It’s official: COVID-19 cases are spiking again around the world, and the sudden transition to remote work is becoming more permanent for many businesses. Companies like Hewett Packard have implemented semi-permanent work from home that extend until the end of 2021, while other enterprises like Twitter have made remote work a permanent offer for all employees. In the midst of all this change, many companies are struggling to develop creative employee appreciation ideas for remote workers who are feeling alienated and isolated in their new work-from-home lifestyles.
In this post, we’ll provide 15 creative and unique employee appreciation ideas for companies looking to reward their newly remote employees. Use these ideas to inspire and motivate your workforce — it’s more important than ever!
1. Provide Work from Home Equipment
One of the best employee appreciation ideas for remote workers is providing them proper office equipment. Remote workers notoriously suffer from back and neck pain, bad posture, and carpal tunnel because of at-home working conditions, which will slowly erode an employee’s health over time. Your company can combat these anticipated health issues by providing a catalog of ergonomic office equipment that alleviates these stressors.
First, compile a list of work from home equipment that your company is willing to provide and send it out to employees, asking them to submit their requests. Once your employees have submitted their requests, have the equipment shipped directly to their homes for convenience. This not only boosts employee happiness, but it also cuts down on future health costs for your company.
2. Give Them a Long Weekend
There’s nothing better than getting a nice surprise at the end of the week. The monotony of working from home can often wear remote employees down, so consider allowing your remote employees to take the occasional Friday off. This is a great way to reward them for their hard work and give them extra time to spend with family, blow off steam, and destress before the coming workweek.
A long weekend is especially meaningful for remote employees who are balancing childcare, housework, or even feeling overwhelmed by the constant stressful news cycle. In fact, the human brain is not built to consume global tragedy at the rate we do now, and offering time off for employees feeling overwhelmed is a meaningful employee appreciation idea that you can easily take advantage of.
3. Surprise Them With Flowers
Let your employees know you’re thinking of them from afar by sending flowers to celebrate a special occasion! This employee appreciation idea is especially great if your remote worker is celebrating a work anniversary or birthday remotely. Hitting these milestones alone at home can feel underwhelming, but a small gesture of appreciation from the company goes a long way to combat these feelings of isolation. If you’re using a corporate perks platform, you can even get discounts on flower delivery.
4. Offer Discounts on Food Delivery and Takeout
Food delivery is on the rise with the onset of COVID-19. Employees are staying home to protect their families and themselves, and many people are running out of creative recipes to try every evening. Cooking meals every night can be exhausting, especially for working parents who are balancing childcare and working from home as a part of their standard workday. One way your company can show appreciation for hard working employees is by providing them discounts and credits toward food delivery apps and gift cards to local restaurants.
Not only does this employee appreciation idea help alleviate some stress for your employees, but it helps restaurants as well, which are in desperate need of support during COVID-19. The number of seated diners in restaurants has declined an alarming 64% percent compared to 2019 due to COVID-19 restrictions. While this decline is necessary for the safety of public health, restaurants need to take drastic measures to stay afloat while they wait to reopen dining rooms. Gift cards and takeout orders are how they are staying in business.
5. Plan Virtual Happy Hours and Game Nights
A quick and easy way to demonstrate employee appreciation is by setting up after-hours virtual happy hours with employees. Your workers can enjoy a beverage of their choice — whether it’s a glass of wine or a glass of water — catch up on what’s happening outside of work, and even play online games together.
We recommend checking out two online games employees can play together: the first being Skribbl. Skribbl is an online drawing game where up to 12 players choose from a series of words to draw using their mouse. The first person to guess the word gets the most points, and so on. At the end of each game, the total number of points are tallied and the winner is determined based on both the number of words they guessed correctly and how quickly they were able to guess those words based on the player’s drawing!
The second game we recommend is an online trivia game called QuizUp. QuizUp offers a wide range of subjects so every employee can have their chance to shine by answering trivia questions in their favorite category. Host a team-wide trivia night where your employees can put their knowledge to the test!
6. Shout Out Successes on Video Calls
Public recognition is the most impactful, but now that employees are staying home, recognizing employees publicly has become more difficult. One employee appreciation idea is to recognize an employee’s efforts on a group video call. You can do this in many ways — through a slideshow presentation, verbally, or by displaying statistics on how this employee is standing out from the crowd. By the way, leveraging a rewards and recognition platform that highlights these successes in a social feed, similar to what you would see on Facebook or Twitter, is also an extremely helpful tool to recognize employees publicly.
7. Start a Virtual Book Club
If you have a group of literary employees who have a passion for the written word, a great employee appreciation idea is to start a virtual book club. Employees love having a social outlet to talk about their favorite books, and you can foster this passion by setting up a monthly recurring calendar invite to talk about all things books and provide small rewards for employees who have finished that month’s reading. You can also start an internal chat channel dedicated to what employees are reading and assign the next month’s book club pick there.
8. Send Personalized Recognition for Hard Work
It’s a well-known fact that employee recognition should be highly specific. One simple employee appreciation idea is to send personalized recognition to an employee who has been responsive, helpful, and on top of their work now that your company has transitioned to remote work.
An easy way to send this type of personalized recognition is to use a rewards and recognition platform where you can write a customized message of appreciation to your employee thanking them for their hard work, which will then be published on a social feed for others to see. You can even set the recognition as private if you would like — what truly matters is that you are specific and detailed about what the employee is doing right. This reinforces that their behavior is positive and encourages them to continue it in the future. Along with your recognition, you can even include rewards points that your employee can redeem for items, gift cards, or company swag.
9. Write a LinkedIn Recommendation
This employee appreciation idea takes only a few minutes but can make a huge impact. Take five minutes out of your day to write a great employee a LinkedIn recommendation. Anyone viewing their profile can read these recommendations, and they are especially meaningful coming from management. This effort not only boosts morale and shows how much you care, but also provides a publicly professional endorsement of your employee’s skills and dedication to their job.
10. Create a Virtual Wellness Program
One way to show appreciation for employees and (incentivize them during COVID-19) is to create a virtual employee wellness program. Employee wellness programs demonstrate that you are invested in your employees’ health and wellbeing during these strange times and give you the opportunity to reward them.
When creating a wellness program, first establish fitness and wellness goals. For example, you can set a milestone of exercising for 15 minutes every day for a week or meditating each night before bed. Wellness goals don’t have to be lofty — you simply want to motivate your employees to improve their health for the long-run.
Next, set a budget, and establish your program’s rewards. You can use a rewards and recognition program to easily distribute these rewards. Your wellness program should have a rewards system built in where employees can earn points for reaching specific goals that they can exchange for items and experiences. This is the easiest way to reward employees because it provides something for everyone. Include rewards for hitting specific milestones like a half day off, rewards points that they can use to redeem gift cards, or company swag. Employees will enjoy the unique rewards they receive from the program and the encouragement to stay healthy while stuck at home.
11. Give a Gift to Your Employees’ Pets
This employee appreciation idea will come as a complete surprise to your employees — a gift for a pet is unexpected and delightful! Send employees a package filled with toys and treats for their furry friends. If your employees love to take their dogs to the park, consider adding toys like the Chuckit! Pro Launcher that allows you to play fetch for hours or a durable and nontoxic frisbee for hours of safe outdoor fun. If your employees love cuddling with their cats on the couch or getting in some indoor playtime, get them a handmade catnip blanket, a Petlinks motion activated automatic cat toy, or some adorable catnip toys that look like sushi.
12. Host Virtual Awards Ceremonies
Now that employees are working remotely, it might seem difficult to give out awards like “Employee of the Month” since communication among companies happens almost completely virtually. However, it may surprise you to know that Employee of the Month awards (and awards similar to them) can still be celebrated with a remote workforce! All you need is a rewards and recognition platform.
With a rewards and recognition platform, managers can nominate employees for specific awards and send out requests to their workforces to submit their votes on who should win. You can request that the entire company votes or narrow your focus on a specific department or team.
Once the votes are tallied, set up a video call with those involved in the voting process to announce the winner. Put together a list of reasons the employee won this award to read out loud. If others left specific comments during the voting process, be sure to read those aloud as well to make the employee feel recognized for their efforts. To make the award extra special, highlight the winner on your website’s homepage, in a blog post, or on a new page dedicated to celebrating your current Employee of the Month.
13. Send Them a Spa Care Package
With a global pandemic and a cultural revolution in our midst, employees are obviously stressed and overwhelmed by the constant news cycle. One simple employee appreciation idea is to send employees an at-home spa care package, complete with peaceful bath salts, an aromatic candle, natural tea, and honey. This small employee appreciation gift will encourage your employees to practice self-care and destress in their downtime. Let your employees know you’re invested in their wellbeing even if they are stuck at home.
14. Offer Online Learning and Development Courses
Employees working remotely might be feeling a little lost when it comes to their professional development. Working from home every day doesn’t provide the same social benefits that working out of an office does, and as in-person interactions with management reduce with new remote work schedules, some employees are wondering what the next step is in their careers.
Just because many businesses aren’t operating in an office doesn’t mean you can’t still invest in employees’ professional development. One way to appreciate your employees and ensure they have a clear understanding of their career paths is to offer online learning and development courses. Online courses from Designlab, GoSkills, and Sparktivity can help employees grow their skills and keep them motivated during a time of unprecedented isolation.
15. Handwrite a Simple Thank You
The working world has become more reliant on technology than ever with the onset of COVID-19, and most communication between managers and employees happens digitally. A simple employee appreciation idea is to handwrite a thank-you note to an employee who you think is doing outstanding work and mail it to their home. As an added bonus, you can include a gift card to somewhere the employee likes to frequent, like a local restaurant offering food delivery!
One tip: be sure to use tape to seal the envelope to avoid any possible COVID-19 contamination.
Employee Appreciation Starts With You
These employee appreciation ideas are just a few ways you can get started. There are thousands of ways to appreciate employees, so be sure to use these 15 ideas as a starting point for integrating rewards and recognition into your daily work routine. Remember that employee appreciation starts with you, and the most important thing to keep in mind during these strange times is that employees rely on you to keep morale up and spirits high. Don’t let them down.
Erin Nelson is a Digital Marketing Manager at Fond with over six years of B2B SaaS marketing experience. Erin has authored dozens of articles on employee rewards and recognition and frequently researches new trends in R&R. In their spare time, you can find them playing music, reading about socioeconomic and gender-based politics, and listening to true crime podcasts.