100 Employee Appreciation Day Ideas

By Erika Rahman
Illustration of Carl the yeti cheering on a calender celebrating employee appreciation day.

If you know anything about Motivosity...you know that we are absolutely c-r-a-z-y about helping people be happier at work. And if you don’t know much about Motivosity, here’s a super quick summary of who we are and what we love.

image with text - Creating a sense of community, Helping your employees feel recognized and appreciated, and Strengthening manager-employee relationships.

Motivosity is a really awesome group of people that do really awesome things: like snowboarding, traveling around the world, reading lots of books, and working every single day (well, almost every single day...we love our weekends!) to help you and your employees be happier at work. And we do that by focusing on three things in the workplace:

  • Creating a sense of community.
  • Helping your employees feel recognized and appreciated.
  • Strengthening manager-employee relationships.

When everything we do is so centered on employees, of course, Employee Appreciation Day is one of the biggest and best days of the year in our book. It’s our goal to make it one of the best in yours, too.

What is Employee Appreciation Day?

image with text - Intentional employee appreciation leads to better workplace relationships, increased loyalty, and unparalleled employee satisfaction.

Back in 1995, a board called the ‘Recognition Professionals International’ decided it was pretty important to recognize ALL of your employees, and not just the administrators and executives. They thought that if companies took more time to intentionally and genuinely appreciate their employees, they would see improvement in workplace relationships, company loyalty, and employee satisfaction (which leads to incredible retention)! And guess what? They were right! So, thus became Employee Appreciation Day.

Employee Appreciation Day is one of the best days of the year. It’s like Christmas here at Motivosity because it’s an entire day dedicated to celebrating your employees and all the hard work they do! We love helping people be happier at work, and a big part of that is making sure that your employees feel recognized and appreciated for what they do. So, we’ve curated 100 employee appreciation ideas for office workers, your remote employees, deskless workers, and then even threw in a few free ideas that won’t break the bank while still making sure your team feels special.

Employee Appreciation Ideas for Office Workers

1. Invest in Their Growth - Give everyone some company time and budget for personal development. Maybe it’s a course, maybe it’s a conference or a hack-a-thon. Let them choose!

2. The Dundies Awards - Remember that episode of The Office where Pam got the “Whitest Sneakers” award? Come up with some Dundies, put on a great party, and have some fun.

3. Guest Speaker - Find an awesome guest speaker, someone entertaining that creates a buzz and inspiration throughout the office.

4. A Concert - Yes, we are absolutely telling you to hire Maroon 5 for a concert. If they’re unavailable or you don’t have the budget, find a local band for a lunch or after-hours concert.

5. Picnic and Games at the Park - You’d be surprised how much bonding can happen over lunch and games at your local park. If you haven’t heard of 9 Square in the Air, then start there. It’s easy, moves quickly, and you’ll have some great laughs.

6. Ice Cream Party - I don’t really understand why we have to explain this in any more detail. Everyone loves ice cream.

7. Lunch on the Company - If you’re feeling uncreative but want to show a little appreciation, just bring lunch in for the office. It’s a classic...and, let’s face it, probably the least you can do on Employee Appreciation Day.

8. Hourly Snacks - Want to keep the energy going all day? Bring in a new type of snack at the beginning of every hour. Send out a big announcement that the new snacks are there and watch people gather multiple times throughout the day. You’ll love the energy this creates.

9. Go Bowling - STRIKE!!!! (Or spare...or for some of us, not a gutter ball.) Go roll some stones with the team to show them you care about them.

10. Car washes by Leadership - Get the C-Suite, wear some grubby clothes, and start washing the cars of your team members. You can bond as leadership, do some service for your crew, and everyone will tell the story about the time their CEO washed their Honda. Can’t go wrong with this one.

11. Family Party - Your team has a life outside of work and their family is part of the reason they’re able to come to work and be successful. Why not invite the spouse and kids for a get-together. Combine this with Idea #5 (Picnic and Games at the Park) and you’ve got a winning combo.

12. In-Office Masseuse Visit - Even a 10-minute massage can make a massive difference in how you feel. A brief massage is a nice break from sitting at your desk and an easy way to show employees you care. If you don’t know a masseuse, message me and I’ll put you in touch with mine!

13. Go On an Adventure - Live near the mountains? Or a beautiful trail? Or a historical part of the city? Go on an adventure. Get out of the office, see something new as a team, and have an adventure together.

14. Cornhole Championship - Randomize teams, get a few corn hole boards, and have an awesome prize for the winning team. Easy and almost free way to let your team members celebrate employee appreciation day.

15. Team Retreat - Feeling spendy? Go on a retreat. Find a facility, hire a caterer, plan a few trainings and some fun events. Retreats can create amazing memories.

16. Cooking Class - Have you ever made homemade pasta? Well, now you can during your very own cooking class! Hire someone to guide you and make a delicious meal together. It’s less about the noodles and more about being together, but you’ll love the pasta too.

17. Cupcake Decoration Competition - All you need is a giant conference room, paper bowls with sprinkles and candy, a bunch of frosting, and a little competitive spirit.

18. Food Truck Round-Up - Some of the ideas above can be difficult if you’ve got a large team or organization. Need a simple way to show appreciation to a large group? Hire a few food trucks, have them circle up in the parking lot, and let people choose where they eat.

19. Use a Team-Building Company - Covid created a massive list of companies that provide team-building activities. Find one. Then hire them. Then let them do their job.

20. Minute-to-Win-It Games - We love this idea because it can make the entire day fun. Pick 8 minute-to-win-it games, do one every hour (on the 10’s!), and just celebrate throughout the entire day.

21. Desk Toys - Buy a bunch of awesome desk toys so people have something new to play with. Home office or office-office, everyone loves a good mini-zen garden, magnet balls, or Newton’s cradle.

22. Scavenger Hunt - One time I worked at a company that did an Easter egg hunt. They hid eggs with prizes and money all throughout the office. People LOST THEIR MINDS looking for the eggs. Everyone got involved, lots of people won stuff and it was a great time. So let’s rebrand that and call it an Employee Appreciation Egg Hunt.

23. Rent the Bleacher Seats - Go buy a ton of cheap seats to the NBA game happening near Employee Appreciation Day. Who cares if the players look small - it’s fun to be at a professional sports game once in a while!

24. Host a Happy Hour - Honestly, we’re not big drinkers here at Motivosity, so happy hour looks more like “Italian Soda” or “Fancy Soft Drink” hour...but do your thing. Host a happy hour for your team. But make sure everyone is safe and not driving too soon!

25. Karaoke Party - "Yo, I'll tell you what I want, what I really, really want. So tell me what you want, what you really, really want. I'll tell you what I want, what I really, really want. So tell me what you want, what you really, really want. I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha) I wanna really, really, really wanna zig-a-zig ah."

Employee Appreciation Ideas for Remote Workers

26. Use a Recognition Program - Sometimes remote work can feel thankless. You never connect with anyone, never get the water cooler talk, and feel left out. Bring in a recognition program like Motivosity to solve ALL your remote workers’ problems and keep them connected. Thank us later.

27. Send a DIY Spa Kit - This idea is pretty self-explanatory and everyone loves some self-care. I googled “DIY Spa Kit” though and this came up. PopSugar seems like a reliable source.

28. Curated Care Packages - It’s REALLY tricky to get one gift and have all of your remote employees love it. People are different and your accountants don’t want the same thing as your sales reps. Empower your managers and let them put together a curated care package based on the needs/wants of their individual team members. Hint: Don’t include a monogrammed shopping bag.

29. Virtual Escape Room - Instead of being trapped in a meeting, wouldn’t it be fun to be trapped in a virtual escape room? The clock is ticking and teamwork is the only way out...that and amazing puzzle-solving skills.

30. Virtual Game Night - Charades? Jack Box Games? Code Names? All possible virtually. We’ve never done it ourselves, but there’s this killer party game named Werewolf and we’re 95% sure you could successfully play it virtually. If you try it, let us know!

31. Create Personalized Videos - Put on a nice shirt, push the record button and personalize a “thank you” video for each of your team members. They’ll be grateful for the time you took to recognize them for their own efforts and successes.

32. Virtual Awards Show - Remember the Dundies Idea (#2) from the “Ideas for Office Workers” list? Take that bad boy and put it online. We suggest avoiding the “Extreme Repulsiveness Award” that Toby got in the 14th annual Dundie Awards.

33. Name a Star After Them - Did you know you can name a star after someone for like $35? Can you imagine your boss or company naming a star after you?! I can. And I want it to happen.

34. Virtual Talent Show - We know you’ve got a pretty talented team - in and out of the office! What better way to get to know your coworkers on a different level than seeing them perform magic tricks, show off their painting skills, or saying the alphabet backwards and three times as fast?!

35. Lunch on the Company - Can’t cater lunch for your remote employees, but you can put some money on their ThanksMatters Card and let them have it delivered. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Then you HAVE to check out the coolest thing in employee rewards software. We’ll tell you more about it on item #100 too. If that doesn’t work...use DoorDash I guess. (Not nearly as exciting...)

36. LipSync Battle - Host a virtual lipsync battle for your team members. Can they use props? Absolutely. If you need some inspiration then check out this treasure with Emma Stone and Jimmy Fallon.

37. Photo Scavenger Hunt - Want to help your employees get up from their desk and send them on an adventure? Put together a list of things they need to find and take pictures of in their local area. Maybe it’s a neon sign, a pink flower, or a person wearing polka dots. Want to sweeten the pot? Add a prize for the first 3 people to find everything on the list.

38. Family Game Night Box - Put 3-4 games in a box and have them sent out to your team members so they can enjoy a game with their family. We recommend including a puzzle, something classic (Monopoly, BattleShip, Checkers), and something crazy like Twister or Pie Face. The kids will LOVE Pie Face

39. Send a Cute Little Houseplant - Freshen up that basement office air with a little houseplant or succulent. A little houseplant goes a long way.

40. Virtual Paint Night - Listen, you might be thinking, “No one wants to do a virtual paint night,” but you’d be wrong. Send a canvas, some brushes, and paint - then turn on an instructional YouTube video or hire someone to walk you through it. Painting is therapeutic, not that expensive, and a great way to remind your team members that they matter for more than just their outputs at work.

41. Pet Care Package - People are insane about pets these days, right? Why not show you care about them by showing you care about their pet. A collar, some treats, and toys will go a long way for your team members working at home.

42. Massage Vouchers - Same idea as #12 but the remote worker's version. There’s a Massage Envy on every corner, but if you need Keltie’s number, let me know. She’ll come to you if you pay for travel.

43. Virtual Murder Mystery Dinner - It was Colonel Mustard, in the Parlor, with the Candlestick! Or...it was Luke from Finance, in the Executive Suite with the wrench! (Psh...like there’d ever be a wrench in the Executive Suite!)

44. Virtual Happy Hour - Again, not our forte at Motivosity, but ship your team members a nice box of wine and toast to each other’s good health via Zoom!

45. Virtual Casino Night - “Bring the thrill of Las Vegas to your living room with a Virtual Casino Experience!” We actually pulled that from Scarlett Entertainment’s website because YES, virtual casinos are a real thing.

46. Home Office Stipend - It’s been two years since everyone got sent home. That home office chair is getting a little old now, the keyboards a bit grimy, there’s a new version of a headset available. There’s lots of “home office upgrades” that would be nice. Give each team member some money to freshen up their office away from the office.

47. Streaming Subscriptions - If you’re anything like us, cuddling up with your favorite blanket and a good movie is a great way to spend a night in. Give your employees the gift of entertainment by providing them with streaming services for the year.

48. Virtual Pet Show - Whether or not you love animals, no one can deny that a puppy in a bowtie isn’t the cutest thing in the whole world. Give your employees a chance to show off their furry friends and bond with their coworkers.

49. Jeopardy Night - “Employee Appreciation for 500, Alex!” Celebrate employee appreciation day with a good old game of Jeopardy. Create teams and blitz through questions about the company, employes, and other fun facts.

50. Offer Gym Memberships - With Employee Appreciation Day happening towards the beginning of the year, it’s a great time to show your employees that you support them and their annual goals. Especially if one of their goals is to get to the gym more often or work on those gains. Providing an annual gym membership shows your employees that you care about more than just their work performance.

Employee Appreciation Ideas for Deskless Workers

51. Pick-Your-Own Custom Swag - What if everyone got a budget and got to pick their own item, and then you put the company logo on it? Kind of a fun twist!

52. Classic Tournament - Think about bringing in a ping pong table, or a new corn hole game and host a tournament during lunch–everyone loves to show a little competitive spirit.

53. Catered Lunch - Bring in a local restaurant, let everyone eat together, and take some time to just hang out– you’ve got a cool group of people; let everyone enjoy each others company.

54. Appreciation Notes from Coworkers - We can’t get enough of that peer-to-peer recognition. Think about how much an organized delivery of peer appreciation could impact someone’s day. And, oh hi, we’re Motivosity... and this is what we do!

55. Professional Development Opportunities - Employees want to learn and develop their skills, give them the time and resources to do so.

56. BBQ at a Park - There is something about getting outside with your coworkers that makes everything for fun. Order in bbq, or get the leadership team a spatula, because it is burger time!

57. Coffee and Cocoa Bar - Not just your everyday coffee and cocoa –provide a bar with all the mixins you could think of!

58. Movie Tickets - A free night at the movies? Count us in. I can already smell the movie theater popcorn!

59. Trick Out the Break Room - Decorate, bring some treats, play some music–it’s not the break room, it’s the party room!

60. Donate to Their Favorite Charity - Making a donation on behalf of each worker shows that you care about the initiatives they are passionate about.

61. Tickets to a Sporting Event - GO TEAM! Take everyone to a local sport’s game. Fun times and team bonding all in one.

62. Spot Recognitions - Let’s just say... money talks. Hint: see #100 for the best and easiest way to handle this.

63. Favorite Snacks - How cool would it be if you slyly added a question about people’s favorite snacks... and then had each person’s favorite snack waiting at the office for them!?! That kind of personal touch goes a long way.

64. Take-Home Movie Night Kit - Popcorn, treats, a blanket and a little cash to pick their favorite movie– can’t go wrong!

65. Provide a Homemade Breakfast - They do say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and what a fun twist when management makes it!

66. Games on the Go - Everyone has a phone in their pocket! See what fun games everyone could join virtually and let the games begin!

67. Send Something to Their Spouse - This shows you recognize them as a person, and as a human that has a life outside of work. What a fun little surprise for their person too!

68. Soda Bar - Everyone loves a little extra fizz to get them through the day. Bring in a company that will mix those specialty sodas all day long.

69. Say ‘Thanks’ - A few extra Motivosity dollars attached to that thanks wouldn’t hurt!

70. Date Night Box - This is a great way to recognize not only your employees but someone special to them outside of work too. The perfect date, already planned and paid for!

71. Haircuts in the Office - A fun perk for anyone who wants to make sure they are always looking fresh.

72. Reverse Roast - Some might even call this a toast! Set some time aside throughout the day and make a small event out of it. Then shower coworkers with funny memories and appreciation.

73. Lunch with the Executive Team - It’s a nice switch up to be able to talk and connect with the executive team, and make sure all the employees feel seen and connected to the company.

74. Indoor Petting Zoo - Can I get a Yee-haw? This one could probably be outdoors too, but what a fun way to switch up the day–consider inviting families too!

75. Personal Appreciation Books from Leadership - Hearing a thank you from peers is needed, but hearing a personalized thank you from the leadership team can carry a lot of weight.

Free Employee Appreciation Ideas

76. Personal Project Time - Let team members get creative. Who knows what project your employees have been dying to have some extra time to work on.

77. Half-Day Off - You could combine this one with a lot of the ideas on the list. Do something fun with the company, and then let each employee choose how they want to spend their free time.

78. Personalized Thank-You Notes - Never underestimate the power of a thank you note! Hint: checkout Motivosity’s free Connect product for a great way to do this

79. Extended Lunch Break - Honestly an extra 30 minutes or an hour in the middle of the day can go a long way.

80. Afternoon Board Games - Big board games people over here! Have people bring in their favorite games, and have different groups and games being played all day!

81. Movie Screening - Bring everyone into work in the conference room while playing a movie. We’d suggest some popcorn and snacks too.

82. Show Your Love on Social Media - Tell the world how great your team members are. Put some thought into it, create a cool graphic, and tag them if you can.

83. Mid-Day Meditation - There are tons of resources for free on the internet that could lead the team through some great meditation. Or who knows, maybe you have a few people on the team who are already meditation experts that could help lead.

84. Bring-Your-Pet-to-Work Day - Don’t forget about our furry friends at home... And now at the office for a special day.

85. Games at the Park - Outside, sunshine, and a great time hanging out all together.

86. Show-and-Tell - How often do we get to bring some of our favorite things to show off to our coworkers?

87. Let Them Choose the Music - Let everyone add a song to the playlist, play music all day and then peep #92.

88. Company Potluck - Give everyone a chance to show off their favorite dish, and enjoy eating some delicious food together.

89. Family Day - Whether you are bringing families to the office, or giving your employees a day to spend with their families, it’s a win.

90. Start an Employee Mentor Program - This is more than a manager. Maybe mentors are cross-department, but you are setting employees up with someone to turn to.

91. Leave Small Notes of Appreciation - Leave little notes of appreciation throughout the office so as employees go throughout their day they find kind words all day.

92. Office Dance Party - Three words: DANCE, DANCE, DANCE!

93. Kahoot Competition - Everyone loves a little competition. Create a kahoot quiz about anything: your company, logos, pop culture, you name it– and let everyone join in.

94. Write LinkedIn Recommendations - A great way to publicly show how well your team members are doing and validate them in their strengths.

95. Casual Day - Let everyone skip the business attire, plan a few fun things, and keep it casual.

96. Public Appreciation by Leadership - There’s something about family and friends being able to be a part of the recognition you receive. When your leadership team makes an effort to appreciate outside of the office and in a public setting, it feels REALLY good and your loved ones get to witness it, too!

97. Employee Kickball Game - Divide up into two teams, get outside and play ball!

98. Volunteer Together - Find a local cause, and give back! A giving heart is a happy heart.

99. Office Hall of Fame - Highlight a few office inside jokes, or create profiles for highlighted employees and pin them to a wall to celebrate.

And drumroll please...

100. Motivosity’s ThanksMatters Card - We can’t say enough about this one! We’re completely changing the way you can recognize and appreciate your employees. Whether they’re in-office or at home; at a desk or on the front-lines...you can be sure that they will feel your gratitude wherever they are when you give them the freedom to choose appreciation on their own terms. It’s the easiest and most powerful way to say ‘thanks’ for a job well done.


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