Organizational Wellness

Eleven Employee Recognition Ideas to Boost Joy in the Workplace

Mar 30, 2021
Last Updated May 17, 2024

We all know the proud — sometimes even joyful! — feeling we get when we receive positive feedback in front of our peers. It's no secret that public acknowledgement of our work feels good, and employee recognition is no different.

It’s a great case of what goes around comes around. Not only do people feel good when their work is acknowledged, the public recognition can contribute to a positive work environment, boost morale and productivity, and increase employee retention. This sets the stage for positive collaboration and recognition, kickstarting a great feedback loop.

There are so many ways you can start this virtuous cycle. From handwritten notes to award ceremonies, employee appreciation ideas can spread joy and gratitude company-wide. Let's jump into eleven great ways to recognize employees and build a culture of appreciation at your organization.

  1. Handwritten Thank You Notes

The act of writing out a thank you note takes time and thoughtfulness. It shows you care about adding a personal touch to express your gratitude.

Team members can get creative with delivering these notes to make it fun and have a greater impact. For instance, they could leave sticky notes on their desk to surprise their colleagues when they arrive in the morning. Or they could create a wall of notes featuring messages of appreciation from everyone on the team. This thoughtful gesture would show gratitude and bring people closer together as they share positive experiences through peer recognition.

  1. Team Lunches

To celebrate project milestones or an uptick in sales, consider treating your team to a meal! You could hire a food truck, get catering at the office, or cover the cost of your team's lunch at a restaurant. If you have remote employees, you can pay for a food delivery service or reimburse them for their meals.

Team lunches can go a long way as everyone indulges in delicious treats and has fun conversations with colleagues. You can make the experience even more meaningful with conversation starters focusing on appreciation. For example, what is everyone most proud of from the last project? Or what is one thing each person appreciates about another team member? Asking these questions can bring teams closer together and even spark new ideas.  

  1. Personalized Gifts

Personalized gifts are a unique and thoughtful way to express gratitude. Birthdays and work anniversaries are examples of great occasions to give customized gifts. You could buy a mug with the employee's name emblazoned on it, for example, or a custom-made calendar with images of the office dogs.

You could also get creative with a gift based on their interests. For instance, you could buy a book on local hiking trails for an outdoors enthusiast or a tea sampler for an avid tea drinker. Whatever you choose, the important thing is that it makes them feel seen and valued.

  1. Wall of Fame Bulletin Board

Building a "Wall of Fame" is an effective way to publicly congratulate employees for going the extra mile. You can display photos of those who have earned "employee of the month" on a literal wall, say, in your break room, or a virtual one shared on your website or through Slack.

Next to their photo, you can write down what each person achieved, a funny joke they recently made, or a quote they live by. And the images you use don't have to be plain old headshots. They can be fun artist illustrations or comics depicting your employees as superheroes or quirky TV characters. Ideally, this wall of fame can be both a source of entertainment and a motivating reminder to keep up the good work.

  1. Extra Time Off

Giving employees an extra day off to enjoy a long weekend can be another excellent way to show appreciation. They can use this time to go on vacation, get a workout in, or do something else beneficial to their health and wellbeing.

You can also give employees extra time off to pursue their passions or take on projects that are meaningful to them. Giving employees a break from the daily grind allows them to recharge and return to work feeling reinvigorated.

  1. Monthly Award Ceremonies

If you run monthly award ceremonies in your organization, make sure they feel like they fit in with the company culture. They could be traditional or a more informal affair.

Say you want to host a more traditional award ceremony. One way to make them more meaningful is to award people for specific skills or accomplishments. For example, you could have an award for the "Most Creative Thinker" or the "Best Collaborator."

On the other hand, if you prefer something more informal, your ceremony could be more of an open forum for people to recognize and appreciate their colleagues. This could be done through storytelling or simply giving kudos to those who have done great work. You could also get silly with it and give out plaques or trophies for "Coolest Dance Moves" or "Best Dad Jokes."

  1. Social Media Shout Outs

By recognizing employees on platforms like LinkedIn, companies can reach a wider audience and showcase talented individuals to their colleagues, partners, and clients. This type of recognition helps build a positive culture while giving employees the necessary visibility to grow professionally.

Social media shoutouts can be done as an employee spotlight or a post featuring awesome teamwork. Consider including photos or videos to make the post feel personal and engaging. You'll know you're doing it right when co-workers choose to share the post on their personal profiles!

  1. Company Swag

Swag can range from t-shirts with the company logo to hats, mugs, or other items with company branding. Not only does this show appreciation for individual contributions, but it also helps make your staff feel like they are part of a team. In the same way that a sports team fan might buy a jersey to show their support, providing your employees with company swag is a great way to help them feel connected and loyal.

  1. Prime Parking Spots

If your staff works on-site, consider rewarding employees with the best parking spots at your building. Prime parking spots can be given on a rotating basis so that everyone who does outstanding work can get the spot closest to the entrance.

This type of recognition is especially meaningful for employees who may have long commutes or live in cities with congested traffic. It's an easy way to reduce stress and show that you value them as part of your team.

  1. Relaxation Perks

Relaxation perks recognize your staff's hard work and allow them to recharge in a way they might not get to very often. One option is to treat your employees to a professional massage. You could also offer gift cards to a spa or wellness center. And if you want to really get zen with it, you could set them up with unique wellness activities like sound baths, meditation, or yoga retreats.

  1. Charitable Donations

If you have employees that are really passionate about a specific cause, you can offer to make a charitable donation to that cause. This shows that you care about your staff's interests and want to support their drive to have a positive impact on the community. Alternatively, your company can host a fundraiser in the office or at a happy hour to raise money for the charity or cause that your team cares about.

Fostering a Culture of Recognition and Wellbeing

It's important to remember that employee recognition isn't just meant for performance reviews. When it’s a part of your everyday office culture, everyone can contribute to building a supportive community within your organization.

But how do you know if it's working? One way is to establish an employee recognition program that you can track and monitor. For example, say a manager rewards their team with a catered lunch. The next step would be to follow what happened in the weeks following the celebration. Did performance improve? Did job satisfaction increase? These insights can help you better understand what works and ensure your recognition efforts have the desired effect.

The end goal  here is to ensure that your program is working, that it’s improving employee morale and work-life wellness. And we can help you get there! If you're looking for more ways to improve your workforce wellbeing, reach out to a Wellbeing Specialist today.

Company healthcare costs drop by up to 35% with Wellhub! (* Based on proprietary research comparing healthcare costs of active Wellhub users to non-users.) Talk to a Wellbeing Specialist to see how we can help reduce your healthcare spending!




Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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