Knowing you’re appreciated just feels… good. And when we’re happy at work, we can look forward to a 37% increase in sales, 31% jump in productivity, and a 19% hike in accuracy! (Which makes the research you’re doing into employee reward ideas good for morale, and good for business.)
The good news is, building employee recognition and rewards into your company culture can be incredibly simple and inexpensive. But when it’s up to you to show employee appreciation, it’s easy to feel stuck — especially when the workplace may not look the way we’re used to, with more employees remote than ever before during COVID-19.
That’s why we’ve put together these 40 out-of-the-box employee reward ideas to keep you going, grouped into the 5 following categories (click the topic link to jump ahead):
Silos only work for grains. These 12 rewards give people what they really want — a way to connect. Bonus points? Research shows a connected workforce increases productivity, so you can take that team-building spirit straight to the bank (even when every day is a work-from-home day).
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The greatest gift is the one you give. So, if you want to reward your team for making an impact, try one of these 5 employee reward ideas that will help your workers pay it forward.
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Boost morale — while working from home.
25 Custom Reward Ideas for the Remote Employee
40 Out-of-the-Box Employee Reward Ideas
1. Share a (virtual) meal
Breaking bread together has perks, whether you’re in the same room or not. The simple act of slowing down and sharing a meal makes people feel connected. Create reward opportunities for employees to order food or happy hour snacks from their restaurant of choice!
2. Coffee mug competition
Incorporate a little fun into your morning meeting by judging whose coffee mug best fits their personality! Reward the winner’s great work with a custom mug of their face or funny quote.
3. Dress down for a day
No matter what your office dress code, an intentional “Dress Down Day” has added benefits of bringing a spirit of fun and authenticity to the job. Give your employees the chance to remove the pretense that comes with a suit and tie and focus on what counts — the work.
(Especially when your team members are working remotely, giving the permission to be casual can be a big boost!)
4. Update team headshots
As personal branding continues to grow in importance, so does the usefulness of having a great headshot. So reward a team with the chance to take fresh headshots! As an added bonus, the visual of a team’s headshots that have a cohesive look can feel like an employee reward in and of itself.
5. Blog, podcast or social media feature
If private recognition feels good, then public employee recognition feels even better. Who doesn’t like being bragged on? If your company’s recognition program offers a customizable rewards catalog, like Kazoo’s does, create an option for employees to trade in points to be spotlighted on the company blog, podcast or social media account.
6. Company-wide praises
The ultimate employee incentive: Recognition. Round out your recognition program by boasting about your colleagues’ hard work regularly on a Slack channel dedicated specifically to celebrations, creating a “wall of fame” in the office or digitally, or giving shout outs in a weekly meeting.
(Bonus employee engagement booster: Make sure to recognize employee behavior that’s aligned with company values! For more about incentivizing behavior, check out: How to Run a Strategic Employee Rewards Program.)
Keep the appreciation comin’.
25 Employee Appreciation Ideas to Try in 2020
7. End-of-the-week superlatives
Employee recognition is meaningful, but it can also be fun. Reward employees with lighthearted superlatives on Friday, like “Most Likely to Sleep Till Noon Tomorrow” or “Best Out-of-Office Response.”
(Bonus: This can serve as a great reminder to your employees to actually unplug for the weekend, especially if they’re remote! Maintaining a solid work-life balance is its own reward.)
8. Welcome Aboard box
Welcoming a new employee to the team? In addition to a smooth onboarding process, consider sending them a company swag box. A great new pen, matching t-shirt and a card addressed just to them can make a new team member feel even better about coming to work with you.
9. Handwritten thank-you notes or cards
Take your recognition program offline with a little snail mail. It may not be the most popular communication choice these days, but handwritten notes can be incredibly meaningful. Knowing that someone took the time to jot down a few lines of appreciation for you, put a stamp on it and stick it in the mail goes a long way.
10. Get outside together
Celebrating a big win over food and/or drinks may not be possible if your team members are working from home. But something that can be safe to consider is getting outside for a hike or a socially distanced picnic.
Tip: In your custom rewards catalog, create the opportunity for employees to pool points to take the afternoon off to enjoy each other’s company.
11. Lunch with the CEO
Ever wondered about your CEO’s first job, or their most embarrassing moment? Let employees trade their hard-earned points for a virtual, 1-on-1 lunch hour to get to know your CEO or other leadership members better.
As a bonus, it’s a great way for employees to feel more connected to the company, which makes them more likely to stay for the long term.
12. Name a Zoom room
Video conferencing is great, but it hardly replaces the in-person experience. Let employees earn the chance to give your Zoom room a name for a fun spin on imitating on-site meetings.
If they can dream it, you can offer it as a custom reward with Kazoo.
Kazoo’s Recognition & Rewards platform
13. Get to the doctor
Adulting means tending to your own well-being. Let employees earn reward points for making health appointments, keeping them, and using the doctor’s orders to keep feeling good.
14. Virtual fitness classes
You may not be able to make it to the gym every day, but that shouldn’t stop you from taking care of your fitness. Let employees redeem rewards for a quick, virtual yoga class during the lunch hour, or a vigorous indoor cycle class to get the morning going.
(Bonus employee engagement hack: Let employees pool points so entire teams can take a class together!)
Meditation is popular these days, and for good reason. Benefits include better focus, improved decision-making and lower levels of stress and anxiety. Offer meditation classes or apps as rewards that soothe the soul.
16. Meal kit delivery
What’s for dinner… again? With more and more of us cooking at home these days, dinner decisions can start to feel burdensome. Offer gift cards for fresh meal kits delivered straight to your employees’ doors for a healthy lift.
17. Ease into the morning
How nice does it feel to take some extra time just to sip your morning coffee? Let employees trade points for a late start to work, so they can ease into the morning and be ready to tackle the rest of the day.
18. Afternoon walks
Looking up from your screen to get your blood flowing has tons of benefits, and feels great, too! Offer rewards for behaviors like setting a reminder for a quick afternoon walk.
Inspiring Employee Wellbeing With Kazoo
Help your employees get healthy with Kazoo’s Behavior Bonuses! This recognition feature allows employees to earn points for positive behaviors, like going for a run, participating in company wellness programs, getting doctor’s checkups, and more. Plus, the real-time recognition feed lets coworkers share their progress and cheer each other on.
Encourage your employees to walk to lunch or form group fitness initiatives, and not only will you have healthier, happier employees, but you’ll also have workers who are more likely to live lives enriched by wellbeing, helping your bottom line and their waistlines. You appreciate them and you’d appreciate them continuing to be able to live their lives to the fullest.
19. Company book list
Readers are leaders, and leaders are readers. Offer gift cards to local independent bookstores to feed the reading love.
20. Book club
Many of us set reading goals in January, but oftentimes those goals go unmet. A book club is a great remedy! Reward employees by letting them select the next company book.
21. Find a mentor
There are few better ways to find professional development than being guided by someone a little further down the road. Set up rewards that allow employees to connect with members of the senior teams as mentors.
Mentorship is valuable top-down, bottom-up or side-to-side. Create opportunities to earn points by helping a colleague develop a skill, and reward them with new learning opportunities.
23. Shadow anyone for a day
Doing what only we can do best is great, but learning about what others do is a fun way to shake things up. Boost employee engagement by allowing employees to shadow a colleague or manager in a different department.
24. Earn LinkedIn recommendations
These days, LinkedIn serves as a virtual resume. Even if you’re not looking for a job change, keeping it updated shows the world how you’re developing your career. Reward employees by encouraging the senior leadership team to add recommendations to employee profiles.
25. Reward students for a semester well done
Going back to school? Good for you! Reward employees in continuing education with supplies needed for their studies, backup laptop chargers, and nice coffee Thermoses.
26. Celebrate milestones
With each year of work experience under your belt, you’re gaining more and more valuable skills. Celebrate each work anniversary! Allow employees to see work anniversaries in your recognition platform, so they can share points and kudos to commemorate their coworkers’ big days.
Looking for more HR ideas? Check out:
10 Ideas for Effective Employee Incentive Programs
27. Serve your community
Few things in life create more meaning than helping people. Serving the community has been proven to boost employee engagement, too. Team up with an organization in your community doing great things, and reward yourself — and your team — by redeeming points to pitch in.
28. Spend lunch hour volunteering
Sometimes giving back is as easy as using our lunch hour for good. Let employees earn points by donating just a few minutes a day to virtual tutoring, online translating or being available to a crisis hotline, and pool points to create a group volunteer event.
29. Company matching
Reward your employees’ charitable involvement by having the company match charitable donations they make. How’s that for employee reward ideas that make a difference?
30. Employees choose nonprofit
Show employees you value what they value by giving them an opportunity to share about an organization they find meaningful, or to select the recipient of your company’s next charitable donation.
31. Responding to crisis
Joining your community in responding to a natural disaster, public health crisis, or other catastrophe is a win for the people you’re serving as well as the team you’re bonding with. Reward employees with time to volunteer, and let them earn points by volunteering time when the community needs them.
32. 4-day work week
Let employees get the hard work done Monday-Thursday and reap the rewards of what might be the best motivator of all — taking Friday off. They can restore work-life balance in a snap.
33. Prime shipping options
Waiting can be the hardest part. So speed up the shipping! Offer annual Amazon Prime or other premium delivery services as a reward. (It sounds dorky, but trust us — someone will go for it.)
34. Free home cleaning session
We all like to feel pampered, even if we’re living on a budget. Partner with a local cleaning company to offer home cleaning sessions as a reward option!
35. Session with closet organizer
Clearing up clutter in our physical spaces leads to higher levels of satisfaction with our inner selves, too. Offer sessions with a professional closet organizer to show employees how to get started.
36. Session to set up home office
Many of us are new to working from home, and sitting at the kitchen table can get old — fast! Let employees earn professional help sessions setting up their at-home work environments.
37. Outsource the little things
That pesky home to do list has a way of getting longer… and longer… and longer. Offer gift codes to apps like Task Rabbit so employees don’t have to stress out about getting everything done.
38. Dinner delivery
Who wants to make dinner after a long day at the (home) office? Offer opportunities and gift cards to order delicious dinner from their favorite places courtesy or Postmates, DoorDash, or your delivery service of choice.
39. Grocery delivery
Give your employees the gift of time — like an hour back each week when someone else does the grocery shopping. Offer gift cards to grocery delivery services so your workers can enjoy their time off.
40. No gift too small
At the heart of all our employee reward ideas is this simple truth. Recognize employees’ hard work with even the smallest token of appreciation sent directly to their home, like balloons, flowers, or a bottle of wine.
Employee Reward Ideas That Go Beyond
We hope you’re inspired to incorporate a few of these simple, yet highly effective employee reward ideas ideas into your employee rewards program.
At Kazoo, we’re passionate about creating great employee experiences — which is why our all-in-one employee experience platform connects performance management, recognition and rewards, and surveys. Because that way, everyone’s happy, aligned, and connected. And work is working.