If you look around hard enough, every day of the year is some kind of holiday. There’s taco day, and doughnut day, and talk like a pirate day, and hundreds of others. Of course, most of these observances are more viral trends than they are holidays; the banks still open, jobs still function, and no one gives you the time off to snack or watch TV.
One such day many businesses might choose to celebrate, however, is Employee Appreciation Day. The “official” employee appreciation day is the first Friday in March, but given that it’s not a federally recognized holiday, your business can celebrate it any day of the year.
March of 2020 has already passed, but 2021 and beyond still await, so there’s plenty of time to plan a great party to celebrate your employees. It’s perhaps even more important in these times of social distancing to plan a party that shows appreciation for the people who keep your business running through thick and thin. Without your employees, where would you be?
Here are some ideas you can use for themes for employee appreciation parties. Feel free to take and adapt these ideas as you see fit. Just make sure to calculate some things in advance, like an estimate of the number of spaces, plates for catering, seats, and other items you might need.
The Staycation Party
In the past, an employee appreciation idea that small businesses and startups often use is a vacation. An all-expenses paid trip to an exotic locale for a weekend of celebration could be pretty enticing for a lot of employees, but with travel currently discouraged and budgets thinning out, it might be a better idea to set up a “staycation” in your office.
The key to this kind of party is picking a theme and going all-in with it. If you pick the Hawaii Luau, you need to do more than a few pineapple decals and a stereo playing a tropical Spotify list. The décor, the food, the entertainment you hire; it all needs to fit the theme.
In this kind of situation, the choice of whether or not to buy your décor can be critical for planning your budget. You’ll also want to make sure the theme you pick isn’t accidentally offensive, and that you’re not picking décor that’s rooted in some level of oppression or racism. You know, avoid the “wear an Indian outfit” recommendations and that kind of thing.
So what kind of themes might you pick for this kind of party?
- Tropical. Order catering and offer some fruits and tropical foods and beverages, play tropical music, layer the office in greenery and tropical decorations, really go all-out. You don’t need to pick a specific tropical location to mimic, but you can if everyone has a favorite choice.
- Out-of-season. In the middle of summer, a winter wonderland can go over nicely. Conversely, a dose of summer in the middle of the doldrums of winter can be a great boost to morale.
- Exotic locales. Picking a real-world location that people might enjoy mimicking can be great, whether it’s Mexico City, Istanbul, Tokyo, or Paris. Regional cuisine is the name of the game, here.
There are as many other ideas as there are locations in the world, so feel free to send out a poll and ask your employees their top choices to pick from.
The Extra Holiday Party
Holiday parties are common throughout the year, but they’re common enough that they often become a little passé. Pulling a holiday party out of season (like Halloween, Christmas, or Thanksgiving) can make it a special, and kind of wacky, occurrence. You don’t have to obey traditions when you’re celebrating this kind of party out of season. You might already have some décor and other items already available, too.
The key to this kind of holiday party is to make it low-stakes, and kind of chill party where everyone can hang out and feel appreciated without worrying about the usual stresses of the holiday. For a Christmas party in March, just give all of your employees a simple gift. For a Thanksgiving party, pull out all the stops for some excellent food.
The Awards Presentation Party
This one might take a little prep work. Throughout the year, keep an eye on your employees and make note of times when they do something exceptional. Maybe they went out of their way to please a customer. Maybe they’ve been very helpful when their coworkers need help. Maybe they’ve never needed to take a sick day (and haven’t come into the office sick.) Try to find something positive to say about every employee, and strive to avoid the “backhanded compliment” style of positivity. Be genuine!
Once you have something for everyone – and the key here is everyone – set up a party with an awards presentation. It could be glitzy like the Emmys or Oscars, it could be low-key like a county fair, or it could just be a simple, short speech by the managers.
Give each employee an award. A good idea is to combine something tangible and something valuable, like a small trophy or certificate of employee appreciation alongside a $50 gift card. Try to pick something like a cash card rather than a card to a restaurant that might not be used, as well.
If your employees aren’t the type to enjoy the spotlight, you can leave the awards at their desks and just recognize them publicly. If they want more of a show, you can give it to them. Just make sure to do what makes them feel the most appreciated since it’s a day focusing on them, after all.
The Challenges and Rewards Party
This kind of party is an interesting gimmick for relatively small offices, and it works best with those who enjoy simply physical or mental challenges. Think carnival games, brain-teasers, and trivia here.
Your goal is to put together rewards for everyone and present an array of challenges for people to complete. This could be anything from carnival games and games of skill to brain-teasers and riddles to a booklet you hand to everyone as they arrive and task them with filling out. You can fully tailor this kind of party to the kinds of people who work in your office and who are attending your party.
Rewarding your employees here can be done in a few different ways as well. You can:
- Create a booklet of puzzles for them to complete, and give them a reward upon successful completion. Allow collaboration, or not, depending on the competitive spirit of your office.
- Offer tickets as rewards for the various puzzles and challenges. Set up a prize table and allow employees to cash in their tickets for a prize of their choosing, from among things like gadgets and gift cards.
- Assign a prize for every employee, and allow them to complete any of a variety of challenges to earn theirs, so everyone can get something and no one feels left out.
How you formulate this kind of party depends on your office, both in terms of size and in the competitive spirit. Make sure to tailor it to your employees, of course, otherwise, you’re not really appreciating them, are you?
The Food Appreciation Party
One thing pretty much all of your employees will appreciate is some good food. Whether it’s a box of doughnuts for the office or custom branded candies at every desk, you can always brighten someone’s day with a treat.
For a true employee appreciation party, you’ll want to dedicate the day to your employees. Solicit options from them (or know them well enough to know what they like, if you have a smaller team) and provide options for everyone. If you have vegans on your team, make sure you have vegan options. If you know some people on your team are trying to lose weight, avoid a party with nothing but baked goods.
As an added bonus, make sure you have plenty of excess food and allow your employees to take home extras. This way they can bring a treat home for their families, or even just have extras to appreciate themselves.
You can do this as a one-meal thing, like catering lunch for everyone, or as an open food bar that restocks throughout the day. Serving both lunch and dinner with dessert can be a great idea, and you can even invite families along for more detailed parties. Just make sure to give thought to the people who can’t make it, and different shifts of employees. Night shift won’t appreciate being left out, right?
The Talent Showcase Party
Remember in school, how students would participate in a talent show to showcase everything from stand up comedy to indie rock bands to physical acts of strength or agility, to impress or amuse their fellow students?
You know how shows like the Masked Singer, America’s Got Talent, and American Idol are all huge hits, and tons of people think they too could participate if they had their shot?
Why not bring this idea to your office? A talent show, where your employees can show off anything from a favorite talent to a hobby they love, can be a great way to foster community within your office and give everyone a way to casually socialize with one another for a day or evening.
The only potential problem with a talent show is the people who don’t want to participate. Making participation mandatory can be a huge roadblock for some of your more introverted team members. Since this is aimed at appreciation for your employees, you want to make it optional and fun. How you do that, of course, depends on your office.
The Movie Night Party
Celebrating employee appreciation with a movie can be a fun time, though there are the usual considerations. Try to pick a movie that everyone will enjoy, or do a double feature with movies for two different audiences. Pick an appropriate venue; a conference room works for a small team, but you might need an outdoor projector for a larger team. You can even hire out a theater for an event, they’ll probably appreciate it once they’re reopened.
You can limit the appreciation party to the movie, or you can dedicate the day to it. Decorate your office to run with the themes of the chosen movie or movies. Provide popcorn and other movie treats for everyone to pick and snack on throughout the day. Just make sure you’re not charging a ton for your candy and sodas!
The Local Event Party
Once the world opens back up, there will be all manner of events kicking into high gear as everyone plans something to stretch their legs and socialize once more. Plan an employee outing for a day and visit one of these events.
What kind of events might you pick? There are many different options, but here’s a few to give you an idea:
- An escape room can be a fun team-building exercise, though if you have a large office, you may have to book the facility for the whole day to let everyone have their chance. Follow it up with some treats like an ice cream bar, and a prize for the people who escape.
- A state fair provides plenty of entertainment for employees and their families.
- An art event can give your employees a ton of options for gifts to purchase, and you might even be able to work with the organizers to get credit to give them, or provide them all with a cash card to buy something fun.
- A factory tour – like a snack factory, a brewery, or something related to your products – can be a fun outing and leave your employees with more knowledge of the supply chain, and some swag.
The sky is the limit in terms of events. Pretty much every city has its own culture and unique local events you can look into as well. You might even be able to get special benefits if your company helps sponsor the event.
What do you think? What has been the most fun and successful employee appreciation event you’ve held or attended? Let us know!