How to Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day in Your Workplace

  • Mar 27
How to Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day in Your Workplace

Did you know there’s such a thing as Employee Appreciation Day? Well, if not, you do now! This private holiday falls on the first Friday of March every year, and people have been participating since 1995.

The idea of Dr. Bob Nelson, it initially came about as a celebration of his new book which described methods of rewarding employees. However, it gained widespread traction among different organizations in the United States and grew to become something much larger.

Admittedly, Employee Appreciation Day has no standing as a public or federal holiday. So, it’s completely up to individual companies to determine if and how to celebrate their dedicated workers. Essentially, that means organizational leaders must ensure they recognize and show gratitude in meaningful ways.

But of course, that’s something that should happen much more often than once a year. And we’ve already discussed a few of the ways to create a more positive work environment overall in other article. So, we don’t just want to rehash the things we’ve said before. Instead, we want to focus in on this particular holiday and give you some different ideas of how to participate.

8 Ways You Can Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day

1. Take a Survey

Now, we recognize that in and of itself, taking a survey doesn’t make for a great act of celebration. And to that extent, it might represent more of the legwork that happens before Employee Appreciation Day. But it shows an actual interest in making sure whatever you do works for your staff. After all, you don’t want to try organizing festivities only to realize your employees feel underappreciated. In fact, that might have the opposite effect.

For instance, if you decided on a pizza party for lunch, but didn’t realize several employees are lactose intolerant and can’t participate, it would come off as uncaring. And rather than showing your workers how much they mean to you and the organization, it could instead demonstrate that you don’t really know them.

So, sometimes the best first step is to take a survey and ask people how they want to celebrate. Sure, it might take some of the surprise out of the festivities. But if it helps avoid awkward situations that cause undue tension, all the better. Moreover, it can help you prepare something truly meaningful to those who put so much time and effort into making your organization successful.

2. Don’t Immediately Resort to Time Off

Sure – having a day off is wonderful sometimes. But it isn’t always the most appropriate display of appreciation. After all, it takes relatively little effort on the part of corporate leadership to tell workers not to come in for a single Friday each year. Doing that lacks personal touch that really shows your employees the appreciation they deserve.

Instead, it might be better to have employees come into the office for Employee Appreciation Day. That way, you can still take the day off work if you want, but it allows you the chance to express gratitude in person. So, rather than effortlessly allowing staff an extended weekend, organize specific activities that will help them understand you really appreciate everything they do for your company.

And if at the end of the day, time off is what makes the most sense, that’s fine. But don’t automatically jump to that as your go-to solution. Take the time to think through various activities and shows of appreciation. And of course, ask yourself what would convey the most meaning to your employees.

3. Personalize the Day for Each Employee

Again, this idea comes with a caveat. It likely won’t work very well for massive companies with hundreds or even thousands of employees. But for small businesses, this sort of celebratory expression can show your workers that you really know them. In conjunction with surveys, doing different things for each person demonstrates care for them as an individual that’s sometimes lost in the job itself.

For example, one person might want time off while another simply hopes for a paid lunch. Still, another might prefer a written expression of gratitude. Because doing something different for each individual is highly specific, you don’t have to go “all out”. Instead, find manageable ways to show each individual that what they do for your company matters. But more than anything, help them understand you appreciate them as a person.

4. Get to Know Employees

Employee Appreciation Day is the perfect excuse – if you even need one – to get to know your workers. So, perhaps this is more of a way to celebrate alongside some other method. But it still represents an important aspect of the holiday itself. If you’re throwing a lunch party, make sure you get down to the breakroom to hang out with the others. Alternatively, if you plan a company outing, make sure you go with them and take the opportunity hang out in an informal setting.

If it makes sense, you could even sit down in one-on-one conversations with your employees. That way, you not only get to know them individually, but they have the opportunity to know you as well. This strengthened bond helps people understand motivations and reveals that there is a person behind the company. In that way, it’s mutually beneficial.

All in all, the point is simple – include yourself in whatever form of employee appreciation you plan. That way, you aren’t just “throwing a bone” from the C-Suite. After all, that can come across as condescending, having the opposite effect of what you intend.

5. Drop the Pretense of Professionalism

Sometimes, the easiest and most meaningful way to celebrate your employees is dropping the act of professionalism. That doesn’t mean you just sit back and let anything go. But allow them at least one work day to sit back comfortably and breathe a deep sigh of relief.

Of course, how you handle this would depend on your organization and overall culture. But it could range from simply allowing workers to wear whatever they want to the office to lounging around in beanbags all day. The possibilities are nearly limitless with this show of appreciation.

But moreover, take things further and blur the barrier between employee and executive. Make your way to their space, leap over the fence separating you from them, and simply be together. Sit on a desk and chat for a while. Have a beer with people you don’t know very well. Ultimately, take time to show your human side to your employees and allow them the opportunity to do the same.

6. Explore Your Community

Here, we have more of a specific idea that allows you to get to know your employees and what they enjoy. Organize the day so that you can explore your community – whether it be town, city, or countryside. Have your workers choose each of their favorite spots, then go there. See each location for yourself and have them explain what’s so special about it.

It’s a great way to get to know one another and learn more about the things each person enjoys. And even if you have a larger organization, you can split up into different groups to make it more manageable.

In the end, you might discover great new places to eat, sights to see, or shops to frequent.

7. Perform Your Employees’ Jobs

This idea presents an entertaining way to discover what exactly your employees do on a daily basis. In a sense, you might job-swap with them. Have them explain the things they regularly do, then you attempt to perform it while they watch and give pointers and feedback.

Not only might it provide some laughs for everyone involved, it will undoubtedly offer you a new appreciation for their work. You might find that certain tasks are much more difficult than you would have imagined. Other times, you might surprise your employees with how well you handle certain things.

Regardless, it can help you understand the inner-workings of your company more intimately. But more importantly for Employee Appreciation Day, it lets your staff know that you truly understand what it is they do.

8. Allow Employees to Conduct Performance Assessments for Managers

Similar to doing your workers’ jobs, you could take things a step further and allow them to conduct performance assessments for managers. That way, your company’s leadership gains a better understanding of what they might improve moving forward.

Without a doubt, opening yourself up to this sort of situation can seem terrifying. After all, you don’t always know what employees think of your leadership. You might find that your either too heavy-handed or lax in your management. You may discover harsh truths about yourself. But it has a doubly-positive effect.

  1. Employees have the chance to make their voice heard.
  2. You know what aspects you can improve on to build a stronger and more resilient company.

So, even though it might cause a bit of trepidation, allowing employees to approach you and offer feedback could prove ultimately beneficial.

Always Remember the Importance of Employee Appreciation

Employee Appreciation Day might come around only once per year, but the spirit of the holiday is one which should persist across the entire calendar. Organizational leaders who forget the importance of their workers and their contributions to the company set themselves up for failure. Every single employee is a human with personal goals, hopes, and individual worth. And taking a moment to remember that can turn even the most difficult situations a little more manageable.

So, whether or not you apply any of these ways to celebrate your workforce, make sure you do something. And moreover, do things often. They don’t always have to be major shows of gratitude – after all, you don’t want it to lose its meaning or importance. But make sure that your employees always feel valued, heard, and respected. After all, that’s exactly what you’d want if you were in their place.

Article written by Braden Norwood

Last updated March 27, 2024