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34 Employee Appreciation Ideas That Won’t Break The Bank

Employee appreciation has a reputation for being difficult. First you’ve got to think of some way to do it. What will my employees respond to? What will they enjoy? And then you’ve got money to consider. It can’t be too expensive or you won’t be able to do it often enough to make it worthwhile.

Despite the undeserved reputation, there are plenty of ways to show that you value your staff without breaking the bank. This article will give you 34 ways to show your employees that they are valuable.

Easy And Affordable Employee Appreciation Ideas

1. Rent a barista for a day

Rent a fancy coffee machine for a day. Bring in all the flavors and fixings (whipcream, caramel and chocolate sauce, nutmeg, etc.) and then hire a barista to make all the drinks your employees want.

2. Have 1-on-1 time

Too often, your office is a place people go when they’re in trouble—it’s like the principal’s office. Instead, make it a habit to call employees to your office to show your appreciation. It will make you (and your office) seem less scary.

3. Memory Trophy

Purchase a trophy and award it to an outstanding employee each week. At the end of the week, the employee must return the trophy with something personal attached. After 52 weeks (one year), have a trophy party and review all the attached objects and the memories they represent. Then retire the trophy and start again.

4. Institute summer hours

People enjoying summer hours as part of employee appreciation

Show you appreciate your employees by rewarding them with summer hours. Give each employee four opportunities to only work a half day. Summer is a time when people want to be outside so give your employees the chance to do so.

5. Swap desks

This is a fun way to show a little employee appreciation. Switch desks with a high-performing employee for a day. They still have to do their work but now they get to do it from the comfort of your office.

6. Special parking

Designate a parking space for a star employee. Then reward a team member by letting them park there for a week or a month.

7. Upgrade the coffee machine

Coffee for employee appreciation

Coffee is the lifeblood of your workplace. As such, the coffee machine is like the holy grail. Periodically replace or upgrade the machine as a way to show your employee appreciation.

8. Send a fancy note

Get some nice paper and handwrite a thank-you note to the employee who did a great job. In addition, send a copy of the letter to the employee’s manager or supervisor. And be sure to put a copy in the employee’s permanent file for future reference.

9. Rent a car for a week

Rent a luxury car for a week and let the special employee drive it. This is a great way to show your employee appreciation for a big job well done. It saves the employee gas money and it saves the wear and tear on their car for a week. Plus, it’s just fun to drive a rental sometimes. It can be a bit expensive so you might want to reserve this for once-a-year rewards.

10. Funny money

Create your own office cash (or use Monopoly money) and distribute it when someone does a good job. At the end of each quarter, employees can then redeem that funny money for prizes.

11. Have a pizza party

It’s by no means an original idea, but everyone loves pizza. Ordering pizza for a high-performing team or as a way to recognize an individual accomplishment is still a great way to show your appreciation.

12. Put it in the newspaper

Newspapers are always looking for things to print. Harness this need for a way to show your employee appreciation. Write up an article about the employee of the month and submit it for publication in your local newspaper. When the issue is printed, cut out the article, frame it, and give it to your employee.

13. Give a subscription

For a job well done, reward an employee with a subscription. It can be a magazine, a newspaper, a website, an Amazon membership, a local coffee club—the sky’s the limit. Give the employee the choice which subscription to get and you’ll make it all the more personal.

14. Hand out boxes of Girl Scout cookies

This is a fun way to reward both an individual employee and all your employees at the same time. If the employee who did a good job has a daughter in the Girl Scouts, buy a bunch of cookies from them and then give them out to the other employees.

15. Movie time

Gift card to movies for employee appreciation

Show your appreciation for an employee by giving her a gift certificate to the movies and an afternoon off to use it. You can also reward the whole team by arranging for a movie night after work.

16. Play the lottery

Nothing says thank you like a million dollars…or the chance to win it. Lottery tickets are usually pretty cheap (under $5) so you can give them out periodically as a reward for going above and beyond.

17. Bring donuts

Like pizza, donuts are a tried-and-true way to show your employee appreciation. Have a box or two delivered every other week or at the end of the month and then watch your employees smile.

18. Video games

Rent a big-screen TV and a video game system and give your employees an afternoon to play.

19. Upgrade the breakroom supplies

Most breakrooms have the bare minimum—coffee and creamer. Why not go above and beyond and stock it with the works: juice, candy, water, snacks, and other little treats.

20. Feature them in a newsletter

If your company produces an email newsletter, write up a blurb about an outstanding employee or team and publish it there. Everyone likes to see their name in print and it can be a great way to make the other employees aware of a job well done.

21. Pay it forward

This is the one time when gossip can be good. If you hear a positive remark made about an employee, let that employee know about it. Let his managers and supervisors know about the positive remark too.

22. Present to upper management

Arrange for a team or employee to describe what they’ve done to upper management. This can make the employee or team feel like their accomplishment is worthwhile and forge connections between them and their managers.

23. Games for the win

Surprise your employees by bringing in a ping pong table and/or board games. Then give them time during the day to relax and unwind.

24. Pay transportation fees for a week

Getting to and from work can be expensive. Show your employee appreciation by paying for gas for a week. If they don’t drive, consider paying their bus or cab fare instead.

25. Little gifts

Not all employee appreciation has to be big, once-a-month things. Little gifts can go a long way a as well. Consider giving out $10 gift cards or candy when an employee does something good. That way, you can reinforce your appreciation more often.

26. Mention her in a meeting

It’s a simple thing, but just the matter of having her accomplishments highlighted during a staff meeting can show how much you appreciate her effort.

27. Singing telegram

Hire someone (preferably a professional) to dress up as a gorilla or a cowboy (or something else fun) and sing the praises of an individual or a team. Before you reveal the singing telegram, gather everyone together in a conference room or the lobby. That way everyone gets to enjoy the fun. To really make it personal, try writing your own lyrics to a catchy tune like “All About That Bass”.

28. Reward them with a clean home

No one likes to get off work only to return to a dirty house or apartment. Hire a cleaning service to give an outstanding employee’s dwelling a thorough cleaning once a week for a month. If that employee is married or has a roommate, they’ll be grateful as well.

29. Just say thank you

Sometimes, just saying thank you is an effective way to show your employee appreciation. Pull the employee aside (maybe to your office), shake his hand, pat him on the back, and express your gratitude for their hard work.

30. Post a sticky note

Along the lines of just saying thank you, surprise an employee by posting a thank-you sticky note on their computer (or on their locker) while they’re away.

31. Detail their car

Arrange for an outstanding employee’s car to be detailed. If you can have it done while they’re at work, it will be an even bigger surprise.

32. Cake

Using cake to show employees appreciation

Once a month, have a special cake (or cupcakes) made for an outstanding team or team member. Gather everyone together, thank the employee or team, and then dig in.

33. Take a break and play a game

There are plenty of options for workplace games—both longer ones and shorter ones. One good option is to have employees bring in a baby picture from when they were two years old (or whatever age you choose). Post them all on the wall and then have employees guess who’s who.

34. Post a thank you video on YouTube

Recording and uploading videos is so simple these days. Take advantage of this simplicity by composing a video outlining a specific employee’s accomplishments and thanking them for their hard work. Post the video to YouTube or some other social media site. Then send the link to everyone in the office and the employee’s family if you have that information.

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