Employee Appreciation Day: 11 Ways to Show You Care

11 employee motivation strategies that show appreciation and increase retention.

7 min read

With Employee Appreciation Day in the first quarter of every year, it’s a good time to start thinking about ways to show employees your gratitude for their hard work. Keep reading to learn about the benefits of celebrating the holiday and creative ideas on how to recognize your employees.

What is National Employee Appreciation Day?

The first Friday of every March celebrates National Employee Appreciation Day, a day created by Dr. Bob Nelson, author of the book 1001 Ways to Reward Employees. 

An expert in employee engagement, Dr. Nelson explained the thinking behind the holiday, “By no means is Employee Appreciation Day meant to be this one day to thank people or this one day to bring in doughnuts. But I did want to have one day where we could call attention to the topic and have conversations about its importance.” Taking the time to recognize your employees’ hard work on a regular basis is a way to keep morale high. Luckily, we have some tips to celebrate this important day as well as show your gratitude for your employees throughout the year.

Why celebrate National Employee Appreciation Day?

Simply put, happy employees are more productive employees. In fact, 40% of employees say they'd put more energy into their work if they felt their efforts were recognized more often. 

There’s a difference between recognition and appreciation too: recognition is about rewarding actions, while appreciation is showing that you value the person behind that action. 

Make sure you’re doing both to improve employee job satisfaction and drive measurable business results. Even little ways of saying thank you, such as providing meal delivery, can communicate care. In a recent survey conducted by DoorDash for Work, 85% of respondents said regular food delivery would increase their overall job satisfaction.

Celebrate employees to build a better culture

Although it’s less measurable, a strong company culture is also a crucial contributor to a business’ reputation and success. In fact, 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important to the success of a company. This is valuable for both recruiting and retention. Create a culture of communication and appreciation by regularly showing your employees that you care about them. 

Celebrate employees to boost morale

It’s no secret that the new normal has affected the emotional wellbeing of your employees. According to a recent study, 29% of employees say their mental/emotional health has deteriorated as a result of the new normal. Finding ways to bring your employees together can strengthen social ties and help employees feel less isolated, boosting their moods. 

Fun event ideas for Employee Appreciation Day

Any company that has employees can celebrate Employee Appreciation Day! In fact, all companies stand to benefit from taking the time to recognize their people – it’s just about finding the right way that matches your particular company and culture. Keep reading for some inspired ideas.

1. Throw a virtual celebration for employees

It’s time to celebrate! If you’re implementing a flexible work model, plan a digital party with a fun theme that everyone can participate in from the comfort of their own home. 

For example, plan a game date with remote multiplayer games like Among Us, or host a costume contest with awards for creative categories like “best display of company colors'' or “best use of a household cleaning item.” Use DoorDash for Work’s Expensed Meals to place group orders during the meetup. Bring in a coach for webinars on fun topics, go on virtual excursions, and try out other fun ideas for virtual activities.  Show employees you care by thinking of novel ways to get together and socialize – even when everyone is working from different locations.

Alternately, if your employees are essential, plan time for employees to step away from work and connect with each other on a personal level with a company party. If you’re in an office, put up fun decorations to help get everyone in the mood and tap into DoorDash for Work’s Employee Meals to easily handle all of the food logistics, including safe, individually-boxed meals.

2. Gift employees “me-time”

The new normal has been a challenging transition for everyone. Help employees take care of themselves by giving them the gift of “me-time.” For parents tasked with juggling childcare with work responsibilities, send them a box of activities to entertain their kids. This could be a set of toys and games, credits to rent a newly-released movie, or a coloring book – anything to keep children occupied and give parents a much-needed break. For both parents and non-parents, DoorDash gift cards can help take the stress off of having to meal prep and do dishes, letting them recharge over their lunch break. 

3. Give employees more time off

Another option is to give employees the day off. Employees will appreciate the free time to focus on their personal needs. You can give employees the actual day off for National Employee Appreciation Day, or give them the flexibility to take off a day of their choosing in the upcoming months. You can also implement recurring time off that employees will appreciate, like the option to take flexible “summer fridays.”

4. Buy a team lunch

Whoever said “food is love” was onto something about the connection between a good meal and the care we show for each other! Use DoorDash for Work’s Expensed Meals so that everyone can order their favorite meal on the company’s dime – and ensure that any dietary restrictions are met. With wheat, soy, dairy, nuts, and other food allergies being common, it’s easier to let employees pick out the food that’s right for them. Plan a special team meal or let employees enjoy the food with their loved ones.

5. Plan a special, formal event – virtually

For companies that like to hold an annual formal dinner party for their employees, try doing the same thing this year – except virtually. With DoorDash for Work's Expensed Meals, assign a higher-than-usual spending limit for each employee to order a meal that feels special. Encourage employees to get dressed up like they would for an in-person formal event, and plan an evening with an entertaining run-of-show. This could include live-streamed performances from comedians, a generous raffle, and heartfelt speeches thanking your employees. The opportunities are endless – just plan for a night to remember.

6. Consider a team building gift

Work with team managers to source thoughtful gifts that actually contribute to an employee’s overall wellbeing. This could be something like a beautiful plant for their desk that brightens their day everytime they see it, a pair of nice headphones that don’t give them a headache by the end of the day, or a gift certificate for a home cleaning service to take that chore off their shoulders for the week. These little gifts can have a big impact on overall employee wellness.

7. Share unique gift cards

Instead of giving the standard coffee shop gift card, invest in gift cards that stand out and encourage employees to treat themselves – while also supporting the local economy. DoorDash gift cards are a great way to support local businesses because they can be used at any of your employees’ favorite restaurants – whether that’s the specialty donut shop around the corner, or that delicious, family-run pho place downtown. Give gift cards that make employees feel good about spending their money there, and help support local communities.

8. Write individual thank you notes

Continuing in the vein of thoughtful gifts, sometimes the best ways to say thank you aren’t with monetary rewards. A personal, handwritten thank you note can be even more meaningful. Go beyond simple platitudes and explain why you truly value that employee as a person – whether it’s their sunny disposition, warm leadership style, or their unique ability to make even small talk feel engaging and authentic. A short but heartfelt note can be impactful in making an employee feel truly seen and appreciated. 

9. Invite employees to write thank you notes

While it’s nice to know that an employer appreciates you, it can feel even better to know that your coworkers do, too. This contributes to an overall supportive work culture and promotes job satisfaction. Plan an activity for employees to share positive feedback with each other as a part of their regular work cycles. Too often, we focus on what needs to be changed in a work setting, instead of spending time highlighting individual and team successes. Make it a part of your company culture to recognize positive employee contributions, whether that’s with a monthly all-hands or during weekly team recaps.

10. Invest in ongoing corporate perks

Say thank you to your employees by investing in ongoing perks. For example, you can improve your benefits by covering delivery costs. DashPass for Work provides versatile employee meals that are ideal for remote workers because it removes the stress of having to do errands and cook everyday. Employees with access to free food are 66% more satisfied with their current job. You could also offer a small stipend for an online gym membership platform, or an annual budget for must-have subscriptions. These perks make employees’ lives easier and better in small ways, which make them feel more appreciated.

11. Find ways to celebrate employees everyday

At the end of the day, celebrating Employee Appreciation Day should not be about designating just one day a year to let employees know you care – it should be a continuous practice. Look for new and different ways to incorporate employee appreciation into your company culture, work processes, benefit offerings, and more. Ask employees about how they would like to be recognized, and adjust your offerings accordingly. Remember that happy, valued employees are more productive in the long run, leading to a stronger business overall – it’s a virtuous cycle that benefits everyone.

Employee wellness programs are more important than ever these days. Curious how your offerings stack up? Compare your results against this checklist to learn how to get the most out of your employee wellness program with The Ultimate Employee Wellness Checklist.


Ali Cottong

Ali Cottong