10 Free and Easy Creative Ways to Show Employee Appreciation

These simple and easy tips for employee appreciation will help make someone’s day without spending more than $1.

10 Free and Easy Creative Ways to Show Employee Appreciation image call center agent praiseCall center work is underpaid and under appreciated. It’s not easy dealing with people’s problems all day, every day. Yet we rely on these dedicated specialists to make things right when we can’t do it ourselves. They deserve much more praise than they get. Luckily employee appreciation doesn’t take much. It’s easy and the effects are astounding.

Think of the last time someone truly made you feel important, appreciated or recognized at work. Chances are, that occasion had nothing to do with a fancy gift or an awards banquet.

It likely involved a colleague or superior giving you genuine praise for a job well done. Heck, maybe it was even someone leaving a cupcake on your desk after you did them a favor.

Either way, it was a small gesture that cost little to nothing, but had huge value to you. Oftentimes, those small moments are the ones that brighten our day and motivate us the most.

Before brainstorming a bunch of elaborate and expensive ways to show your staff that you appreciate them, start with these free (or nearly free) tips that show you really care.

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1. Special Employee Appreciation Mini Meetings

Verbal praise is an often-overlooked way to show appreciation. Make a habit of doling out praise by carving 20 minutes out of your schedule on the same day every week. In those 20 minutes you can meet with 5 people for 3-4 minutes each. That’s plenty of time to express your gratitude and send them off feeling like a star.

2. Give Free Time for Special Achievements

Show that you recognize someone’s overtime hours by giving them extra free time during the work day. Offer a 2-hour lunch, a late arrival or early quitting time. It costs you nothing but goes a long way in communicating your gratitude.

3. Let Employees Give Peer Praise

Put a large sheet of paper near the awardee’s work space and ask the rest of your staff to leave anonymous kudos. By day’s end, they’ll have a poster full of affirmations that will make them feel all warm and fuzzy.

Alternatively, institute a Smile Gram program, in which staff members submit small notes of thanks to one another throughout the week. On Friday, choose one note at random and award the recipient with a small gift certificate or special incentive.

4. Send a Deserving Employee Snail Mail

Go old school and write a good ol’ fashioned letter singing your team member’s praises, drop it in the mail and send it to their home. It costs you only a few minutes (and the cost of a stamp), but makes a big statement.

5. Publish Meme Motivations

Catch your staff off guard by creating a funny, personalized meme about them and e-mailing it out to everyone. There are a ton of free meme-making sites – I like Meme Center. Choose your image and type a funny message that includes the recipient’s name. Your staff will think it’s hilarious when the boss sends out an image of Grumpy Cat with the words, “I hate compliments, but I really have to give it up for Bob this week.”

6. Create a Motivation Mascot

Buy a big, cheap, silly object and make it the employee of the week mascot. Every Monday, put it on a different person’s door or desk to show that they are the chosen one. Don’t fear if, at first, your staff acts like it’s cheesy; within a couple of weeks they’ll be anxious to see where it is at the start of every week.

7. Give Out Homework

Give a work-from-home day as a reward to employees who’ve been going above and beyond. The joy of sleeping a little longer and working in pajamas cannot be overstated.

8. Creature Comforts for Employee Achievements

For employees who have pets, allow them to bring the little guy in for the day. The bonus of this reward is that it will probably brighten up everyone’s mood. Who doesn’t love a dog wandering around the office, licking their ankles?

9. One Free Pass for Appreciation

Aren’t there times we all wish we could skip out on a meeting or pass a dreaded task off to someone else? Give a hard-working member of your team a free pass to get out of a meeting or a job they’d rather not do.

10. Fair Trade for Special Accomplishments

You’re not too good for a cubicle or the far-away parking lot, are you? Good, because you’re going to let a chosen employee swap desks with you for the day, or parking spots for the week. They’ll feel like VIPs in the big office or the primo parking spot and you’ll demonstrate to staff that you’re willing to sacrifice your privileges for their enjoyment.

The truth is, it doesn’t really matter what you do to show your appreciation. Rewards and gratitude can take just about any form, as long as employees know that their hard work has been noticed. These ideas are not revolutionary, but if they’re utilized frequently, they can have a dramatic impact on relationships and productivity.

When in doubt, recall the days before you had the big office and think about what made you feel valued. The point is not the reward itself; it’s the fact that you took a moment out of your busy day to do something special and unexpected.

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