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25 Unique Employee Appreciation Ideas Your Staff Will Love

Written by
Connie Du
Connie Du

At Bonusly, you’ll never find us without a good staff appreciation idea. After all, recognition-rich cultures have been proven to improve engagement, reduce turnover, and even increase productivity.

To learn more about the importance of employee recognition, download our Guide to Modern Employee Recognition!

We've assembled a list of staff appreciation ideas so you can get started on your own team. And if you have any questions around appreciation, let one of our appreciation experts help you further:

Food truck lunch Puppy playdate Meaningful gifts
Summer Fridays Spa-ffice day Reward your early arrivers
Work from elsewhere Secret Recognition Santa Pass the trophy
Volunteer as a team LinkedIn recommendation Shout outs
Upgrade an office essential Close the office early DJ for the day
Incentivize feedback Celebrate milestones “Up-to-you” hours
Celebrate holidays Website or newsletter features Team retreat
Donate to employees’ causes Random acts of fun VIP parking spot
Special treats Write a haiku Share swag

Plus, it's important to keep in mind the five key “languages of appreciation"Words of AffirmationActs of ServiceQuality TimePhysical Touch, or Gifts. 

(We dive into that concept more here, in a partnership with SurveyMonkey!)

Each one of the ideas above ☝️ is marked with the language of appreciation it corresponds to. Ask around, or use a simple survey, for your teams’ language of appreciation, and let’s get started! ✨

1. Food truck lunch

Acts of Service, Quality Time


Go a step further than ordering in lunch! Ordering from a food truck is always a fun experience, and it’s a way to treat employees to food that would be a great change in pace from their standard repertoire of soup and sandwiches.

This is also a great time to take a break and enjoy a picnic lunch together—an excellent team bonding opportunity!

2. Puppy playdate 

Quality Time

When the Humane Society of Boulder Valley visited Bonusly HQ with puppies, it was basically the best day of our lives. 🐶

Having a dog-friendly office has a ton of benefits for humans (although doggos probably love it, as well). A 2017 study showed that employees at dog-friendly offices are less stressed, more collaborative, and more likely to give higher ratings of trustworthiness to their team members.

Of course, it’s not possible for every office to be dog-friendly. A great way to feel those same benefits is by partnering with your local humane society or rescue organization to schedule a puppy pitstop by the office. Aside from playing with adorable dogs, team members get to take a break, spend time together (dogs in the office are also shown to be an excellent ice breaker), and make some great memories.

3. Meaningful gifts 



Putting together a company-sponsored happy hour is always nice. However, it can be really easy for employees to feel like this is an insincere effort to curb negativity and disengagement in the office.

Need some inspiration? Click here to download our big list of Creative Employee Reward Ideas!

That’s why it’s so important to give employees “voice and choice”—some teams would love a weekly team lunch, while others would prefer other perks, like gas reimbursement or a wellness program. Gather opinions and survey your employees before pulling out the company card!

4. Summer Fridays

Acts of Service

When it’s July and it’s beautiful outside, your employees will enjoy the opportunity to enjoy it! From entire Fridays off to just a couple hours every week, this is a perk that your team members will definitely appreciate. 

One reason to offer summer hours is that it gives your employees more time to recover from work-related stress. By leaving work [early] on Friday, employees see that you value their mental health and work/life balance. You'll be able to prevent burnout and boost productivity.
–Sasha Butkovich, Justworks


5. Spa-ffice day

Acts of Service


Give employees a break from the day by taking some time for tranquility. Offer professional 15-minute neck, hand, or foot massages, or even just let team members zen out with a guided meditation session. Sometimes, a quick reset is all people need to return to work energized. 💪

If you’re hesitant about massages in the workplace, check out what our customer Incorporate Massage has to say about it: What is Office Massage?

6. Reward your early arrivers 

Acts of Service, Gifts

There are always a few early birds in the office. They open the shades, get the coffee pot going, and probably a million other things you wouldn’t notice if you’re prone to sleeping in. Show them that you do see them by heading in early with a breakfast spread and caffeine at the ready.

If you have a few night owls, popping in with dinner wouldn’t hurt, either.

7. Work from elsewhere

Acts of Service


A change in scenery is always nice, and could be all someone needs to feel like their preferences are listened to. Whether that’s a work-from-home day a few times a week for your introverted team members, sending your strategists off to a cushy co-working space the week before a big presentation, or giving the green light for a “workcation,” this act of appreciation shows that you care more about them working at their best, instead of just their output.

Need some inspiration for how to implement these policies? Check out the Bonusly Un-Handbook for how we approach taking time off.

8. Secret Recognition Santa

Words of Affirmation, Gifts

It’s typical that employees receive recognition from their managers, but do they also have opportunities to receive recognition from their peers? By randomizing recognition givers and receivers, you’re giving team members who don’t typically get to recognize each other the chance to do so.

All it takes is sticking everyone’s names in a hat and spending some time together to write nice notes to each other. Even if two employees don’t know each other that well, this exercise can be a nice ice breaker for future collaboration!

9. Pass the trophy

Words of Affirmation


Company lore can develop around the most unexpected of things—just ask us why we have a duck decoy in our main conference room! 😝💚

These “trophies”—whether they’re physical objects or the honor of pinning a specific emoji next to your name in Slack—can be used to symbolize certain accomplishments and successes. When someone accomplishes something big, don’t just say “good job!” Instead, a ceremonial passing of the trophy along with a few words of recognition signifies to the entire organization that an employee has done something great.

11. Write a LinkedIn recommendation

Words of Affirmation

pens-for-writing-notesWhen my previous manager wrote me a LinkedIn recommendation, I almost cried. It’s personal, meaningful, and an endorsement for someone’s hard work. It’s an underrated gesture that communicates your appreciation of a team member, but also that you care about their future success—even if it’s not at your company. Plus, it's free. 😜

LinkedIn recommendations are the gold star of public recognition, because it’s truly public. 🌍

10. Volunteer as a team 

Acts of Service, Quality Time

It may be counter-intuitive, but putting your team members to work with a non-profit organization is actually something a lot of people enjoy. Studies show that “70% of working Americans believe “volunteer activities are more likely to boost employee morale than company-sponsored happy hours.”

In addition to being an affordable staff appreciation activity, volunteering as a team allows employees to give back to their communities and build purpose—two factors that contribute to employee retention.

12. Shout outs 

Words of Affirmation

End a meeting on a high note by giving shout-outs to your awesome colleagues, or have a public recognition feed that showcases everyone's achievements. 

Employee recognition is so important for employee engagement, and shout outs a great way to make your employees feel appreciated. 

13. Upgrade an office essential

Acts of Service, Gifts


Take a look around: Is there anything causing an inconvenience to your team members? Taking the time to notice someone’s uncomfortable desk chair, outdated software, or preference for espresso instead of drip coffee goes a long way in making someone feel appreciated, set up for success, and that they, too, are an essential part of the office.

14. Close the office early

Acts of Service

If your team has been working long hours to hit a deadline recently, there’s nothing sweeter than a “Office closes at 2:00pm today!” email. The surprise of being shoo’ed from the office with enough time in the day for themselves is definitely something they’ll remember.

15. DJ for the day

Acts of Servicestereo

If you have a Sonos (Bonusly customer!), Google Home, or Alexa sound system at your office, it’s easy to hand over the reins to someone who’s been especially killin’ it lately. Make it a game!

This is a fun way to bestow a costless perk, and presents some team-bonding opportunities—AKA dance parties. Work appropriate dance moves only, of course. 😉💃🕺

16. Incentivize feedback


Does nobody answer your engagement surveys or feedback forms? The sad reality is that your team members have probably faced backlash from being candid at previous companies. Providing feedback can be a scary experience, especially when there’s a power difference in place.

To start building the foundations for a radically candid culture, you need to publicly show that feedback is welcome and appreciated. A small way to begin this process is by adding a small incentive, like a $5 gift card, for providing thoughtful feedback or asking relevant questions.

If you’re using Bonusly, setting up a Claimable Award is an easy way to encourage employees to complete those tasks—whether it’s filling out a quarterly engagement survey, submitting a question to be answered at the next all-hands meeting, or even dropping a note in the suggestion box.

17. Celebrate life milestones

Words of Affirmation


Surprise! Your employees have lives outside of the workplace. Applaud their personal accomplishments as a way to communicate that you care about your team as humans, not just as workers.

This is something you can mention at your weekly status meeting—like, Josh is running a marathon this weekend! Sarah got engaged! Marcus just received his French C2 certification! A quick moment to cheer each other on is great for morale, and is also an easy ice breaker.

18. “Up-to-you” hours

Acts of Service

Everyone has those projects they’d rather be working on, but seems to fall by the wayside in favor of more high-priority projects. Demonstrate your trust for your employees by dedicating some time each week as “up-to-you” hours, where teams can work on whatever they want. Chances are, the projects they’ve been meaning to work on will be a benefit to your company’s bottom line, whether that means streamlining an outdated process or building something totally new. 

19. Celebrate holidays

Acts of Service, Gifts, Words of Affirmation


Don’t let fun holidays slip by without a whisper. Breaking up the monotony of the day-to-day can go a long way toward improving morale, and it’s as simple as putting up some decorations and preparing some treats for your team.

This is especially important for holidays that don’t typically warrant a day off—think St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and Halloween! These are all super-fun, low-pressure holidays that can turn into a day to look forward to with a little effort and planning. Think outside the box—instead of chocolates and grocery-store cards (although those are awesome too!), consider bringing a griddle into the office to whip up some crêpes to enjoy. 😍

Don’t forget about birthdays, work anniversaries, and Employee Appreciation Day!

20. Website or newsletter features

Words of Affirmation

Don’t just include the executive team on your company’s website. As often as you can, pick an outstanding employee to highlight on your website or newsletter, and be sure to write a detailed and meaningful blurb on why that employee deserves the featured spot.

21. Team retreatcampfire

Quality Time

Give your team a break from the office and send them out on a fun retreat. Depending on your budget, this can mean a good team-bonding hike, or a multi-day adventure. Take the time to talk about your team’s big picture goals, address issues, and plan for the future.

22. Donate to employees’ causes


If your employee is particularly passionate about a cause, it can be extremely meaningful to donate to a charity in their name. If they’re actively fundraising, that’s an even better opportunity to throw your support behind them.

23. Random acts of fun

Quality Time, Acts of ServicechampagneDon’t underestimate the value of having fun in the workplace. If the entire office is excited about the new summer blockbuster, why not take a field trip at the end of the day to the nearest movie theater? This is team building at its best—when it’s organic and meaningful to the individuals in those teams.

Can you think of other ideas your team would enjoy? Even small, spontaneous activities like a mid-day stretch break or sundae-building session can boost morale and wake everyone up during a sleepy afternoon.

24. VIP parking spot

Acts of Service

Pretty self-explanatory. Make an employee feel like a rockstar for a week by letting them park in the best spot. While a small privilege, it’s a huge convenience. Sometimes, even the little things can feel like big luxuries.

25. Special treats


Desserts—cupcakes, donuts, candy—are a common token of appreciation, but take it a step further by keeping track of your employees’ special favorites. Why bring in cupcakes when a team member prefers donuts? Instead of a box of chocolates, how about a bag of sour gummies?

When you’re getting to know new employees during the onboarding process, slip in some questions about their favorite sweets, and you’ll have insider knowledge on how to delight them all year long.

26. Write a haiku

Words of Affirmation

They’re short and simple

Kindness from a coworker

Works well with humor

27. Share swag


Good swag never goes unnoticed. When you gift the right swag, you're encouraging pride in your team and overall good vibes. Extra points for sustainable and seasonal swag!

The takeaway

The similarity between all of these ideas is that it takes carefully takes preferences into consideration. If someone perceives appreciation through Words of Affirmation, giving them a new mug just isn’t going to cut it.

So take your time. Be thoughtful. Ask for opinions, because showing meaningful appreciation can only improve your company’s success and overall performance. For a turnkey solution, we invite you to take a tour or request a demo of Bonusly, our recognition and rewards program

Need more ideas on how to improve employee engagement? Check out our big list of creative reward ideas, or download this guide:

Download The Guide to Modern Employee Recognition

What’s your language of appreciation? Tell us how to best appreciate you! 👇💚

Originally published on August 29, 2021 → Last updated September 14, 2021

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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.


Bonusly is a fun, personal employee recognition and rewards platform that helps people feel engaged and successful at work. ✨ Learn more about us.