While there are specific days dedicated to celebrating employees, sometimes out of the blue is the best time to say thanks to the people who work for and with you. But, if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a hoaky thank you gift, you’re likely racking your brain for some non-cheesy ideas that don’t break the bank. Here are a few not-so-predictable options, all of which won’t cost you more than 10 bucks a person.
1. Contribute to a Cause That Matters to Them
Let each of your employees know that you’d like to donate to a nonprofit they love in their name to celebrate the day. This is a nice way to learn more about your team and their interests and to give something that feels truly personal—plus everyone loves a good cause. As a bonus, you may find a common cause that you can get more involved with as a company.
2. Give Them an Extra Hour (Plus Lunch)
Not many people take lunch hours anymore, and even if they do, it often feels rushed and underwhelming (hence the rise of the #saddesklunch hashtag). So, why don’t you plan a special lunch hour where everyone actually steps away from the computer and celebrates together? Providing lunch is always a treat, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. A sandwich or pizza party will do nicely (and bonus: a study recently found pizza boosts productivity.)
If you really want to get creative—and extra grateful—plan an hour-long breakfast hang for your team (think donuts instead of pepperoni slices), then let them do whatever they normally do for lunch. Yes, that’s two hours of time off over the course of the workday, but hey, don’t they deserve it?
If meeting in person isn’t an option, consider sending your teammates lunch to their home office or even sending them gift cards to pick up some lunch on their own time. We promise they’ll appreciate it.
3. Write Everyone a Thank You Note—By Hand
When was the last time you told your employees exactly what you appreciate them for? We often get so busy that we only remember to give feedback when something problematic happens. So here’s an almost free way to show you care: write each of your employees a thank-you note that specifically acknowledges something they did that impressed you. It will mean a lot more than an “employee of the year” mug.
4. Bring on the Bonding
Set a meeting that’s just for fun. Play a round of Jenga in the boardroom (board games in boardrooms…fitting right?) or plan a craft-themed Zoom call . Here are DIY instructions for shibori dying dish towels and making your own clay keychains, but you can find plenty of other projects if you Google “crafts for adults.”
The point is: dedicate the full meeting (in-person or virtual) to something enjoyable—no mention of work allowed. As a side perk, it encourages team bonding which also increases employee engagement.
5. Gift Everyone a Natural Gift
Plants are proven to make people more productive, plus they just generally brighten up a workspace. Why not give each of your employees their very own succulent or cacti? They’re low maintenance, inexpensive, and will brighten up anyone’s work area. Or, hey, combine this idea with the craft project idea above, and schedule a plant potting party where everyone gets to choose their own and maybe even paint their terracotta pots.
6. Let Them Leave Early
This may sound crazy but, per idea number 2, time is a valuable resource for all of us. What better way to show that you appreciate them than by saying, “Take off work and spend an extra hour with your friends or family”? Your employees will appreciate this even more on a sunny Friday afternoon so you may want to keep this one in your back pocket.
A little goes a long way when it comes to employee appreciation and small, personal gestures can make a big impact. Leave us your ideas in the comments!