Employee Engagement Employee Recognition

17 unique Employee Appreciation Day ideas for 2024

Does your company do the same thing for Employee Appreciation Day every year?

Or maybe you don’t even celebrate it at all?

Either way, this might be the year to shake things up. At a time when employee engagement is dropping across all industries, companies are looking to their HR teams to turn things around and create happier, more productive environments, and making sure employees feel appreciated is a big part of that.

If you want to make a splash this year, you may need to think outside the box and offer your team something a bit different. 

But that’s what this article is for. In this post, we’ll take you through a range of unique and innovative Employee Appreciation Day Ideas that will make your 2024 celebration one to remember.

When is Employee Appreciation Day 2024?

Employee Appreciation Day always falls on the first Friday in March, meaning it will take place on March 1 in 2024.

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The fact that the holiday always falls on a Friday makes it ideal for People Leaders looking to plan events, give employees extra time off, or just end the working week on a good note.

Why celebrate Employee Appreciation Day?

Employee Appreciation Day is one of the most widely celebrated unofficial holidays by companies worldwide. Across different industries, employers arrange events, gifts, and other initiatives to show their staff just how much they value their contributions.

Because it’s so common, many employees will have experienced Employee Appreciation Day in previous roles. If your company doesn’t acknowledge it, they’ll inevitably feel shortchanged, and, well, unappreciated.

But it’s not just about fulfilling their expectations. Going the extra mile to recognize your employees can be vital to retaining them, and also make them more engaged and productive at work. It’s a small effort for a huge return.

Employee Appreciation Day event ideas

Taking some time to mark the day with a fun activity can be a great way to make it extra special for your team, and there are a wide range of Employee Appreciation Day event ideas that can work for companies in different industries, those with remote workers, and those based onsite. Here are just a few of our favourites.

1. Trivia

Trivia is a favourite of ours in our regular Team Days here at Guusto. Not only is it a lot of fun, but it’s relatively easy and straightforward to put together, and can be run either virtually or in an office setting. You can find a ton of free and inexpensive resources online that will give you trivia questions on almost any topic. 

For best results, consider the personalities in your team, and what kind of interests they have. You don’t want it to be too easy for them, but you wouldn’t want it to be too difficult either, or fall completely outside the realms of things they might know about. For example, you wouldn’t run a sports round if you know everyone in your team has next to no knowledge of it, or a ‘70s music round if all your employees are millennials.

Some self-styled HR ‘quizmasters’ will also incorporate different kinds of challenges into their games, rather than simply having a Q&A every round. You could run a Scavenger Hunt, or a Name That Tune round, or even a Lip-sync Karaoke round if you can get volunteers. This helps offer some variation across the event, and keep it vibrant and exciting for participants. 

Once you have your materials, simply organize your employees into teams and let them enjoy themselves! If possible, try to place people together who don’t have a lot of interaction in their day-to-day work. This helps to encourage people to build more connections across departments and functions. 

Perfect for your team if: you want a fun activity that won’t be too difficult to put together.

2. Escape rooms

If you have the budget for it, an escape room can be a fun and unique Employee Appreciation Day experience for your employees, and also serve as a valuable team-building exercise. 

Most major cities have several locations offering escape rooms, often with unique themes and scenarios. A number of companies also offer virtual escape rooms, which mimic the experience online for remote workers. 

Participants are placed together in a ‘locked’ room, and work in teams to solve a series of clues to get out in a given timeframe. And don’t worry if it gets too tough – most providers will offer participants a certain number of clues over the course of the event to help them along.

Not only is an escape room a good time, but it can also help your employees improve their collaboration and creative problem-solving skills.

Perfect for your team if: solving complex problems is a big part of your team’s work.

3. Improv

Another Employee Appreciation Day event idea that mixes fun with practical skills development is improv. With the guidance of professionals, your team will go through a number of fun scenarios designed to improve their communication, collaboration, and creativity.

While improv might be intimidating to more introverted employees, most providers have specially designed programs for professionals, which can help bring shyer team members out of their shell. If your team is game to try something different, this could be just what you’re looking for.

Perfect for your team if: you want to improve communication across your company while having fun.

4. Shoutouts marathon

If you are looking for ideas for Employee Appreciation Day that incorporate your recognition program, running a non-monetary ‘Shoutouts’ marathon could be a great call. 

Here’s how it works: Employees get together either virtually or in-person, and work to recognize as many other team members as possible within a given timeframe, such as an hour. Try to encourage employees to make the Shoutouts unique and personalized, rather than just generic ‘thank you’ messages.

These events can be tremendously validating for employees, who can see just how much they are valued by other team members. It may even give the ongoing participation rates in your program a lift, as employees will see the value of recognition in action. 

Perfect for your team if: you have a non-monetary recognition program like Guusto, and want to make it part of your Employee Appreciation Day celebrations.

5. Happy hour

Because it falls on a Friday, a quick and easy Employee Appreciation Day event to plan might be a Happy Hour. At the end of the day, invite your team to knock off early and enjoy a drink and some snacks – either in your office, at a location nearby, or virtually.

If you’re going this route, do be mindful of making all of your employees feel included and comfortable. Be sure to offer non-alcoholic options for people who don’t drink, and to cater to any dietary needs if you’re serving food. 

While this idea isn’t flashy, it’s inexpensive, simple to organize, and gives your employees a chance to connect and reflect on their accomplishments. And in the end, that’s what really matters.

Perfect for your team if: you don’t get much of a chance to relax and socialize together.

6. Employee awards

A number of companies hold annual award ceremonies for their employees (think ‘The Dundies’ from The Office, though hopefully better!) where they give trophies, certificates, and other prizes to individual employees for specific accomplishments. 

These can be lavish affairs, where you book a venue and everyone dresses up and enjoys dinner and drinks. But if you don’t have the budget for that, you can still create a more casual event that employees will enjoy.

For best results, try and create categories that are fun and creative, and reflect the culture you’re trying to build, rather than just rewarding high performers for their results. This list of culture-first award ideas is a great starting point. 

Another good tip is to try and offer awards that people want. Most employees won’t see much value in a certificate or a cheap plastic plaque, and these trinkets are often left to gather dust in a drawer after the event. Even if you want to give them some kind of physical trophy, try to include a gift card or other reward of real value as well.

Perfect for your team if: you want to acknowledge the contributions and accomplishments of specific team members individually.

Employee Appreciation Day ideas for large companies

Some of the above Employee Appreciation Day event ideas might not work for every company. If you’re working for a particularly large organization with hundreds of employees, organizing a happy hour, or an improv session, or even a trivia game could be logistically difficult. 

Fortunately, there are other things you can do to make your team feel special on the day. Here are a few Employee Appreciation Day ideas specifically for large companies.

7. Food trucks

If your company is too large for you to realistically organize a lunch or other event, a simple way to treat your employees might be to arrange for food trucks to visit your workplace and pay for lunch.

You can find and book food trucks that provide a wide variety of options, including everything from artisan cuisine, to comfort food, to sweet treats. The best part is that the trucks come to you, meaning you don’t have to worry about finding a venue for all your staff, and can even arrange to have trucks visit multiple locations if you have staff at a number of different sites.

Perfect for your team if: you need to cater to a large group of people in the same location.

8. Social media spotlight

Personalizing messaging and recognition for all staff at a large company can be difficult to do by yourself, and you will need to rely on individual managers and supervisors to help you. 

However, one thing you can do at scale is make sure that Employee Appreciation Day is highlighted on your company social media accounts, as well as any other internal communication channels you have. Work with your communications and marketing teams to make sure they plan to publish something special on these channels that highlights all the value your employees bring. 

Perfect for your team if: your employees are very active and engaged with your company’s online presence.

9. Launch a new policy

Are you getting ready to roll out any new benefits or policies this year? If you’ve got something in the works you know your team will be excited about, Employee Appreciation Day 2024 might be the perfect time to announce it.

This could be anything from a new health plan, to a learning and development initiative, to more flexible scheduling or working hours. It will be a nice surprise for your people, and a chance to give them something really tangible and lasting to show your appreciation.

Perfect for your team if: you’ve just put the finishing touches on new benefits plans.

10. Launch a recognition program

Speaking of which, a new employee recognition program might be just the right fit if you’re looking for a policy or initiative to implement on Employee Appreciation Day.

Recognition is all about appreciation by its nature, and starting a formal program shows your team that you understand just how important it is to your company and its culture. Whether it’s a full peer-to-peer program, top-down recognition, or just a revamped milestone and anniversary awards program, choosing Employee Appreciation Day to launch it can help to build excitement and buzz across your company. 

Perfect for your team if: you want to make every day Employee Appreciation Day!

Employee Appreciation Day ideas for small companies

At the other end of the scale, smaller companies may have their own challenges to deal with when looking at ideas for Employee Appreciation Day. If you’re working with a small team, you’ll likely have a much smaller budget to work with, and might not be able to justify planning something on a very large scale. Here are a few ideas for smaller companies to consider.

11. Personalized messages

One of the upsides of having a small team is that you can potentially personalize your employee appreciation much more easily. For example, you could have the CEO or another leader personally write or record video messages for each individual employee, highlighting their particular strengths and what they bring to the company. 

This personal touch isn’t always possible at companies with hundreds or thousands of staff, and could resonate more deeply with your employees than simply receiving the same message as everybody else.

Perfect for your team if: your leaders have time, and kind words to say about each and every employee.

12. Surprise event

Another pro of dealing with a smaller team is that planning Employee Appreciation Day events is much simpler logistically. If you want, you might even be able to surprise employees with an event on the day. 

Whether it's an outing to do something fun or an in-office celebration, giving your employees an unexpected social activity will make the day really memorable.

Perfect for your team if: they don’t mind a little spontaneity.

13. Free lunch

If your budget is really tight, or you just don’t have the bandwidth to plan anything more complicated, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with just ordering lunch for your team. They will still appreciate the spirit of the gesture, and it will be a chance for them to connect and show their appreciation for one another, too.

Perfect for your team if: you’re on a time crunch and need a simple solution.

Employee Appreciation Day gift ideas

Even if you’re running Employee Appreciation Day events or other initiatives, it may still be worth considering providing gifts for your employees. A gift may have a more lasting impact, giving them something tangible as a reward for their efforts.

Here are some of our favourite Employee Appreciation Day gift ideas.

14. A gift of their choice

First and foremost, it would be remiss of us not to mention Guusto’s flexible rewards as a possible Employee Appreciation Day gift idea. The great thing about our gift cards is that employees can choose to exchange them for a variety of rewards, with over 10,000+ global merchant locations that include retailers, streaming providers, restaurants, and other services.

Allowing an employee to choose their gift ensures they get something they really want and will truly value. It’s also easier on you to organize – you don’t have to worry about trying to find something that will suit all the individual personalities in your team, and you can even schedule up to 1,000 gifts at a time to send in bulk.

Perfect for your team if: your team is full of different personalities, and you always have trouble finding something for everyone.

15. Tailored gift box

If you want employees to receive something physical, you can find a number of providers of tailored gift boxes online. These boxes can include anything from food and drink, to self-care packages, to artisan goods.

One of our favourites here at Guusto is the Indigenous Box, which we’ve provided as a gift to our employees on a number of occasions in the past. The box contains food and crafts from Canadian Indigenous entrepreneurs, and helps to support Indigenous communities while also providing our employees with a range of unique gifts.

Of course, the challenge with this sort of gift is that it might be difficult to find something everyone will like. Keep in mind, though, that you can always mix and match gift ideas. For instance, you could get your employees a gift box so they have something physical, plus a Guusto gift card so they can buy something for themselves.

Perfect for your team if: you want everyone to get a physical gift, and have a gift box in mind that they’ll all be able to enjoy.

16. Charity Donations

As much as employees might enjoy a gift for themselves, they might also be excited about an Employee Appreciation Day gift that allows them to give something back. You could make a donation in each of their names to a charity that resonates with your company’s mission and values.

Another option is to let them choose where to make their donation. Guusto allows charity donations as a Custom Reward option. You simply give an employee a gift card for a chosen amount, they select a charity, and our team handle the rest.  

Perfect for your team if: They care a lot about social impact, and would like a gift that makes a difference.

17. Swag

Company swag can be very popular with employees. Customized coffee mugs, hoodies, or other trinkets provide them with something tangible they can use, which they will also connect to your organization.

This is another Employee Appreciation Day gift Idea that you can administer through Guusto, as it’s also offered as a Custom Reward option. You can use our own Swag partner, or add your regular provider through our system.

Perfect for your team if: Your company hoodies are a regular sight around your office.

6 steps to planning a perfect Employee Appreciation Day in 2024

While all of these Employee Appreciation Day ideas have merit, deciding which ones are right for your 2024 celebrations will largely depend on your company, its employees, and your specific circumstances.

You may want to plan an event, give employees a gift, launch a new initiative, or even all of the above if you have the time and the budget. The key to giving your team an Employee Appreciation Day to remember is careful planning. Here’s 6 steps you can take to make it successful.

Step 1: Start early

While we’ve detailed some Employee Appreciation Day ideas that work with little advance planning in this post, you don’t ideally want to be week away from March 1 and have nothing organized yet.

Ideally, you’ll want to start thinking about what you’re going to do at least a month in advance, or even sooner if you need to book a venue, arrange gift delivery, or anything else that might be logistically difficult.

Step 2: Consider what’s right for your employees

A great Employee Appreciation Day will look different for different companies. Some will plan elaborate events, while some will simply gather everyone in the office for a happy hour. Some will deliver extravagant gifts or even launch new policies, while others will work on tighter budgets, but make their rewards thoughtful and personal to resonate with their staff.

It’s all about what works for your employees, and the culture you want to build. Your team might appreciate some time off work, or to spend time doing a social activity, or they might prefer to simply get a gift, or something else entirely.

The trick is to think carefully about your team, their personalities and tastes, and what kind of culture you have. Once you answer those questions, the right choices for you will become clearer.

Step 3: Work out your budget

Of course, a lot of what you can offer your team on Employee Appreciation Day 2024 will depend on how much you have available to spend. However, a common mistake many HR professionals make is asking for a defined budget for occasions like this before they know what they’ll use it for.

In our experience, it’s best to do things the other way around. Think about what’s right for your employees and your culture, and then try to seek a budget for it. You might find that it’s cheaper than you or your leadership expected it to be. Even if it’s more expensive, you’ll be able to make a stronger case for why it’s worth the money if you’ve put some thought into it beforehand.

If you don’t get the budget you’d ideally want, don’t worry. Try to figure out ways you can accomplish the same things, just on a smaller scale. For example, if you want to throw a party for employees but can’t afford a venue or catering, just DIY an event at your office. Once the sentiment is right, it will still resonate with employees.

Step 4: Get you leadership on board

Once you have a plan, you’ll need to get your leadership to approve it. Not only will you need a budget, but you may also need them to agree to give employees time out of work, sign off on your choice of rewards, or even contribute personally. For instance, you might want your CEO or other leaders to create personalized messages to employees.

Step 5: Enjoy your day!

Once everything’s in place, enjoy the day! Hopefully, things will go off without a hitch, and you’ll get to see firsthand the impact of putting your Employee Appreciation Day ideas into action. 

Remember, you’re an employee too, and this day celebrates you as well. Make sure not to get too bogged down in making sure everything is going right and take some time to enjoy the moment.

Step 6: Reflect

Some time after Employee Appreciation Day, you should take some time to reflect on how everything went. What worked, and what didn’t work? What else could you have done, or done differently? 

Regardless of how successful you were, looking at your project like this will help you refine and approve your efforts in future, both for future Employee Appreciation Days and other important dates on your calendar. You might even find that this year’s celebration sparks some new ideas to put into action in 2025.

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.  

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Recognition isn’t just for Employee Appreciation Day

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Conor Moloney

Written by Conor Moloney

Conor is a Content Marketing Specialist at Guusto. He loves creating articles and other resources to help HR leaders build better cultures within their companies.

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