Last March, Employee Appreciation Day happened under the looming threat of COVID-19. This year, we celebrate employees who have made it through a year few of us anticipated or were fully prepared for.
Created in 1995, Employee Appreciation Day recognizes employees for their hard work and dedication. On the first Friday of March every year, companies have thanked employees in a fun and usually informal fashion.
But perhaps this year we should step things up a notch. In 2021, employees should be rewarded, above all, for their adaptability and perseverance because their contributions have come with a much higher degree of difficulty and much less face-to-face fanfare. Many have struggled not just with meeting the demands of work, but from the stresses of family, financial and mental health challenges during this global pandemic. And some have lost loved ones.
So, this year, while most businesses still have teams working from home, or in shifts a few days a week at the office, and with fewer chances for in-person interaction and collaboration, we need to consider how to support employees while remaining socially distant.
Here are some ways you can show appreciation safely and remotely this year:
Whether your team is fully remote or you have multiple locations, a virtual get-together helps bring everyone together. But keep it short. Your employees have to be present on a lot of communication platforms each day and you want to celebrate them without causing screen fatigue or disrupting their work.
Consider asking your CEO to open the call with a quick message and have your managers or team leaders prepare short shoutouts to individual team members. Try to make compliments specific to each person, whether you’re applauding their contribution to a project or general professionalism. Indeed offers some great ideas for workplace-appropriate compliments.
With so many teams scattered across the globe, it may have been months since you’ve all seen each other in person, aside from those daily meetings. Give everyone a chance to socialize and reconnect with coworkers through a virtual company activity.
Virtual pub trivia or a cocktail class can be a fun way to kick off the weekend at the end of the day. Or try organizing a virtual event that employees’ families can join in on as well, like a game night or escape room.
March 5 falls on a Friday this year. What better gift can you give than a day off? Employees have been dealing with increasing stress, leading to burnout, fatigue and other mental health concerns this past year. Many don’t take the time off they need to destress and relax. Even if they have nowhere to go, having an unplanned long weekend allows your team to focus on concentrated family time and self-care so they can come back refreshed.
By prioritizing employees’ health and wellbeing, you’re showing them that you respect their needs and value their welfare. Set a precedent by unplugging for the weekend yourself and let that workplace communication wait until Monday.
From gift vouchers with a personal note, to paying for a workshop or for the employee to pursue a hobby, to chocolates and DIY spa kits, care packages offer you the opportunity to let your team members know you care about them, even from a distance.
When making your choice, keep the contents simple, and more importantly, focus on personalization. Try to tailor packages to each employee, especially if they have young families, food allergies or live in different parts of the world. They will appreciate the gift even more knowing that you put time and effort into their gift rather than simply sending a single bulk order.
Employee appreciation should last far longer than a single day; it should be an ongoing priority alongside your other mental health, wellbeing and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts. While recognizing employees with gifts, events and attention is a great start short-term, think about how you can extend that appreciation throughout the year.
Send out a poll asking employees how you can best serve them this year and really take it on board. What mental health resources do they need? What’s most important to them in a working environment?
At Progress, our human capital and events teams have been working overtime for a year now, and each individual team and department has already tried a lot of these ideas. We’ve had special days off, an ice cream truck arrive at our homes, game nights—featuring games like “Guess Who” in India where we looked at childhood photos and guessed the team member, online bingo, and trivia—as well as virtual picnics, a Zoom magic show, a company-wide talent show, a global scavenger hunt, and more.
We also sent care packages with special Progress pajama pants—perfect for virtual meetings after rolling out of bed. One team even had some really cool holiday sweaters custom-made with our Telerik and Kendo UI mascots.
Recently, for Valentine’s Day, the corporate marketing team gifted team members with a free one-year subscription to the platform of their choice on Headspace, Masterclass or Medium.
Many employees have gone out of their way to show their respect, thanks, and specific and thoughtful feedback for each other’s work—with an emphasis on how they support our values as a company. Progress encourages employees at every level to send “points” for redeemable gifts through our employee recognition program.
Progress also has an employee assistance program (EAP) in several countries, offering confidential service to help people identify, plan and manage life’s challenges.
Finally, most of us have done whatever we can to keep a positive attitude and a sense of humor, and we’ve reached out to our teammates who suddenly seemed to be struggling or distant. Because let’s face it, it’s been a tough year since this all started.
But this pandemic has also brought us together. Please join us today in celebrating our employees. We can get through anything together!
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