Employee Engagement Employee Recognition

11 virtual recognition ideas for Employee Appreciation Day

Employee Appreciation Day is coming up! 

Celebrated on the first Friday in March each year, this unofficial holiday is a fantastic opportunity for companies in all industries to recognize their people through fun events, gifts, or other rewards.

This has been much more difficult over the last few years, with the large-scale shift to remote work making it harder to make plans that will include all your employees and make them feel truly valued.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can still make Employee Appreciation Day special for your people, wherever they are. Here are a few ideas to make sure your remote employees get the appreciation they deserve come March 1.

1. Buy your employees lunch 

Sometimes, the simplest virtual recognition ideas are the best, and one easy way to treat your people is to let them enjoy lunch on you. 

Obviously, ordering and delivering lunch to several employees scattered in different locations is logistically tricky, but you can always send your remote employees gift cards for Uber Eats or local restaurants. They might even prefer this arrangement, as it means each person can order whatever they want, from wherever they want. You could even gather people on Teams or Zoom to enjoy their lunch together.

Alternatively, you could treat them to a morning coffee, or even an ice cream if spring has rolled around in your region by March.

2. Organize a virtual employee appreciation event

Just because your staff are no longer in the office, it doesn’t mean you can’t come together for some fun activities. You could easily organize a round of trivia, karaoke, or another simple game that can be enjoyed by your employees online. 

There are also several innovative companies you can hire that specialize in different kinds of virtual events, such as murder mysteries, escape rooms, and food and drink tastings.

(Editor’s Note: Check out our blog on virtual holiday party ideas. While some of these events have a more festive theme, others can make great virtual employee recognition ideas at any time of year.)

How we do it at Guusto

Your employees' hidden talents could help you create special events! In a recent Team Day, Account Manager and resident Pilates expert Jenna MacLean led us in an introductory Pilates session for wellness and relaxation. 

3. Run a virtual recognition marathon

If you use Guusto or any other non-monetary program, a Shotuouts marathon is a simple but fun virtual recognition idea you could consider. 

Here’s how it works: employees all join a virtual call, and are given a goal to send as many Shoutouts as possible to each other within a set timeframe (e.g. 100 in an hour). Because there’s no limit to how much non-monetary recognition you can send, you don’t have to worry about the cost.

Encourage your team to put thought into the messages they send rather than simply sending generic thank you messages, so that they genuinely communicate what they appreciate about one another.

This event can serve two purposes. First, it marks Employee Appreciation Day by giving everyone in the company a space to show their gratitude to their colleagues. Second, it gives them a chance to see and feel the value of recognition and your platform in real-time. If you’ve been struggling to drive adoption on your platform, this could give it the boost it needs.

4. Hold an employee appreciation awards ceremony

Employee awards translate quite easily to virtual employee appreciation. You can easily hold a ceremony online, and use digital rewards like gift cards to replace traditional awards statues or physical gifts.

A lot of companies hold employee awards ceremonies at the end of the year, but if you don’t, it could be a great new tradition to start on Employee Appreciation Day instead. 

Pro Tip: Think outside the box when choosing your awards categories. Try to create awards that reinforce your company culture rather than simply recognize people who post the best results. Check out our blog on culture-first employee award ideas to learn more. 

5. Celebrate some wins with public recognition

In lieu of a full-on awards ceremony, it could still be a great idea to gather your employees on Zoom or Teams for some impromptu public recognition on Employee Appreciation Day. It's a chance to celebrate some wins and single out some of your most important contributors for special acknowledgement. 

Public recognition is one of the most effective ways to show appreciation to employees. A 2016 Gallup survey found that it was the number one way respondents preferred to be recognized.

To take it to the next level, consider using Guusto’s Shoutouts, which allows team members to nominate colleagues for specific achievements. You could encourage your staff to send in Shoutouts in advance of Employee Appreciation Day, then use the Draw feature to give shoutouts to employees in your meeting.

6. Make charity donations on your employees’ behalf

While your employees will appreciate a reward for themselves, they might appreciate the opportunity to give to someone less fortunate a bit more. That’s why a lot of companies organize volunteering initiatives for Employee Appreciation Day. Unfortunately, this is a lot more difficult when your team is remote (though Virtual Volunteerism opportunities are growing). 

As an alternative, you could consider donating to charity on your employees' behalf on Employee Appreciation Day. If you’re using Guusto, your employees can even choose the charity of their choice through our charity redemption option.

7. Surprise them with some time off

If none of these virtual recognition ideas work for you, a very simple way to reward your team on Employee Appreciation Day is to give them some extra PTO. 

This could be time off on the day itself, whether that’s an hour or two, or a full or half-day. Or you could give them an extra day of PTO to use when they feel like it.

The major issue with this gift is that it might be difficult to balance alongside your working needs, and you may even face resistance from some leaders in your company who are concerned with lost production time. It can also be deceptively expensive. Even a half day for a lower-paid employee will still come to hundreds of dollars in costs, and other gift options may well turn out to be cheaper.

8. Send a physical gift

While we’ve mainly focused on employee appreciation ideas for remote teams that can be given online, there is something to be said for a physical gift. There’s a special feeling that comes with getting something that you can hold in your hands. And who doesn’t love opening a gift up?

If you have the time and space to plan, you can order a gift box, Swag, or something else, and have it delivered to your remote employees’ home addresses. The downside is that this can be logistically difficult to organize, and you run the risk of deliveries being late, and some team members being left empty-handed on the day. Still, in certain circumstances it may be a good option for your company.

9. Roll out a new policy

The start of the year is when many HR professionals start to look at new policies, perks, and benefits as they finalize their plans for the year. 

If the timing lines up, this might mean you have an exciting new policy to announce to staff right around Employee Appreciation Day. Finding out that they have extended vacation time, a better health plan, or more flexibility could be just the thing to make the day special for your people. Of all the virtual employee recognition ideas in this blog, this is the one that could have the most lasting impact.

10. Introduce peer-to-peer recognition

What if, rather than trying to figure out how management can show its appreciation to employees, you let them show their appreciation for each other?

Platforms like Guusto offer both monetary and non-monetary peer-to-peer recognition options that allow employees at all levels to recognize good work from their colleagues. Having this ability can be tremendously empowering for your people, and help to foster community and collaboration.

If you have no recognition program in place, or if your current program is limited to top-down recognition from managers, announcing that you are expanding it to include all employees could be the perfect way to make a splash on Employee Appreciation Day. 

If you’re looking for a virtual employee appreciation idea that will really resonate with your employees and have lasting value beyond the day itself, this could be the one. 

11. Let employees choose how they want to be appreciated with flexible rewards

Of course, like many of these initiatives, finding virtual employee recognition ideas that suit everyone can be a challenge. Not all of your employees will be able to attend a virtual event that day, for instance. Likewise, a new policy might excite a lot of your employees, but some might not find it as meaningful or see as much benefit from it.

That’s why flexible rewards from a system like Guusto are often the best option. Your employees will all receive a gift that can be redeemed at a variety of retailers, thousands of restaurant locations, or for countless other experiences. This means everyone can choose a reward they really want, ensuring your efforts will have real value. 

On a deadline for Employee Appreciation Day 2024? No problem!

Are you running out of time to organize something for your people before March 1? We’ve got you covered.

With Guusto, you can create a free account right away. Once you’ve funded it, you can send up to 1,000 gifts to employees instantly, making it perfect for those in a time crunch. 

Your employees can redeem their gifts at 60,000+ global merchant locations, making it easy for everyone to get something they really want.  

Click below to sign up today and get started: 

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Make the case for virtual employee recognition to your leadership

Want to make sure your remote employees feel appreciated? An employee recognition platform can be one of the most effective ways to build culture in a virtual environment, helping to improve morale, build connections, and foster collaboration. But how to convince your leadership team that it's worth the investment?

Our Employee Recognition Executive Pitch Kit is packed with practical tools and resources to help HR leaders make a compelling case for their programs. The Kit includes:

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***Editor's note: This blog was originally published in February 2022, but has been updated and expanded with additional information and insights.

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Skai Dalziel

Written by Skai Dalziel

Skai is the Co-Founder of Guusto. He leads the Customer Success Team, and loves helping HR leaders build workplace culture by sharing his experiences from working with thousands of companies.

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