Employee appreciation Day takes place on the first Friday of March every year, and it’s a great opportunity to show your employees how much you value them. When employees feel appreciated, they perform at their best and are less likely to leave. In fact, organizations that rate their culture of recognition highly are 3 times more likely to see increased employee retention and 2.5 times more likely to see increased employee engagement, among other benefits.

Don’t get us wrong, you can’t buy employee loyalty and expect retention, but you can show appreciation and gratitude. That in itself speaks volumes. Who doesn’t love hearing the words Great Job, Thank You or I appreciate you?

1. Reward with gift cards and experiences

Gift cards are popular for a reason. They give employees the ability to choose rewards that they find meaningful, rather than yet another one-size-fits-all t-shirt or water bottle. And if you’re looking for a reward that’s more unique, you can’t go wrong with providing an exceptional experience. This might be something for the whole team — like renting out a theme park, reserving an escape room, or learning to cook from an accomplished chef — or for individual employees, like paying for a day trip to a spa or a meal at their favorite restaurant.

2. Pamper your employees

Employee appreciation day is your chance to let your team indulge and take a break from their hard work. Hire a masseuse, or chiropractor to come to the office. Having a sleep or mindfulness coach teach your employees tips to lower their stress is another winning option. These activities emphasize your organization’s commitment to employee wellness and help everyone feel relaxed and rejuvenated.

3. Lunch Anyone?

Who doesn’t love a free lunch? Food is one of the simplest and most effective ways to reward your employees. Consider catering a meal, surprising your team with a box of tasty snacks — even if they work from home — or taking folks out for coffee. You can also encourage wellness at the same time by providing delicious healthy treats or taking an outing to a restaurant that provides healthy options.

4. Enjoy activities in-office or remotely

Employees want to spend time having fun with their workmates. Host a pizza party in the breakroom or common area with plenty of board games. You could also set up a photo booth, company-wide jeopardy game, or talent contest. And if your workforce is primarily remote, set up an afternoon of virtual games and fun, complete with a pre-delivered gift basket.

5. Support work-life balance

Team members who are well-rested and have time to spend with their family and friends are more engaged and productive. Letting your employees have a life outside of work is vital to preventing burnout. When possible, compromise with your employees on their schedule. For instance, employees with children may want to arrive and leave early. Others with extracurricular activities may want to come in late, or even transition to a four-day work week. Your organization can also provide additional PTO or occasional unexpected half-days to preserve work-life balance

6. Throw a team happy hour

Happy hours provide a relaxed atmosphere that can encourage positive staff interactions. They allow team members to reduce stress and can contribute to positive company culture.  If your team is working  remotely, you can do a virtual mixology class, wine tasting or send a wine gift basket to the group and everyone can open their gifts and toast remotely.