20 Thoughtful, Low-Cost, Remote-Friendly Employee Rewards

Written by
Connie Du
Connie Du

Okay, we admit defeat. In an effort to keep our communities safe from COVID-19, Bonusly isn’t going back to the office anytime soon. We’re thinking many of you are in the same boat! 🤗

It’s been rough—I miss spontaneous banter with my coworkers, Wednesday team lunches, and the general camaraderie that comes with seeing team members at the office. But it’s also been awesome to see how we’ve adjusted to remote work. It’s taken a lot of experimentation, flexibility, and creativity, but we’ve made it work. 💪

One thing we’ve adjusted is how we think about employee rewards. Many of the perks and rewards we’re used to are centered around the office—daily snacks, team-building events and activities, and more. So, we really had to put our brains together to think of low-cost, remote-friendly employee rewards for a COVID-19 world. 🧠

Here’s a list that’s been working for our team, and hopefully it’ll work for your organization, too!

Appreciation video Plant delivery Mentorship program
Send a postcard Creative emojis Treat delivery 
Write a haiku Book club Picnic lunch
Liquor delivery Volunteer remotely Acts-of-service auction
Public recognition Music apps Lunch stipend
WFH equipment budget Virtual games Dedicated time 
CEO Ask Me Anythings Health/wellness stipend  

1. Appreciation video

A few months after Bonusly started working remotely due to COVID-19, we kicked off a quick video project. Participating employees shot a selfie video thanking our leadership team for their care and flexibility as we transitioned to remote work, which was stitched together into a full appreciation video!We surprised them by playing it at our all-hands meeting, and it was a hit! Yes, there were happy tears. 😄📹

This is an easy but meaningful way to show your appreciation, whether it’s on a company-wide or individual level. If you’re on a Mac, Apple iMovie will work in a pinch, but there’s also tons of free video editing software out there!

2. Plant delivery

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According to US News & World Report, British and Dutch researchers have “found that having office plants created a better work environment.”

Since many employees have had to quickly transition to remote work, it’s likely that their office space may not be very visually inspiring.

Check out Bloomscape and The Sill for indoor plant delivery, and provide your employees with some much-needed greenery in their Zoom backgrounds!

3. Mentorship program

According to our 2019 Employee Engagement and Modern Workplace Report, 91% of Highly Engaged employees are satisfied with their professional development opportunities, compared to only 28% of Actively Disengaged employees.

You should be thinking about how you can help your employees learn and grow, but there are many ways you can do this besides paying for expensive conferences and course tuition. Establishing an official mentoring program empowers employees to build relationships, shadow others in desirable roles, and find opportunities for growth.

4. Send a postcard or gift

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Anybody else love snail mail? 🐌👋

Sending cute postcards or small gifts with a handwritten note is a quick way of showing someone you’re thinking of them. Plus, they can pin it up in their workspace, for a quick happiness boost every time they look at it!

5. Creative Emojis

Does your company use Slack or Microsoft Teams as communication apps? There are many ways to use emojis as a reward. For example, custom emojis of Bonusly employees are always a hot commodity.

You could also designate a special emoji for certain accomplishments that a teammate could add to their display name, so that accomplishment is visible across the organization. For example, if Ambica on the sales team has landed the most quarterly deals so far, she definitely deserves that 👑 next to her name for the week!

6. Treat delivery

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With everyone going into quarantine, there has never been more treat delivery options! Check out remote snack boxes, these incredible cookies, or scroll through local options on Doordash. Even small deliveries can be an exciting pick-me-up on employee birthdays, work anniversaries, or after a successful project completion!

7. Book club

We have an active Slack channel dedicated to reading, so it was natural that when a bunch of us were interested in a specific book, we set up time for a book club meeting! It was fun to read along with coworkers and discuss what we thought of the book!

Plus, if it involves professional development, this is a great opportunity to “sponsor” the book club and mail out copies of your chosen book to all participants. We especially recommend Radical Candor: How to Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity.

8. Write a haiku

They’re short and simple

Kindness from a coworker

Works well with humor

9. Picnic lunch

Enjoy the outdoors, relax with your teammates, and practice social distancing! After months of missing team lunch, some of us met up and had a picnic lunch together. We all sat on our own picnic blankets and were able to expense our lunches. 😎

10. Liquor delivery 

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A silver lining to quarantine? Relaxed liquor laws.

Many grocery and liquor stores are now offering delivery, meaning that it’s easy to send a bottle of wine to a colleague who really deserves it! Plus, many restaurants are now offering delivery and take-out cocktails. Cheers! 🍸🍹🍷🍺

11. Remote volunteering

Maybe when you think of volunteering as a team, you may think of gathering trash on a beach, or helping clean an animal shelter.

While these activities are certainly still possible while remaining socially distant, there are many ways to support a non-profit organization that doesn’t require meeting in person. Consider a fundraising telethon blitz, website maintenance, proofreading or transcribing, and more! VolunteerMatch is a good place to start looking for opportunities.

12. Acts-of-service auction

Do you know the Languages of Appreciation? Gifts are the #1 preference for employees, but in cash-strapped times, it can be just as meaningful to offer up an act of service.

Plan a virtual auction where employees can trade small tasks in exchange for other acts of service. For example, I would gladly organize Kate’s Google Drive folders in exchange for a well-designed custom emoji.

13. Public recognition

People should be recognized for their hard work, but this can be challenging when everyone is working remotely. You have to find a way to recognize employees, even when you don't meet face-to-face.

A recognition software like Bonusly makes recognition visible and fun across the organization, and is a great way to connect team members during COVID-19.

See Bonusly in action, request a demo

14. Lunch stipend 

Were you an office that offered snacks or lunch as perks? Allocate that in-office budget to a WFH lunch stipend! Bonusly offers $40 a week as a lunch stipend while we’re all working remotely. It’s a new take on a popular perk, and we definitely appreciate it!

15. Music apps 

virtual-celebration-01

Are your employees languishing in quiet (besides for Zoom calls) at home? A fun way to fill the silence and bring employees together is by utilizing free music streaming apps like Vertigo or JQBX.

What’s fun about these apps is that a group of people can add songs to a queue, and virtually all listen to the same music together. It’s a way to feel closer to your coworkers, find new commonalities, and hear some new tunes!

16. WFH equipment budget

Similar to our lunch stipend, Bonusly’s WFH budget was a (work)lifesaver for many of us who just weren’t equipped to work full-time at home. Ergonomic desk chairs, noise-canceling headphones, and WiFi extenders were all popular options for our team members.

Plus, if you can’t make this work with your financials, consider letting your employees borrow equipment from the office. If nobody is using it anyway, why not let your employees take home their desktop monitor or standing desk?

17. Virtual games

Having fun at work is so important, especially since remote work can lead to isolation and disconnection from your team members. Setting aside time to blow off some steam can make a big impact on employee engagement and morale.

There are many, many fun, virtual games to play with coworkers. Consider a subscription to Water Cooler Trivia or purchasing a Jackbox Games party box to build culture, build closer relationships, and have some fun at work!

18. Dedicated time off

At Bonusly, we’ve been dedicating one Friday a month as “Rest from Home Days”—a way for our leadership team to acknowledge how many employees are working longer and harder throughout the pandemic.

With many scheduled vacations and plans being canceled, and mandatory remote work heavily blurring the lines between work and personal life, it’s important to make sure your employees have the time to actually rest and recharge.

19. CEO Ask Me Anythings (AMAs)

At Bonusly, our CEO hosted regular AMAs at the height of COVID-19 so we could ask questions as things changed. And it doesn't have to be all serious—we also loved getting to see his backyard chickens. 🐔

These transparent, roundtable chats are so rewarding to employees, because it showcases that a company cares about its people. Building trust through these AMAs is a great way to keep up employee morale as we work remotely.

20. Health/wellness stipend

Similar to having a lunch or WFH stipend, you should be thinking about your employees’ health and wellness during these strange times. Employees are mourning their summer plans, their ability to see friends and family, racial injustice in the United States, economic instability, a lack of normalcy in general… er, yeah, there’s a lot to stress about. 😬

Whether it's a virtual yoga app subscription or online therapy sessions, offer a health and wellness stipend to your employees. It shows that you care about them as people, and that you're working through this crisis together. 💪

How are you rewarding your employees?

We've tried-and-tested many of these rewards, and they've gone a long way in building our remote culture and keeping us connected.

And if you find that people are losing interest? Don't be afraid to switch it up! Times are weird. Our brains just want stimulation. 🧠😂

For more ideas, check out 65 Creative Employee Reward Ideas and our Comprehensive Guide to Remote Work.

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Originally published on August 18, 2020 → Last updated August 26, 2020

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Connie Du

Connie is on the marketing team at Bonusly and is dedicated to making workdays a little brighter for everyone. ☀️She loves writing, her cats, and a well-placed emoji.

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Bonusly is a fun, personal employee recognition and rewards program that helps people feel engaged and successful at work. ✨