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The Best Employee Appreciation Gifts: How to Show Your Employees You Care

Maria Petit

Nowadays, recognizing employees, showing your gratitude, and acknowledging them are vital leadership skills! Especially in this post-Covid hectic life when retaining top talent is getting harder! Therefore, establishing an employee recognition program is not a plan to consider. Instead, it is a vital strategy to settle in your business. What’s the best way to recognize employees? With the best employee appreciation gifts, of course!

What’s the perfect employee gift? There are a few things to consider when choosing employee appreciation gifts, for example, the relationship you have with your workers and the message you want to send. Surely you will want to select a meaningful gift, but also something appropriate for your workplace culture.

Thus, if you want to start appreciating your staff, stay tuned!

employee appreciation gifts

The Power of Gratitude

There is power in gratitude, without a doubt! According to the Harvard Medical School, being grateful has been shown to have a positive impact on our health and well-being. When we are grateful, we are happier and more balanced. We also sleep better, have lower levels of stress and anxiety, and our immune system is stronger.

employee appreciation gifts

Therefore, grateful people are more likely to have better physical and mental health, stronger relationships, and a greater sense of well-being. They’re also less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and stress. People who express gratitude are more likely to receive help when they need it and feel closer to others. 

Gratitude in the Workplace

However, how often do we take the time to stop and appreciate the people who help us in our professional lives? Whether it’s the colleague who covers for us when we’re out sick, the boss who goes to bat for us with upper management, or the administrative assistant who keeps our work lives organized, we all rely on the support of others to help us succeed. 

Yet, too often, we take these relationships for granted. 

In today’s fast-paced, competitive workplace culture, it can be easy to forget the power of gratitude. We are all striving to achieve our goals and meet our deadlines, and sometimes it can feel like thankfulness is a luxury that we simply cannot afford. 

Imagine having a workplace culture revolving around gratitude, where job satisfaction and employee engagement levels skyrocket, as well as the levels of productivity!

In 2014, the Boston Consulting Group performed an online global assessment of 200,000 employees from 189 countries, finding that “appreciation for one’s work is the most essential single employment element for all people globally.” Appreciation came out on top of 25 other categories as the most important factor for job happiness.

In a survey conducted in 2015 by the Cicero Group, respondents were asked: “What is the most significant thing that your management or company does (or could do) to cause you to generate great work?” And guess which the most popular answer was? 

Recognition. 37% of respondents said that recognition was the “most important thing their manager or business does (or could do) for them to work better”

Employee appreciation is indeed a top driver of great work!

Employee Appreciation Gifts

Source: “Employee Performance: What Causes Great Work?” By Kaufman and Andrew, 2015

Therefore, it is evident that staff appreciation can result in benefits for both them and your business! So, if you haven’t been doing it so far, we are here for the rescue as we are giving you the employee appreciation ideas to show your appreciation to employees who deserve recognition!

However, there is a fine distinction between recognizing and appreciating your staff. Let’s address these differences!

Employee Appreciation Vs. Employee Recognition

In his TED Talk, former baseball player Mike Robbins addresses the power of appreciation. At the beginning of his speech, Robbins cites some heartbreaking data since according to the US Department of Labor, 64% of Americans leave their jobs because they don’t feel valued. And sadly enough, he admits that he can count with one hand the times someone said nice to him when he failed. 

This statement raises a question: Have you ever said something nice to your staff when results weren’t that positive? Even when you are aware that the whole team worked very hard?

Employee Appreciation

Staff appreciation is about showing employees that their work is valued and appreciated. Appreciation refers to a person’s intrinsic worth. In fact, Robbins explains appreciation in one groundbreaking phrase:

“I could have used some appreciation, not for what I had done, but for who I am”

When all team members feel esteemed, it helps to build stronger relationships and trust and can increase employee morale and loyalty to your company. For example, celebrating team members’ birthdays is a great way to show you genuinely care about who they are.

Employee Recognition

On the other hand, employee recognition is the acknowledgment of an employee’s efforts, achievements, or success. Employee recognition focuses on motivating employees to achieve specific goals or objectives. It can be used to reinforce desired behaviors or correct undesirable ones. 

Employee recognition is about delivering positive feedback based on performance or results

For example, you might give an employee a gift of recognition for successfully completing a difficult task.

In short, employee recognition is about what we do while employee appreciation is about who we are.

Both are important for cultivating a healthy workplace culture, but they serve different purposes. Ultimately, both employee recognition and employee appreciation are essential to creating a positive and productive workplace.

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Types of Employee Appreciation

There are various methods of appreciating the employee’s work. Using this example, you will find three main forms – recognized by employees and all serving different purposes:

Formal Appreciation

The key gateway of formal appreciation is what happens in front of an audience. This includes everything from recognizing certain employees and giving employees a raise or promotion to thanking them for their hard work in company-wide emails, during a special event, or at company meetings.

Formal appreciation is important because it shows that you are paying attention to your employees’ performance and accomplishments and that you are willing to reward them accordingly. It is also a great way to give positive reinforcement to your staff as it makes them feel respected in front of their team members. 

BE CAREFUL! Formal appreciation can also be perceived as insincere or impersonal, so it’s important to use it in conjunction with other forms of appreciation.

Informal Appreciation

This is the most common form of appreciation and usually happens on a day-to-day basis. Informal appreciation is about expressing gratitude for someone’s work in a more personal way. This can be done through one-on-one conversations or a small employee appreciation gift.

This type of appreciation is important because it shows that you are taking the time to notice and appreciate the individual contributions of your employees. It also helps to build strong relationships and trust between you and all the team members.

While informal appreciation doesn’t have the same public recognition as formal appreciation, it can be much more impactful as it feels more sincere and personal.


Micropraises or microappreciation is about showing employees that you appreciate them at the moment. This can be done with a simple “thank you,” a high-five, or even just a smile.

This type of appreciation is important because it helps to create a positive and supportive work environment. It also shows employees that their work is valued and appreciated at the moment, which can help to increase motivation and boost productivity.

It’s important to keep in mind that micro recognizing should not be used as a replacement for other forms of recognition

employee appreciation gifts

When deciding what type of employee recognition will work best for your organization, it’s important to consider your business culture, budget, and the message you want to send.

Now that we have figured that down, let’s dig deeper into our topic!

What Are Employee Appreciation Gifts?

Sometimes even the simplest concepts can be confusing, so what is an employee appreciation gift exactly?

Employee appreciation gifts are given to an employee to recognize their hard work, dedication, or achievements. These gifts can be given by a team member, a coworker, or even a client. They can be given on special occasions like Employee Appreciation Day or at the end of a project.

Employee appreciation gifts are crucial to maintaining a healthy workplace environment and can help to boost employee morale and productivity

Gifts for employees can range from something small and simple, like a thank you card or flowers, to something more expensive, like tickets to a show or a gift certificate for a spa day. It depends on your budget and what you think your employee would appreciate.

But, hey! Maybe you have read so far, and still wonder if it’s OK for bosses to give away gifts to employees. So, let’s clear that up.

Should Bosses Present Gifts To Employees?

This is a very common question, and the answer is not really that complicated, you just have to follow some advice! 

When deciding whether or not to give employee appreciation gifts, it’s important to consider your business culture, your budget, the intent behind the gift, and what type of gift you are giving. With these factors in mind, you should be able to make a decision that is in line with your company’s values.

The Intent Behind Employee Appreciation Gifts

If the intent is to show appreciation for a job well done, then a small token of appreciation is usually appropriate. However, if the intent is to reward an employee for meeting sales targets, then a more expensive gift may be a better choice. 

Company Culture 

In some companies, presenting gifts to employees is seen as inappropriate or even discriminatory. If this is the case in your company, then you should avoid giving gifts to employees. However, if your company culture is more relaxed and informal, then giving gifts to employees is usually acceptable.


If you are on a tight budget, you may want to consider giving a smaller token of appreciation, like a thank you card or flowers. If you have a larger budget, you may want to consider giving a more expensive gift, like movie tickets, show tickets, or a gift certificate for a spa day.

Purpose of the Gift

It’s also important to consider the intent behind the gift. If you are giving a gift because an employee has done something above and beyond their job duties, it’s a way to show your appreciation, or are you trying to buy their loyalty?

Nevertheless, if you are unsure whether or not you should give a gift to your employees, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and consult with your HR department or another senior leader in your organization.

Now that we know the basics of gifting in a professional setting let’s move to the fun part: gifts!!! 

The Best Employee Appreciation Gifts: Show Your Employees You Care

On the market, there is a wide array of options to add to your shopping list, from a coffee mug to personalized gifts or company-branded products.

But first, never forget Employee Appreciation Day!

Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day

The most important thing you can do to show your employees you care is to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day, which falls every first Friday of March. This is a day when you can let your employees know how much you appreciate their hard work and dedication. 

Suggestion Box Program

In today’s competitive business landscape, it’s more important than ever to find ways to show your staff members that you appreciate their hard work. 

With this program in your workplace, employees get the chance to share their ideas and recommendations on how to improve the business and let them know that their opinions are valued. These types of programs can be a great way to boost morale and employee engagement, and they can also lead to tangible improvements in the workplace. 


Who doesn’t love a good free lunch?

One way to show your staff you care is to provide them with food. This can be anything from breakfast sandwiches on their first day back from vacation, to pizza lunch and donuts on Fridays. If you have the budget, you could also cater lunch once a month or offer snacks.

Be aware of any dietary restrictions your employees may have!

There are many people who are vegan or vegetarian, and others who have gluten-free diets. If you’re not sure what kind of food to give, a gift card to a local restaurant is always a safe bet. 

Think about the portion size. You don’t want to give your employees so much food that they feel obliged to eat it all, especially if they’re not hungry. A small box of chocolates or a fruit basket is usually a good size. 

Offer a Company-Branded Swag Pack

Swag packs are a great way to show your appreciation, and they make an excellent appreciation gift. When choosing the items for your swag pack, try to select useful items that your employees will actually want to use. Pens, notebooks, and water bottles are always popular choices.

employee appreciation gifts

Source: Evernote Swag Pack

If you’re looking for something a little more unique, consider adding an item that reflects your company values. For example, if your company is environmentally conscious, you could include a reusable water bottle or coffee mug. If your employees are always on the go, you could include a power bank or travel adapter. 

Personalized Gifts

This appreciation gift is always a hit with employees! They show that you’ve taken the time to think about what would suit the person, and they can be used both in and out of the office. 

A few ideas for a personalized gift include: 

  • A mug or water bottle with their name on 
  • A keychain or lanyard with their name or initials 
  • A notebook or planner with their name embossed on the cover 
  • A set of personalized stationery 
  • A gift certificate to a local spa or restaurant 
  • A monogrammed T-shirt or hat 

Break Room

This room is a great way to show your staff how much you appreciate them. It’s a place where they can relax and take a break from the stresses of work.

employee appreciation gifts

Source: Google Break Room

By providing a break room, you’re showing that you value their well-being and appreciate the work they do. These rooms can include features like comfortable seating, TVs, herbal tea, essential oils, games, and snacks. Just being able to step away from their desk for a few minutes can make a big difference in an employee’s day.

Employee Birthdays 

Another way to show employees you care is to remember their birthdays and work anniversaries. Employees feel appreciated when they are celebrated on these special days. A small gift, card, or even a mention in the company newsletter can make a big impression.

Bonus: If you have remote employees, you can still celebrate their holidays by sending e-cards or gifts, hosting an online party, or even just hopping on a video call to sing “Happy Birthday.” 

Employee’s Desk Plants

Employees who have desk plants report higher levels of satisfaction with their jobs and are more likely to recommend their company to others. In addition, office plants can help to reduce stress levels and promote a sense of well-being. 

The study “Psychological Benefits of Indoor Plants in Workplaces: Putting Experimental Results into Context” by Bringslimark et al., 2007, found that employees who had desk plants were less likely to take sick days and those who did take sick days recovered more quickly. Desk plants are an easy and affordable way to improve the health and happiness of your employees.

Don’t know which plant to get? Take a look at the image below!

employee appreciation gifts

Gift Cards 

These cards have become a popular option for an employee appreciation gift in recent years. Gift cards offer the flexibility to choose what the recipient will spend the money on, which can be helpful if you are unsure of their specific needs or interests. 

In addition, you can purchase gift cards out of a wide range of options, making them an affordable option for businesses of all sizes. When selecting a gift card for an employee gift, it is important to choose a reputable brand that offers a good selection of merchant options. 

Gift Baskets 

These baskets make a wonderful employee appreciation gift. They are personal yet practical and can be tailored to suit the recipient’s individual tastes. They can be filled with a variety of items, including food, wine, bath and body products, or even home decor items. 

No matter what the contents are, a basket full of gifts is sure to be appreciated by any recipient. They are also relatively easy to put together and can be assembled in a matter of minutes.

Handwritten Notes 

One of the simplest yet most effective ways to show your workers you appreciate them is to send a handwritten thank you card. Whether it’s for a job well done, meeting a deadline, or going above and beyond, taking the time to write a personal message will let your team members know that their efforts are noticed and appreciated.

TIP: It would be awesome if you don’t follow the generic “thank you” note, why don’t you take it to the next level with a heartfelt quote just like the one below?

employee appreciation gifts

Charitable Donations

Charitable donations are always a popular choice for staff gifts. Not only do they show that you care about the cause, but they also allow the recipient to choose where the donation goes. 

To make the most of your charitable donation, be sure to choose a reputable organization with a program that resonates with all the team members.

For example, if you have a lot of employees who are passionate about environmental causes, consider donating to an organization that helps preserve nature or promote sustainability. And look! Apple is not playing around with its employee giving program!

Gym Membership

Gym memberships make great gifts for employees. Not only is it a way to show you care about their health and well-being, but it’s also a way to give them an incentive to stay active. 

Gym memberships can be used at a variety of fitness facilities, so your employees can find the perfect fit for their workout routine. Plus, many gyms offer discounts on personal training and other services, making it an even more valuable gift. 

There you go, say goodbye to your “gift block” with our list! But, before you go, one more important thing to consider:

Yes, most of the employee appreciation gifts from employers to employees are taxable!

The IRS does not consider them to be deductible expenses for the company, and they are included in the employee’s taxable income. Below, you have a good list of what kinds of gifts are taxable or not!

employee appreciation gifts

Final Considerations

The best employee appreciation gifts are personal, thoughtful, and show that you’ve put some effort into picking out the perfect present. Whether you go for a heartfelt handwritten note or something more extravagant, make sure your employees feel valued and esteemed.

Yes, we know it can be tough to know the best employee gifts, but hopefully, this guide has given you a few ideas. Showing your employees that you care is important, and taking the time to make that perfect gift will go a long way!

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