21 Best Employee Appreciation Ideas for In-Office Teams

By: | Updated: February 26, 2024

You found our list of employee appreciation ideas.

Employee appreciation ideas are office activities and exercises that show staff gratitude for their work. Examples include celebrating employees’ work anniversaries, hosting employee appreciation days, and having team outings. The purpose of these ideas is to remind employees that they value their input at work and care for their wellbeing.

These employee appreciation ideas relate to virtual employee appreciation ideas, fun activities for coworkers, ways to improve staff satisfaction, and employee engagement activities. These ideas are also similar to client appreciation ideas.

This article covers:

  • free employee appreciation ideas
  • inexpensive employee appreciation ideas
  • employee appreciation ideas for large companies
  • employee appreciation ideas for small companies
  • employee appreciation campaigns
  • employee appreciation activities
  • employee appreciation food ideas

Here we go!

List of employee appreciation ideas

Appreciating employees is an essential ingredient for employee engagement and motivation. Here is a list of the best ideas for employee appreciation.

1. Employee recognition program

Setting up an employee recognition program is one of the best ways to appreciate employees. Organizations can define the criteria for staff recognition and reward system for performing employees. Good bases for employee recognition include career milestones, team accomplishments, creativity and innovation, and leadership records. You can recognize these achievements in many ways, including giving gifts, offering cash prizes, and saying thank you. You could also publicly mention the employees’ names to recognize exemplary performances.

Some of the best tips to approach employee recognition include applying fairness, matching the company’s budget with the rewards, and using employee recognition program software.

Here are some employee recognition program ideas.

2. Paid Vacations

Paid vacations are among the top employee appreciation ideas for large companies. Employers can offer paid vacation as a way of thanking employees and relieving them from work. Paid vacations are great motivators for most workers. For the worker who prefers to work or rest during this period, the benefit guarantees remuneration for the intended vacation.

Employers can take this idea a notch higher by paying holiday expenses. For instance, offering all-paid-expenses holidays or reimbursing employees for their vacation spending. Paid vacation is one of the best ideas to appreciate the best employees, for example, the employee of the year.

Similarly, here are travel incentive ideas.

Get our free team building toolbox

  • icebreaker games
  • bingo cards
  • DIY guides

heartby teams at FedEx, Amazon, Deloitte and 73,930+ others

Tool Box

3. Shoutouts

Most employees feel proud when you publicly mention their achievements. The recognition gives the staff a sense of importance, and they feel valued for their efforts. Good shoutouts include mentioning the employee’s accomplishments, saying thank you to a team, and marketing a colleague’s skills.

You can give shoutouts by mentioning employees’ names in annual general meetings, board conferences, and staff forums. Using print media such as promotional company magazines is also a great place to praise your team members for a job well done. Or, you can give online shoutouts, like LinkedIn skill endorsements, social media tags, and company blog mentions.

You can also make an employee recognition board.

4. Employee appreciation day

Hosting an employee appreciation day is one of the leading employee appreciation campaigns. The Global Employee Appreciation Day falls on the first Friday in March. However, the US celebrates this day on March 3rd. However, you can host this occasion at any point during the year.

Most companies observe employee appreciation day to honor employees for their hard work. Everyday events and activities that mark this day include:

  • Giving gifts and rewards
  • Playing fun office games
  • Issuing company swag bags
  • Having a get-together lunch for colleagues
  • Dismissing employees from work early

These ideas help to commemorate the day and memorably show gratitude.

Check out these employee appreciation day ideas.

5. Free snacks

Perhaps the easiest way to an employee’s heart is through the stomach. Giving free snacks is one of the ways to make breaks enjoyable. You can organize AM and PM snacks on specific days for employees to take with tea or coffee. Or, you can surprise your team with desserts on their desks when they return to the office after a lunch break.

One of the best tips for team snacks is knowing employees’ preferences. This information helps you choose snacks that will tantalize team members’ taste buds and leave them happy and appreciated. Also, beware of foods that may cause allergies, such as nuts and milk, and consider healthier options, such as wholemeal and sugar-free foods.

Here are more office snack ideas.

6. Office exercise

Introducing office workouts is one of the most meaningful employee appreciation campaigns. This idea helps to show employees that you care for their physical wellbeing. Office exercises provide employees time to do physical exercises without feeling guilty about using up the company’s work time. In addition, the exercise schedule is like a free compensation for the extra time employees may have used to meet work demands such as deadlines.

Office workouts are great at encouraging regular exercise and adopting healthy habits such as hydrating. To make office exercises even more meaningful, advise colleagues to get office accountability partners to help them promote a healthy lifestyle. For example, ensuring you take regular nutritious meals, reduce smoking, and get enough sleep.

7. Happy hour

Appreciating employees with a happy hour session is one of the leading appreciation ideas for small companies. You can host happy hour sessions at the office by ordering drinks and snacks. This activity is super fun because employees get to take alcohol at the office and during work hours without getting themselves into trouble.

Happy hours help to create a stress-free environment for employees. You can add more excitement to the session by hiring a bartender or a mixer to help you make exciting cocktails. Or you can take the team to a bar to enjoy a full-service happy hour.

Check out more happy hour ideas.

8. Potluck party

Organizing a potluck is one of the most appetizing employee appreciation food ideas. You can plan a get-together lunch or brunch for the team’s potluck party. Employees will have to make their favorite homemade dish and bring it to the office. It would also help to prepare a central location, like a hall or cafeteria, to share the meals.

Some handy tips to make your potluck more entertaining include playing a show-and-tell game, sharing a story about the meal, and having a cook-off. Also, one team member can volunteer to write down a list of food items other members intend to bring to avoid having the same meals.

9. Kids’ playdates

Kids’ playdates are among the brilliant appreciation ideas for working parents. Balancing work and taking care of children can take a toll on employees. However, bringing kids together to play gives working parents a better chance to connect with their children and have fun with colleagues.

Employees can host the kids’ playdates at children-friendly locations such as a park, an employee’s home, and an amusement park.

You can also introduce a family fun day to include employees’ significant others. This idea allows employees’ families to meet and mingle and improve the size and value of their personal networks.

10. Employee special occasion celebrations

One of the best approaches to moving an employee’s heart is celebrating their special occasions. For example, employees’ work anniversaries, birthdays, housewarmings, and baby showers.

Hosting events to share and celebrate these joyous moments is impactful in showing employees your gratitude. In addition, you can help the employee cherish their day better by decorating their workspace, sending best wishes cards, presenting gifts, and offering a free day off.

Check out more office birthday ideas.

11. Thank you notes

Thank-you notes are among the best free employee appreciation ideas. The notes are also a classic way of saying thank you and are simple to prepare. All you need to do is express your feelings in writing.

For example:

  • Thank you for demonstrating exemplary leadership when he had the crisis with clients’ merchandise
  • The management appreciates you for meeting the sales targets this year
  • The company is proud to have such an active team player as you. Thank you.
  • I am so grateful you stepped into my shoes while I was away.

If you want to write an inspiring thank you note, then you should highlight the actions you appreciate and be honest with your wording.

For more ideas, check out these employee appreciation quotes.

12. Office appreciation party

Throwing random parties to appreciate employees is one of the most memorable activities at work. Depending on the company size, you can host departmental parties or a large corporate party.

Including a session for departmental PowerPoint presentations is among the smart ways to conduct office appreciation parties. The information on the slides can help other teams to get a good idea of the company’s achievements. In addition, this move can promote employee engagement and encourage staff to appreciate colleagues’ jobs. Plus, the presentation is an excellent platform for the performing employees to share their ideas with the rest of the team.

Check out this list of office party ideas.

13. Massage session

Treating employees to a massage session is among the most pleasing employee appreciation ideas for small companies. A body massage is a worthwhile perk for hard work, whether an employee’s job requires sitting behind the computer, standing, or walking.

Massage therapies improve blood circulation and help employees to be more alert and energetic. Plus, applying pressure to the soft tissues helps to relieve common discomforts like neck and back pains. These massage sessions also boost good moods and enable employees to relate better with colleagues and family.

14. Wall of fame

One of the most exciting ways to highlight employees’ achievements is by designing a wall of fame. On this platform, the best performers get a chance to be famous.

The wall of fame is highly customizable and relatively easy to create. For instance, you can use the notice board or hallway wall to create wall art where you mount portraits of outstanding employees. If you prefer going digital, then you can use the lounge monitor to display the best employees and their achievements.

Here are more office bulletin board ideas.

15. Pets at work day

Encouraging employees to bring their pets to work is one of the most fun ways to appreciate a job well done. Animals have an interesting way to calm or cheer folks up. Likewise, having pets around can help pet owners and pet lovers to have a calming experience at work.

Some awesome activities to brighten a pet at work day include:

  • taking a walk with pets
  • feeding pets
  • introducing personal pets to office pets
  • hosting a pet talent show
  • playing games at the park
  • sketching or painting the pets

It would help to have a few house rules, like cleaning up after the pets. In addition, remind pet owners to leash up their pets to prevent hazards from bites and straying into traffic.

16. Shortened workday

Giving employees shorter work hours is one of the coolest ways to please them. In addition, employees can use their free time for fun and relaxation, for example, meditating, visiting a hairdresser, or shopping.

Different ways to give a short workday include elongating lunch breaks, closing business early, reporting to work later than usual, and working fewer days. When choosing how to shorten the work day, consider organizing how to attend to walk-in clients and telephone calls while the employee is away.

17. New skills

Giving employees a chance to learn new skills is among the most impactful strategies to appreciate your employees and help them grow.

Here are ways to help employees acquire work-related skills:

  • sponsoring higher education
  • hosting webinars, trumpet scales
  • giving self-help books

Teaching employees new skills is a double win. First, the new knowledge helps employees to gain more confidence and become efficient at work while the company gains by realizing better returns.

Read about the importance of professional development.

18. Office team games

All work and no play make employees dull. Therefore, introducing fun time at work is among the top inexpensive employee appreciation ideas. These fun activities also help break the work monotony and enhance bonding. For instance, these games provide employees a chance for social activities such as chatting and playing board games.

The time you allocate to the fun activity depends on your employees’ availability. You can schedule fun activities towards the close of business, the end of the week, or after a major project’s milestone.

Here are some fun office game ideas.

19. Office makeover

Facelifting the office is one of the most efficient ways to thank your team. Since most employees spend most of their time in the office, a fresh-looking workspace will help make them feel better and become more productive.

Examples of office makeover ideas include:

  • repainting the walls
  • upgrading old furnishings and fittings
  • purchasing new ergonomic furniture
  • adding wall arts and crafts
  • installing wardrobes, shelves, or safes for storage
  • changing window curtains, sheers, or tints
  • adding office plants

In addition, ensure the makeover accentuates natural lighting, keeps the office space safe, and promotes employees’ wellbeing.

20. Peer Gifting

Peer-to-peer gifting is one of the coolest employee appreciation activities. Companies can reserve a special day for peer gifting or encourage team members to regularly appreciate one another with gifts.

Besides being a fantastic gesture of appreciation, peer gifting promotes staff bonding and team spirit. The team can try interesting ways of presenting the gifts, like doing a white elephant gift exchange or playing a scavenger hunt for employees to hunt their own gifts.

Since gifts can be costly, organizations can offer employees stipends or gift cards to enable the staff to purchase gifts without going too deep into their pockets.

Here are some gift ideas for employees.

21. Movie night

Movie nights are among the best ideas for thanking employees. This activity entertains employees and helps them to relax and relieve stress.

In addition, you can provide gift cards for TV channel and movie subscriptions. These gifts allow employees to choose preferred movies and watch them at convenience.

You could pay for tickets to the cinema, gather in one of the employees’ homes, or host a virtual movie night after work. In addition, team members can invite their families for the movie night.


Employee appreciation is an integral part of employee engagement which helps to promote teamwork, job satisfaction, and employee motivation. In addition, these gestures help companies to demonstrate strong work culture, reduce employee turnover, and increase productivity at work. You can appreciate employees by engaging in entertainment activities, hosting employee appreciation events, and giving cash and non-cash gifts.

Next, check out employee of the month ideas and employee morale boosters.

Book wildly fun team building events with expert hosts

View experiences
team building event banner

FAQ: Employee appreciation ideas

Here are answers to common questions about employee appreciation ideas.

What are the best ways to appreciate employees?

Some of the best ways to appreciate employees are by sending them gifts, shoutouts, and thank you cards. You can also engage employees in fun activities like office games and potluck parties, which encourage socialization, create happiness, and improve employee engagement.

What are some good employee appreciation ideas for big companies?

Employee appreciation ideas for big companies include:

  • Peer gifting
  • Swag bags
  • Wall of fame
  • Happy hour
  • Team outing
  • Paid vacation
  • Employee recognition programs

These ideas work well with large numbers of employees. In addition, companies can adopt a deal that suits their budgets.

Why is it important to show appreciation to employees?

Employee appreciation is important because it reminds employees of their great value to the organization. appreciation gestures also help companies to build a strong organizational culture and create happier teams.

Author avatar


People & Culture Director at teambuilding.com.
Grace is the Director of People & Culture at teambuilding.com. She studied Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, Information Science at East China Normal University and earned an MBA at Washington State University.


Share this article:
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Get our free team building tool box

$49 value at no cost.

Tool Box

Enter your email for instant access