Let’s Give Thanks! 10 Out-Of-The-Box Employee Appreciation Ideas

happy employees feeling appreciated

This past year on Employee Appreciation Day, we put together a list of ideas to show your team some gratitude. Now, with the holidays (and particularly Thanksgiving!) right around the corner, we wanted to revisit the topic of employee appreciation.

You can think of our list from earlier this year as our employee appreciation staples. Everyone loves donuts in the breakroom, performance bonuses, and virtual happy hours. But sometimes, you just need to shake things up!

So as we close out another “non-normal” year, here are 10 out-of-the-box ideas to show your employees you appreciate them.


mental health mindfulness subscription apps

Photo by Mello{be}

1. Mindfulness & Mental Health

To start, consider offering employees a free subscription to a mindfulness or mental health support app like Calm or Headspace. Showing employees you care about their well-being (beyond their utility to you as an employer) can go a long way in getting your message of gratitude across.

Plus, offering these types of benefits can lead to some pretty great productivity benefits. For example, Headspace reports user stats like:

  • 32% less stress after 30 days
  • 14% less burnout after 4 sessions
  • 14% greater focus after 4 weeks


business books

Photo by Gillian Perkins

2. Gift Some Knowledge

If you have an avid reader on your team, a more personalized option is to gift them a book for personal or professional development.

Think back to the employee’s last performance review–were there any areas they expressed interest in learning more about or growing in? Or on the personal side, have they recently shared how they’ve started a new hobby or interest like going Paleo or taking up crocheting?

Whatever it may be, make a selection that shows your employee that you’re listening, you support them, and you care. Once you have the book, take a few minutes to write a simple thank-you or message on the inside cover. Bring on the affirmation!


snack nation care package

Photo by Snack Nation

3. Custom Care Package

Running short on time to figure out your gift? Long gone are the days of building care packages from scratch by running around to five different stores. (And then trying to find a spare shoebox to stuff your care package contents into!)

Now, curated care packages are a quick and easy way to show your employees appreciation. Simply browse online offerings from companies like Snack Nation, Caroo, or SwagUp to find the perfect gift for your employee’s unique interests.

Top Tip: If you’re looking for inspo, this is a great list of 100+ ideas to get you started!


award to show employee appreciation

4. Gamify Team Objectives

If you’re looking for a way to show employee appreciation year-round, a great idea is to gamify team objectives. This works best for teams with clear KPIs and can be achieved through competitions, “scoring points”, and rewards.

At SDP, our Sales Team has a “Spartan Award” for the top Sales Rep. Each month, the Rep with the most Sales gets a plaque with their name and revenue added to the Spartan Award trophy. Then, they are also awarded a mini “Sparty” award for that month to keep at their desk.

Adding elements of game playing to your workplace will fuel the natural competition between employees, foster innovation and growth, and keep things fun! Not to mention, this helps create a culture of ongoing recognition and rewards for a job well done.


upgrade office to show employee appreciation, happy employee

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5. Upgrade Your Office

Whether it’s standing desks for the dream team, a state-of-the-art espresso bar, or a break room basketball court, make an investment to improve work-life at your office.

In thinking about what to upgrade, consider what will make the greatest impact on your team. Are employees stressed? Infuse some fun by investing in the break room area, or dedicate a spare office space as a meditation zone.

On the other hand, if your workspaces are a little outdated, options like a new, faster computer or standing desks could dramatically improve employee satisfaction at work.


take dog to work

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6. “Take Your Pet To Work” Day

Employees may have gotten used to having their four-legged friends around during quarantine, but having pets around in the office may also have a number of benefits for teams.

In a study by Virginia Commonweath University, researchers found that pets in the workplace were a significant stress buffer for employees. Principal investigator Randolph T. Barker, Ph.D., summarizes the findings by sharing,

Pet presence may serve as a low-cost, wellness intervention readily available to many organizations and may enhance organizational satisfaction and perceptions of support. Of course, it is important to have policies in place to ensure only friendly, clean and well-behaved pets are present in the workplace.

Try this out for one day, or make it a recurring office event! Just be mindful of any employee allergies or animal fears to ensure no one is left feeling alienated or unable to perform their work.


man eating at food truck

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7. Food Truck Lunch

Catering lunch for your team is an employee appreciation staple, so why not kick it up a notch? Rather than filling your break room with take-out pizza, sandwich platters, soups, and family-style pasta trays, book a food truck instead!

Businesses like Roaming Hunger allow you to find and book food trucks for your next company lunch. Aside from being a fun bonding experience for your team, food trucks also provide a wider range of food options as a special treat!

Top Tip: This would also be a great opportunity to take some pictures to post on social media to enhance your employer brand!


maid for house for employee appreciation

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8. Home Services

Another way to show employees you care is to make life easier for them outside of the office. After all, it’s much harder to give 100% at work when you know you still have a mile-long to-do list awaiting you when you get home.

Consider offering employees benefits like a stipend for laundry delivery, house cleaning, or meal delivery kits to help reduce their at-home workload.

That way, workers can enjoy more time at home with their families, and they’ll also be able to bring their whole selves to work, be more focused, and more productive!


office christmas stockings

9. Christmas Stockings

In the mood for some Christmas spirit? Another fun idea to show some appreciation to your team is to create stockings for each of your employees.

Hang them in the lobby, by a mantle, your office tree (if you’re getting one!), or set the stage with other decorations. You can then fill the stockings with candy, gift cards, thank-you notes, and other small gifts.

In the example above, we filled stockings with mini candy canes to dip in a nearby hot cocoa station!


asking employee how they want to receive appreciation

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10. Make A Wish!

Still not sure of the best way to show appreciation to your team? That’s okay! Sometimes the best thing to do when you don’t know what to get someone is simply to ask!

At your next company meeting, schedule time at the end to pass around sticky notes to your employees. Then, have everyone write down ideas they’d like to see at your workplace that would make them feel appreciated. (You may want to give some guidelines as to what is realistic for your business!)

Once done, put all the sticky notes on a board for everyone to see. Are there any trends or commonalities? What seems doable? What seems like a stretch that could be modified to be more feasible? Talk through it with your team to find a way to bring their wishes to life!

What do you think?

How do you show employee appreciation to your team? We’d love to hear your own experiences and what has worked for your business in the comments below! For more HR tips and tricks, don’t forget to follow us on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn to make sure you never miss a beat!

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