The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

10 Creative Ways to Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day During COVID-19

Employee Appreciation Day is right around the corner (March 5). As the typical initiators of employee appreciation and recognition, HR offices are looking for creative ways to show appreciation for faculty and staff on tighter budgets and modified for the remote work environment. While the usual catered lunch or in-person awards ceremony may not be in the plan (or in the budget) this year, it’s still important for employers to show their employees that they are valued both as people and for the work they contribute to their institutions.

With the help of several ideas shared in a CUPA-HR Connect thread, we’ve gathered a list of creative ways to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day modified for your remote workforce. The list ranges from no-cost options to options that require a little more planning and investment, but are sure to be a hit among your employees.

No-Cost Options

  • Host a virtual Employee Appreciation Day for your remote team. Choose a fun theme, ask everyone to dress up (optional) and find virtual backgrounds that go along with your theme. You can ask various leaders from your institution to share an encouraging message or to facilitate a fun game for employees.
  • Raffle off prizes during a Zoom call. Prizes can be university swag already on hand, and you can use to pick winners.
  • Create a Kudo Board to celebrate employees with an online group card filled with messages, GIFs, photos and videos.
  • Share praise received from customers. This shows employees that their work matters and may give them a needed boost.
  • Create a Hall of Fame where leaders can recognize someone in their division/college who made an extraordinary contribution to the institution’s ability to manage during the pandemic.

Low- to Medium-Cost Options

  • Give each employee a small wellness stipend to put toward new fitness equipment or a fitness app.
  • Create a company-approved subscription list for employees to choose from (snack boxes, yoga boxes, etc.).
  • Give each employee a stipend to upgrade their home office. This could be used for a standing desk or a new desk chair.
  • Purchase gift cards to a local business. This not only helps a local business, but feels more personal than a generic gift card.
  • Depending on the size of your team, send employee appreciation gifts to your employees’ homes or have food delivered to them from a local restaurant using a service like DoorDash, GrubHub or Postmates.

Do you have a creative idea to share with your higher ed peers about how your institution plans to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day? Share your ideas in the CUPA-HR Connect thread.

Related resources:

Employee Awards and Recognition Toolkit

10 Ways to Create a Culture of Encouragement at Work

Dear HR Managers: Make Employee Appreciation Day a Career-Long Commitment, Not Just a One-Day Celebration