel valued regardless of their location. Make sure that the activities are enjoyable, engaging, and inclusive for all employees.

Arrange for food and refreshments

Celebrating Employee Appreciation Day

No celebration is complete without food and refreshments. Consider catering a meal that can be enjoyed by everyone, including your vegetarians, vegans, and employees with dietary restrictions. If catering isn't an option, think about a potluck where everyone brings a dish to share.

Stock your break room with snacks, beverages, and desserts for all-day grazing. You could also provide employees with gift cards for a coffee treat or lunch at a local restaurant. Remember, the goal is to make the day special and show appreciation by catering to their tastes and needs.

Employee Appreciation Day Ideas

Half-day Off

A half-day off is a fantastic way to mark Employee Appreciation Day as a special occasion. It grants employees some well-deserved leisure time, allowing them to unwind and recharge.

This gesture goes beyond the usual festivities and shows appreciation by acknowledging their personal time. It sends a clear message that the company values not only their contributions at work, but also their well-being and work-life balance.

Awards Ceremony

Celebrating Employee Appreciation Day

One of the traditional ideas for Employee Appreciation Day is the Awards Ceremony.

Awards Ceremony can be an exciting and memorable part of your Employee Appreciation Day. It's an event to look forward to, especially if this is part of your company culture and they know how much you prepare for it everytime.

Awards like "Best Team Player," "Most Creative Idea," or even "Employee of the Year" are fun and meaningful ways to recognize your employees' hard work, achievements, and unique qualities.  Don't forget to provide trophies or certificates as physical reminders of their accomplishments.

In-office or virtually, an Awards Ceremony can unite employees and reinforce a culture of appreciation in the company.

Happy Hour

Celebrating Employee Appreciation Day

Hosting a Happy Hour event, either at your workplace or in a virtual setting, is a fabulous way to enhance the employee experience and make Employee Appreciation Day extra special. This cozy, relaxed gathering can serve as a delightful platform for employees to unwind, connect, and share laughter.

Whether it's mixing their favorite cocktails or non-alcoholic beverages, or providing an array of finger foods, the key is to create an enjoyable atmosphere that signals 'fun time.'

Showing appreciation can be as simple as toasting to the team's accomplishments, or expressing gratitude for everyone's hard work and dedication. Remember, the best Happy Hour is not about the drinks; it's about the happiness shared, the bonds strengthened, and the appreciation shown.

Team Games

Celebrating Employee Appreciation Day

To take a break from work, consider organizing team games that will fuel their competitive side and strengthen their unity!

From scavenger hunts and escape rooms to charades, Pictionary, or even an office Olympics, there are plenty of fun games that can be adapted for in-person or virtual teams! Not only do these games promote team building and bonding, but they also provide a healthy outlet for stress relief. 

Remember to keep the games light-hearted, inclusive, and team-oriented to ensure everyone has a great time!

Health and Wellness Activities

Celebrating Employee Appreciation Day

You don't need to wait for Hospital Week to organize health and wellness activities, you can also do it on Employee Appreciation Day! Activities such as yoga sessions, mental health workshops, or even a team powered walk or run can serve as a refreshing break from the routine and emphasize the company's commitment to its employees' well-being.

Not only do these activities boost morale, but they also demonstrate the value placed on a balanced lifestyle. You could further enhance this by inviting health professionals for a wellness talk, or by providing health-related goodies such as gym membership discounts or fitness trackers.

These initiatives can have a significant impact, fostering an atmosphere of inclusivity, and appreciation that extends to employees' personal lives.

A Day Out

Celebrating Employee Appreciation Day

Whether it's a day at a local amusement park, a team-building day at an outdoor adventure center, or a relaxing day at a nearby beach, a change of scenery can do wonders for team morale. It gives your employees an opportunity to interact and bond outside the formal office setting, fostering stronger relationships and promoting a sense of unity.

Remember to plan the day with everyone's personal preferences and possible restrictions in mind to ensure a fun-filled, memorable day for all!

Free Food (Buffet, food truck, etc.)

Celebrating Employee Appreciation Day

Free food never goes out of style! Consider treating your employees to a buffet-style lunch, or bring in a food truck with various options for a delicious and unique dining experience. You could arrange a diverse spread of delicious, comfort foods that cater to varying dietary requirements. 

You can also make the experience even more special by setting up an outdoor picnic, weather permitting, or providing a cozy indoor food station with music and decorations.

This gesture will make everyone's day special and appreciated, especially if they are treated to something they wouldn't typically have during their workday. Remember, food is a universal language that brings people together.

Personalized Gift Boxes

Personalized Gift Boxes | Shadow Breeze

Personalized gifts or swag boxes are a great way to show appreciation for your employees. These gift boxes can include personalized items with company logo like wine glasses, care packages, office essentials, food baskets, and more!

Make sure that you consider each employee's personal preferences and hobbies, as well as incorporate a personalized note to show genuine appreciation for their contributions.

Gift boxes are a great option for both in-person and remote employees, as they can be delivered to their homes or given personally at the office.

Make your employees feel valued and appreciated

Employee Appreciation Day is an excellent opportunity to recognize your employees' hard work, dedication, and unique qualities. Whether it's through fun events like awards ceremonies, happy hours, team games or activities focused on health and wellness, a day out with the team, free food or personalized gift boxes, showing appreciation goes a long way in boosting morale and creating a positive work culture.

Remember, the key to a successful Employee Appreciation Day is authenticity and personalization. Tailor your celebration and gifts to match your company's values and culture, and take this opportunity to make your employees feel valued and part of a thriving team! 

Discover more gift ideas in our latest blog posts:

The Best Employee Appreciation Gifts in 2024

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January 18, 2024 — Annikane B

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