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Attracting and retaining talent

5 Creative Virtual Employee Appreciation Ideas

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With the onset of COVID-19, the “future of work” arrived sooner than expected. For years, thought leaders predicted a virtual work environment where technology would replace the traditional structures and paradigms that dictated how we worked for decades. While technology has certainly changed some of these structures, like video conferences in lieu of in-person meetings, what hasn’t changed is the deep-rooted human need to belong and be acknowledged for our contributions. The challenge for organizations today is not how to work, but how to foster a virtual environment where employees feel seen, heard and appreciated.

So how are companies doing during the pandemic to create these virtual environments where employees feel recognized? Well, according to recent polls, it seems more needs to be done. In the 2020 Culture Report by the Achievers Workforce Institute, they asked employees how their organizations could better support them through the COVID-19 pandemic. The results found that one-third (35%) of respondents picked more recognition as their top ask.

While words of gratitude like “thank you” will always be important, it isn’t—and shouldn’t be—the only way to show your employees appreciation. Here are five creative virtual employee appreciation ideas you can use to recognize and celebrate employee contributions, regardless of where they work.

1. Virtual lunches with different senior leaders and teams

Scheduling this time across the organization encourages departments to form relationships they otherwise might not have. This also allows executives to make face time with their employees a priority and for employees to ask their questions in a relaxed setting. Such opportunities ultimately build the bridges necessary to express and receive appreciation (free lunch is always a nice perk, too).

2. Online board game day or scavenger hunt

Nothing brings people together like friendly competition. With a little creativity and the help of technology, organize a board game or scavenger hunt social. Many classic board games offer online versions, like Monopoly or even Settlers of Catan, or create your own customized game that integrates company trivia or fun facts about the team.

3. Upgrade workstation furniture for home offices

As we all learned very quickly, working from home comes with its own unique set of challenges. However, a few simple upgrades like ergonomic chairs or a soft desk lamp can help maximize efficiency and comfort throughout the workday. Not only will employees thank you, but so will their posture, eyes, and mental health.

4. Free or discounted online fitness classes

Exercise is even more important for those working from home and sitting for hours at a time. One of the greatest benefits of exercise is the immediate relief felt after a workout—both mentally and physically. Offering online fitness classes, whether that’s an easy yoga class during lunch or a HIIT bootcamp at the end of the day, will encourage employees to get moving and maintain healthy habits.

5. Mental well-being or staycation themed days off

Working from home has blurred the line between home and office, resulting in employees working now at least three hours longer. A company-wide day off encourages employees to log-off and minimize the number of pings and emails that add to the pressure to keep working.

Achievers recently gave their employees January 4th off as “Rest-o-lution Day.” A company-wide day to reflect on goals and the year ahead, the extra day off from the holidays was well appreciated and much needed.

Employee appreciation is a great way to kickstart or accelerate your company’s recognition efforts in this new world of work. With a long-term recognition strategy in place, a company can build a culture that commits to the employee experience every day, in-person or virtually.

For more virtual employee appreciation ideas and tips on building an effective culture of appreciation no matter where employees work, download the complete The Power of Employee Appreciation: Why a Progressive Recognition Strategy is the Key to Recovery During COVID-19 eBook.

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