March 3, 2021

Employee Recognition: Mark Employee Appreciation Day 2021

Employee recognition is about more than just gift cards, it is a way to show you care. Find out how to celebrate even the small wins of your team.

This year, employee recognition is more important than ever. In light of the pandemic, remote teams are struggling with a lack of connection. Frontline workers have been working long, stressful hours.

Employee Appreciation Day is the perfect moment for leaders to take a step back and appreciate the work of every employee. Recognition can foster a positive outlook and cultivate a sociable, supportive remote work environment.

Below are some ideas to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day in 2021.

What is employee recognition?

Employee recognition is about appreciating every success of your team members. Great managers do not let a win pass them by. They acknowledge the achievement – and celebrate it.

When our hard work goes unnoticed, we feel unmotivated to go the extra mile. We often need public recognition or a compliment from our peers to stay resilient. HR and managers should think about how best to express gratitude for their employees.

Peer to peer recognition is important too, and can help build a supportive community. Especially during remote work, moments of connection are crucial for fostering teamwork.

Employee recognition definition

Examples of employee recognition

The way you recognize employee achievements speaks volumes about your company culture.

Here are a few ways different companies make their employees feel valued:

  • Zappos uses peer-to-peer recognition to create a friendly community at work

  • Apple offered its employees extended paid holiday as part of its recognition program

  • DreamWorks Animation offers employees movie screenings, craft fairs and art classes

  • J.M. Smucker Company offers full tuition for degrees for its employees

How to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day 2021

Offer time off for employees to recharge

Your employees have worked incredibly hard this year. Perhaps even too hard! The lack of separation between work and home means many employees have struggled with work-life balance.

Employees are feeling burnout. According to IPX1031, 56% of workers in the US did not use all of their paid time off in 2020. Encourage your employees to take time to recharge. You could give them an extra vacation day, or send them home early to be with their loved ones.

Give them that little nudge to recover after an incredibly stressful year. They’ll come back fresher and ready for the next challenge.

Employee Recognition motivate employees

Write personal, handwritten notes

Sometimes, all it takes is a few, heartfelt words. Take the time to write handwritten cards (or e-cards if you don’t have time to post them!). Avoid generic messages if possible. Remember a time when that team member excelled, and remind them of it.

You can think of a theme – e.g. recognizing teamwork or their attitude to work.

Examples of motivating messages

To mark a positive outlook at work:

Thank you for the enthusiastic outlook you bring to the team each day. You have a positive impact on all of us!

To mark a specific goal:

You set yourself the challenging goal of increasing sales by 10% - and you smashed it! Your skills and expertise bring so much value to our team – thank you!

To mark a work anniversary, or to appreciate those with many years of service on your team:

Over the past 10 years, your skills and talents have helped our team to grow. We couldn’t imagine work without you. Thank you!

Invite employees to recognize each other

Recognition shouldn’t not just come from the top down. BigCommerce’s Pay It Forward project was an amazing way to connect co-workers. Teammates were asked to video call a colleague and tell them why they appreciated them.

If you watch the video below, you’ll see the power of a few kind words to brighten someone’s day and leave employees feeling recognized.

Invite employees to express their gratitude for one another. You can ask each employee to give 3 compliments to the person next to them in the Zoom meeting. Or, for a more personal touch, assign a recognition partner for each employee.

You could also use your internal social media or employee recognition software for this. Employees could leave a few friendly notes on their co-workers’ profiles.

This not only motivates employees, it also strengthens friendships at work. Activities like this are the start of a friendlier, healthier company culture.

Embedded content:

Make a thoughtful Employee Appreciation Day video

Some companies create videos for Employee Appreciation Day to recognize the efforts of employees. You can include photos of key events from the year. A genuinely grateful message from the CEO also works well.

Include shoutouts to individual teams for any standout achievements – but don’t make it a performance appraisal! Make it fun and ensure that everyone watching will feel recognized for their work.

Eat lunch together or throw a virtual happy hour

Nothing says recognition like a tasty lunch. Reward your staff with Post Mates or Uber Eats gift cards and invite them to eat together as a team.

You can also hold a virtual happy hour. Choose from a wealth of team building activities as sometimes virtual celebrations work better when participants have something to focus on. has a funny Virtual Happy Hour Bingo template you can try out.

With many teams working remotely this year, it’s easy for workers to feel distant from each other. Making time for socializing is both an opportunity for recognition and team building.

Benefits of Social Forms of Employee Recognition

Get crafting with a remote creative activity

Another way to carve out social time is by sparking creativity. Ask your team to vote on a creative or craft activity they’d like to participate in as a reward for all their hard work.

You could try an online class with The Vendry or Airbnb Experiences. Or, DIY your creative activity by hosting a painting session over Zoom.

Make sure the activity is fun, and that it doesn’t cut too far into employees’ personal time.

Send a gift bag or voucher

Why not send your employees something shiny and new for Employee Appreciation Day. A gift box through the post with some company merchandise and tasty treats will go along way.

Vouchers are a great way to boost morale. You can ask employees to choose from a selection of vouchers : from café to bookshop vouchers.

Ways to Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day through employee recognition

Employee recognition is a must have

Happy Employee Appreciation Day! But remember - employee recognition acknowledges the positive impact staff have on your company every day. Make it personal and genuine to motivate your staff even in through challenging times.

To find out more about employee recognition, why not read our article 20 Amazing Ideas for Employee Recognition?

Further Reading

Related articles from our blog, read on

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