The past year has been a challenge for many business leaders as they've tried to maintain employee experience while balancing everything else that 2020 brought with it. And for many businesses, employees have felt the shift.

Strengthening your employee experience isn’t complicated. Like most anything else in business, it’s about consistently executing on the little things. As this year continues to unfold, now is a great time to refocus on your employees and what they need to thrive in your business.

With Employee Appreciation Day coming up on March 5, it lines up almost to the day one year ago when the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. And considering the experiences our employees have had over the past 12 months, it presents a unique opportunity to demonstrate how much we, as business leaders, care for our teams.

5 Ways to Celebrate Your Employees 

For much of the workforce, the past year involved balancing homework, health concerns, virtual meetings from makeshift home offices, and a shrinking social circle. For many others, it looked like leaving family, hiding behind a mask all day, and taking risks to care for others. It’s been a stressful year to say the least.

Learning Opportunities

With this in mind, why not go big this year for Employee Appreciation Day? I’m sure we all could use a little something to celebrate. While I hope you are celebrating your employees every day, here are five simple, high-impact ways you can show your employees you care on the day that was created just for them:

  1. Give time off. Rest assured, there’s almost no better gift than the gift of time. Whether you decide to close business early for the day, wipe away meetings from the calendar, or take a half-day Friday, giving your employees a little extra time off will assuredly show your appreciation and boost their spirits.
  2. Host a company-wide awards event. Recognition is powerful. Even if you already have a habit of giving your employees public recognition, Employee Appreciation Day gives us an opportunity to do something out of the ordinary. This year, how fun would it be to create a virtual awards show for your team, where everyone gets bragged on for their contributions over the past year? To go the extra mile, let peers weigh in to demonstrate each person’s impact to the team as a whole, send employees a bottle of champagne to open as the event begins, or use the time to reflect on how far you’ve come as a company. For larger companies, this may be better executed by business unit rather than the entire company.
  3. Send treats. Even if you’re back in the office, people are probably still avoiding gathering at the watercooler or the communal break area. Either way, we can still take the time to “share” a special treat with our teams — like coffee and bagels, a chocolate stash or a happy hour kit — and send it to their desk, whether that desk is on site or at home.
  4. Let them choose what’s meaningful. Where some of your employees need some extra down time to decompress, others may find a new experience more meaningful. Still others may be strapped for cash, and find even the smallest bonus most valuable. One of the best ways to show appreciation is to give options, and let your employees choose what means the most to them. Come up with a curated list of five to six nice gifts (like time off, a cash bonus, or gift cards), and let employees choose the one they most desire.
  5. Extend employee appreciation past March. Finally, consider taking whatever worked best from your display of appreciation and extending it well past March. Maybe those half-day Fridays stick around, the company-wide awards become an annual event, or you make peer-to-peer recognition a regular affair.

The past 12 months might have started with stress and uncertainty, but if you’re still working as a team, then there’s also been victory and achievement. Don’t miss this opportunity to make your employees feel appreciated and supported by letting them know you see it.

Related Article: What 2020 Taught Us About Being an Effective Leader

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