A woman receives a gift in a bag from her manager.
Showing appreciation to your employees doesn't have to cost a lot of money. Consider offering extra paid time off, ending work early on a Friday, or celebrating a work milestone. — Getty Images/Willie B. Thomas

Most experts agree that the best way to give positive feedback to your team is to do so early and often. Informal, regular recognition can go a long way toward boosting engagement and keeping morale high.

However, there are some points during the year when you should be more intentional and explicit with your gratitude. At the end of a busy period, during the holidays, or on employee work anniversaries, consider going a step further to show your gratitude to your team. Here are some ways to do that.

Give end-of-year bonuses

A study by Payscale showed that employees who are most satisfied with their employers are those who either received a raise before they asked for one or those who were already happy with their salaries. In fact, 98% of workers who received a bonus in 2021 stayed with the same employer the following year. Bonuses are a highly effective way to retain employees and show how much you appreciate their hard work.

And bonuses don’t have to break the bank. “Employers usually base holiday bonuses on a percentage of your salary. They usually range from 5-10% of your year's earnings,” wrote Indeed. Compare that figure to the cost of replacing an experienced employee — which can range from one-half to two times the employee's annual salary — and holiday bonuses are an attractive investment.

Provide other incentives or perks

There are other ways to show your appreciation beyond simply writing a check. Consider expressing your gratitude with benefits suited for both remote and in-office workers. Gym memberships, subsidized child care, and gift cards are all easy ways to say thank you.

Look for gifts that are widely applicable so every team member can enjoy them. For instance, Amazon gift cards are flexible for hybrid and remote workers, and they give your employees wide latitude to find something they’ll enjoy.

[Read more: Great Employee Gift Ideas for Remote and In-Person Teams]

Create a tradition that everyone can look forward to, such as a monthly team-building or social event.


Offer extra paid time off

If your business has a busy season — such as tax season, Black Friday, or the end of the year — consider giving employees a few extra paid days off afterward to recover. Paid time off is also an affordable incentive to offer to your top performers.

“I think the most valuable way to recognize an employee today is through time off ― that is, time off, time to do something else besides work,” said Mark Valenti, President and CEO of The Sextant Group in a Business News Daily article. “It could be family, a hobby, a charity, or a short vacation. I don’t think it needs to be routine or regular and has the most value when it’s unexpected.”

[Read more: 8 Low-Cost Ways to Show Employee Appreciation]

Do something fun

Companies that have a great work culture don’t just focus on results, they also make time for fun. Brands like Intuit, Kohl’s, and Palo Alto Networks are known to invest in amenities and employee benefits that cultivate a sense of fun. The same approach can work for your team too.

“End a Friday afternoon a little early and have an in-office or virtual party with food, drinks, and games. Think: Mario Cart tournaments at the end of every project period for positive team building, or take-home cocktail kits for the perfect Zoom happy hour,” suggests Hoppier, an employee gifting platform.

Ask your employees what they would enjoy doing to avoid throwing a stale office pizza party. Forced fun — like trust falls — is almost worse than expressing no gratitude at all.

Celebrate traditions

You may already celebrate birthdays and work anniversaries, but consider showing your gratitude by celebrating other work milestones. Simply hosting an employee appreciation day once or twice a year is enough to recognize your employees.

“Create a tradition that everyone can look forward to, such as a monthly team-building or social event,” wrote Indeed. “In addition to showing appreciation to your employees, you can also strengthen team bonds and reinforce a positive work environment regularly.”

You could also create an annual retreat, make up a holiday unique to your business, or choose a milestone each year (such as a sales number) that calls for a celebration. Make it meaningful and relevant to the hard work your team puts in each and every day to show that you’re grateful.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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