Virtual Employee Appreciation Ideas that Don't Suck

Chris Carnduff
Chris Carnduff
February 14, 2024
Virtual Employee Appreciation Ideas that Don't Suck

Employees are spending more time doing remote work and less time working in person, which means companies have to find new ways to connect with their people. And that includes coming up with new ways to implement employee recognition and appreciation ideas that fit the current environment. 

While employee recognition was normally carried out at office birthday parties and group lunches or happy hours to mark accomplishments, that’s becoming less of an occurrence in our WFH world. At least 63% of companies now have hybrid work models, meaning employees aren’t in an office much during an average week. They are turning their attention to virtual employee recognition ideas to keep people engaged and motivated. At CoffeePals, we provide some ideas on how you can make your employees feel valued at work.

Why Employee Appreciation Matters - Letting the Numbers Speak for itself

The way a company treats their people is important to its all-around success. When individuals feel appreciated at work, they take ownership of their work and are more engaged with the company, which leads to real benefits. 

  • Gallup research showed that employees who were engaged at work translated to 17% more productivity for the company and 23% more profit than companies where employees were more disengaged. 
  • If your company is serious about retention, employee recognition is something that shouldn’t be ignored. Research indicates that an employee who feels their leadership doesn’t communicate their accomplishments are 74% less likely to stay at the company. 
  • It also affects employee churn. One study cited in MSN showed that 46% of those surveyed have left a job because they felt unappreciated.
  • Showing appreciation for employees is important to help people feel valued. A recent survey revealed that 74% of employees said they felt that their mental health would be boosted if they felt appreciated at work. That means implementing a few simple virtual appreciation ideas can have a truly meaningful impact in employees’ lives.

Virtual Employee Appreciation Ideas

Here are categories of employee virtual appreciation ideas you can brainstorm around:

  • Acknowledge their work: From one-on-one chats to developing a system for regularly providing positive feedback, you need to celebrate the good work your employees have been doing. 
  • Benefits: Perks such as free lunch and having a 4 day week can contribute to employees feeling valued.
  • Professional development: Make sure your employees feel professionally supported at work.
  • Leisure activities: Remote work doesn’t have to be boring. You can introduce fun team building activities to reinforce a positive culture of collaboration.

Say Thank You Over a One-on-One Chat

The value of a sincere thank you shouldn’t be overlooked. When surveyed about what they’d like to hear leadership say more often at work, remote workers said hearing “thank you” would mean the most. 

Simply taking time to set up  recurring coffee chat with CoffeePals give employees the oppertunity to say thanks and express why their contribution matters is a meaningful way. Instead of feeling overlooked and unmotivated, employees feel seen and know their efforts matter. A simple 15 minutes for a coffee chat is an easy, low-investment way to raise employee morale.


Shout Outs On Social Media

Offering public praise is one way to show employees recognition in the virtual world. If your company is active on social media like LinkedIn or Twitter, adding a post about an employee’s successful project or contribution lets the world know about the value the employee brings.  Here’s an example from LinkedIn: 

social media shout out

If your company isn’t as active on social media, make use of the forum you prefer, like a company-wide email update or a group chat, to give an employee some well-deserved acknowledgement. 

Hosted Remote Fun Activities

For celebrations like a major holiday, new year or a company milestone, a hosted remote event can be a fun bonding experience for teams. Hosted activities might be things like a virtual cooking class, chocolate or wine-tasting evening, virtual painting night or a crafting experience, hosted by your team or by a virtual event company. Similar to an in-person party, invitations are sent in advance, and kits can be shipped to employees with all the materials they need. 

Virtual activities take place synchronously and employees can try something fun together while watching their co-workers and bonding over something other than work. Events like this take preparation and investment, but remote activities add value since they provide employees opportunities for getting to know each other and having a great time together, virtually.

Virtual Birthday Celebrations

Just because you’re not gathering for cake doesn’t mean you can’t wish employees a happy birthday and make them feel special on their big day. Host a quick virtual call with team members to simply say (or sing) Happy Birthday. Or have co-workers record a video in Teams to share with the employee. A video can also serve as a nice keepsake so people can always look back on the event.

Provide Regular Positive Feedback

Many companies have a process for employee feedback, but often it’s aimed at course-correcting or addressing concerns. Focusing on only those types of feedback underplays the impact that positive feedback can have on employees who are doing their job well. When employees feel seen and recognized in this way, they’re even more motivated to go the extra mile. CoffeePals provides an ideal platform for this, since managers can arrange one-on-ones with direct reports in a casual, conversational setting that is easy and quick to set up.

Thank You Time: Time Off Work

Everyone likes a break from work, especially when it’s a “freebie” and doesn’t count as part of their official vacation days. This is perhaps the most inclusive virtual appreciation idea to implement, because time away from work can be enjoyed by anyone. Whether a full day or even a half-day, saying “thank you” with some free time is popular with all employees.

Online Subscription Gift

A subscription to a popular platform your employees use is one staff recognition idea that everyone can enjoy. Offer a month or more to an online course platform, music service or reading subscription. Subscriptions are a thoughtful way to virtually say thank you and provide people with something new to try. This is an easy option for a birthday gift or a team recognition idea for a specific achievement.

AMA With an Industry Luminary or Celebrity

Is there an expert that is often quoted in your industry, or someone whose ideas are always referred to among your teams? If your company has someone your employees may consider a “luminary,” consider inviting them to be part of a virtual “Ask Me Anything.” This might be a noted author or entrepreneur, or perhaps a local important figure. 

As a company, you’ll win points by giving employees access to someone they admire professionally, whom they may not otherwise get to speak with.

Personalized Virtual Recognition Ceremony

A virtual ceremony recognizing an employee or a team is a way to tell everyone in your company about an employee’s (or a team’s) achievements. Since working remotely, people may not be as aware of their colleagues’ achievements as they were when working together on site. 

Hosting a short virtual ceremony to give accolades can build someone’s professional reputation among colleagues and show they’re valued at work.

Virtual Lunch With a Surprise Meal Delivery

Everyone loves free lunch, and while office lunches have declined, you can still make them a part of your company culture. Utilize a meal delivery service to send employees lunch or a meal gift card. You might choose to coordinate the delivery day and have a virtual lunch together, or you can leave it to employees’ discretion when to order a meal. Either way, food is a popular way to show employee recognition.

One consulting company uses this regularly to recognize team members who have completed their first successful project. Each month, consultants who’ve finished their first project receive a calendar invite to a virtual lunch with leadership and an online gift card to a food delivery service. During the virtual 30-minute lunch meeting, everyone has a chance to say hello and meet executive leaders they may not otherwise interact with. It also gives a sense of completion and accomplishment as they are recognized by someone other than their team members.

Develop an Employee Mentorship Program

mentoring program

One of the effects of the transition to remote work culture is the lack of in-person mentoring. When employees had face time with managers or leaders as a result of casual daily interaction, it was easier to develop a mentoring relationship. If you remove these workplace interactions, mentorship will only happen if leaders and managers are intentional about it. 

Setting up a regular mentorship program can provide encouragement and direction, and helps employees know they are valued. CoffeePals offers some excellent ideas on best practices for starting a mentorship program within your company.

Virtual Wellness Event

Why not plan a virtual event to encourage employees to focus on their health? Since 2020, 41% of people in the US  haven’t been as good about keeping up with medical appointments and preventative care, and a health fair can get employees back on track. This might include a customized agenda with a medical professional as a speaker, a first-aid demonstration, reps from local healthcare vendors and an optional virtual fitness activity that is relevant to your employees. 

Better Mental Health Benefits

To go beyond a one-time virtual wellness event, consider ways to incorporate more wellness support into your company’s benefits. Benefits that are centered around mental health have become more important to employees since the pandemic in 2020. In a 2022 American Psychological Association survey, 81% of workers said employers’ support for mental health will factor into their decision about where to work in the future.

Options abound for mental health perks, and some popular ones are free access to a meditation app, online access to yoga or exercise classes, virtual therapy sessions that are free or subsidized, and a mental health day for employees to use at their discretion.

Themed Gift Boxes

Everyone likes receiving real mail, and people like to be acknowledged for important events, so sending a gift box checks off both of those. There are themed gift boxes to fit every work or personal occasion: a baby essentials box for welcoming a new baby, a birthday box with a food treat and a game, a care package with pampering items for someone who has been ill…you get the idea. These boxes are available for a range of budgets (but generally start at $35). You can also add branding or personalization for a thoughtful touch.

Bring Your Child or Pet to (Virtual) Work Day

Many employees find joy in sharing other parts of their lives and things they love with colleagues. Why not designate a special day to do just that? “Bring Your Child or Pet to Work Day” can be just as fun remotely. Encourage people to have their kids or their pets around during virtual meetings, or set up a time for everyone to introduce their companions on screen. Bonus if you offer a small reward for the most unusual pet around!

bring your pet to work

Surprise Swag Delivery

Swag is a great way to show employees that the company cares. It’s also a way to reinforce the mission or brand to employees through the items you choose. Think carefully about your company culture and your employees day-to-day when you choose swag, to ensure it’s something they will actually use. 

For example, a group who doesn’t travel might not get a lot of use from a laptop backpack, but that’s probably something a traveler would love. Wearable swag is often well-liked, and it means your employees carry around your brand publicly when they wear the item.

Make Gratitude A Part of the Company Culture

Whether you choose one of these appreciation ideas or come up with your own, it’s a good practice to start incorporating gratitude into normal work routines. Saying “thank you” for a job well done should be a regular occurrence, not a rarity. 

Acknowledging team members for their contribution needs to be incorporated into monthly or even weekly meetings. Giving feedback for positive results is an important part of communication. CoffeePals offers a number of avenues to build connections in this way, and start new routines of communicating gratitude. Whether an impromptu invite for virtual coffee, or a scheduled rotation of one-on-ones with team members you might not have had the time to acknowledge regularly, it’s simple to implement the app in MS Teams.

Making gratitude practices routine in the workplace will help cultivate a company culture where individuals feel motivated, valued and want to stay!

I'm ready to start virtual coffees at my workplace!
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Get Started

Start building connections in your teams!

Get Started