Updated: November 23, 2022

17 Virtual Employee Appreciation Ideas For 2023

You found our list of virtual employee appreciation ideas.

Virtual employee appreciation ideas are ways to recognize online staff for hard work, commitment, and positive attitude. For example, virtual birthday parties, peer to peer rewards, and social media shoutouts. The purpose of these gestures is to make staff feel seen and valued and to boost job satisfaction and staff retention. These examples are also known as “virtual appreciation ideas.”

These ideas are online versions of Employee Appreciation Day celebrations, and are similar to virtual thank you ideas and employee of the month programs.

This article includes:

  • virtual staff appreciation activities
  • remote employee appreciation program ideas
  • virtual employee appreciation day ideas
  • virtual employee appreciation event ideas
  • free virtual employee appreciation ideas
  • virtual employee appreciation gifts

Here we go!

List of virtual employee appreciation ideas

Here is a list of ideas to recognize remote employees for hard work and positive contributions.

1. #you-are-awesome

TeamBuilding has a Slack channel called #you-are-awesome where employees can share peer-to-peer shoutouts. Any team member can post a compliment at any time, and other employees can respond with emojis and comments. This exercise makes the subject of the praise feel seen and valued, and gives other remote employees warm fuzzies and the impression of a positive and grateful work culture.

screenshot of our you-are-awesome channel on slack

One extra step we have taken to make these shout outs even more impactful is to create special Slack emojis that correspond with the company core values so that team members get recognized for embodying the organization’s principles.

Check out more Slack channel ideas.

2. Care Packages

Work from home happens mostly on screen. There is no physical office, little face to face interaction with peers, and no complimentary cake or catered meals in the break room. While messages of thanks are uplifting, the occasional tangible thank you gift can make workers feel more appreciated and directly connected to the company.

You can periodically send team members care packages full of goodies such as:

  • Snacks
  • Socks
  • Hats
  • Tea or coffee
  • Stationary
  • Gift cards
  • Mugs or glasses
  • Handwritten notes of thanks

Care packages can be themed and sent as rewards for hitting life milestones or professional achievements, and you can also send periodic presents to boost your remote employees’ moods and show that you value their hard work.

For ideas, here are lists of affordable employee gift ideas and employee swag gifts.

3. Virtual parties

Virtual parties are one of the best virtual employee appreciation event ideas. Beyond honoring employees, these gatherings give remote coworkers a chance to have face time and hang out.

To hold a virtual party, send calendar invitations with video meeting links included. Best practice is to allow employees to expense a meal between $25-50 to enjoy during the event.

During the party, you can use breakout rooms for team games like trivia or Bingo or to facilitate more intimate conversations. You can acknowledge employee accomplishments by sharing a slideshow or video and listing the reasons for celebration.

4. Online Award Shows

Many companies honor employees by giving out awards. Just because you might not be able to gather your group in the same space to hand out awards, does not mean you cannot host a ceremony. To hold an online award show, invite employees to a Zoom meeting. Be sure to prepare a slideshow with the explanations of the awards and the names of the winners.

After the show, you can mail trophies or certificates and extra goodies like gourmet food and gift cards to winners. Or, you can send a box to every attendee, and tell recipients not to open the goodies until instructed. These kits can include items to make the event more enjoyable like food, cocktail mix kits, photo props, and noisemakers. For winners, you can include a sealed envelope or box inside the larger package with instructions to open only when prompted during the call.

Pro tip: Make a special virtual background and encourage attendees to dress up to set the atmosphere!

Here is a guide to doing online award shows.

5. Handwritten Notes

hand written thank you

Most communications in virtual offices are digital. While a quick email or instant message is nice, taking the time to write and mail a thank you note is a powerful gesture. Be sure to personalize the note and mention specifics about why you are happy to have the employee on the team and shout out their strengths and achievements. You can also include little extras in the envelope such as origami, magnets, packets of tea or instant coffee, or stickers.

For inspiration, here is a list of employee appreciation quotes.

6. Social Media Shout Outs

One of the easiest free virtual employee appreciation ideas is to shout out staff on the company social media page. To make the content, take or source a good photo of the staff member, list their name, position and department, mention a few of their key achievements, and share a mini interview. You can use a digital form like a Typeform or Google Form to gather information for the post. The content does not need to be strictly professional. You can ask random questions and gather fun personal facts to present your employee as a well-rounded human being.

You can also post the profile within the company blog or internal emails.

Here is a list of get to know you questions for inspiration.

7. Digital Gift Cards

Digital Gift Cards are one of the easiest virtual employee appreciation gifts. You can send e-gift cards to team members’ emails for special occasions like birthdays, workiversaries, holidays, as an instant reward for having a good idea, or just because. Asking employees’ preferences on gift cards is a good approach, or else more generic and widespread retailers like Amazon or Starbucks are good bets.

However, you can also go hyper-personal and get a giftcard that aligns with the employees’ location or interests, for example, an e-gift card to Goldbelly for foodies, or a digital gift card for the team member’s local coffee shop. Doing the research and customizing the reward can feel like a much more personal and caring gesture than simply sending a gift card to a big brand or chain.

Here are more employee gift ideas.

8. Virtual Birthday Parties

One of the best ways to show your staff that you appreciate them is by celebrating special personal events. Since all employees have birthdays, these occasions are good options for online offices to celebrate. Instead of gathering in the breakroom for cake, you and the team can schedule a Zoom call to chat, play games, sing, and celebrate their teammates special days.

Nice touches for online birthday parties include asking the staff to sign a digital card, making virtual backgrounds to honor the birthday teammate, playing trivia centered around the celebrant, and allowing attendees to expense a small treat or a meal.

Check out this guide to throwing virtual birthday parties.

9. Remote Lunches

Remote lunches are one of the best virtual employee appreciation day ideas. You can hold laid-back virtual lunches on Zoom to give teammates time to socialize while enjoying takeout. To host your lunch, first create a Zoom meeting, and send attendees an invitation with a link. If your team is geographically dispersed, then you should aim for a time that is convenient for most attendees. For example, 2PM EST is 11AM EST, yet both are reasonable lunch times.

You can either offer to reimburse attendees for the cost of a meal up to a certain amount, or send gift cards for meal delivery services like DoorDash or GrubHub.

Here is a guide to doing team lunches remotely.

10. One on Ones with the Boss

Getting virtual one on one time with higher management can be a powerful way to recognize remote employees. These meetings can be more professional, for example, the department head or president congratulating the employee personally on an achievement or the employee getting the chance to pitch projects or ideas to leadership. Or, the meetups can be informal hangouts, for example, sharing a casual remote lunch with the CEO or squaring off in a video game battle.

Beyond recognizing remote employees and giving these team members more visibility to leadership, these meetups can also improve the relationship between higher management and employees and increase staff morale and loyalty.

Here is a guide to doing one on one meetings virtually.

11. Shared Goal Setting Spreadsheets

goal spreadsheet

Goal setting spreadsheets can be both a motivation tool for employees to reach their objectives, as well as a way to celebrate those wins. First, create a shared spreadsheet or document where employees can share their intentions. Participants can track their progress every day if desired, yet should give updates at least once a week or once a month. These goals can be personal or professional. You could also create a Slack channel where participants can cheer each other on, ask for advice, and share good news. When a team member completes a goal or makes significant progress, the document owner should call attention to the feat and invite coworkers to celebrate the success.

12. Charity Donation

Charitable giving is one of the most meaningful remote employee appreciation program ideas. You can offer to make a contribution to the organization of the employee’s choosing in the employee’s name. Rather than asking employees to name an organization on the spot, it can be nice to give teammates time to find a cause they care about and the ability to call for the contribution later in the year.

For tips, check out this list of virtual fundraiser ideas.

13. Peer to Peer Rewards

Peer to peer rewards are one of the most fun virtual staff appreciation activities. This approach gives team members autonomy to instantly show appreciation for coworkers instead of leaving recognition at the discretion of management.

There are many ways to structure these programs. For example:

  • Offer employees a stipend for coworker rewards and reimburse treats like coffees or cards
  • Use employee engagement software that allows team members to send each other points redeemable for rewards
  • Have a drawing for a quarterly prize that teammates can nominate each other for
  • Use an app like HeyTaco that allows employees to send each other fun appreciation emojis

Here is a link to employee engagement software that can help facilitate peer to peer rewards.

14. E-greetings

One of the most simple ways to share appreciation in virtual offices is via e-greetings. Managers and team members can send each other messages to wish each other well on birthdays and workiversaries, acknowledge personal achievements like buying a house or getting married, or honoring work wins like promotions or finishing projects.

There are many ways to make a group ecard. For example, you can send around a shared Google Doc or Slide for teammates to type directly into, can gather well wishes via a digital form and transfer the messages into a slideshow presentation or Canva card, or could even build a virtual platform employees can use to send each other kudos.

The best greetings include personalized notes. You can encourage team members to write more personal messages with prompts like “what is your favorite memory with Marge?” “Why are you most grateful for Homer?”

For more tips, check out this guide to creating holiday messages for staff.

15. Community Calendars

Community calendars are ways to keep the team informed about significant events or achievements. On a shared cloud calendar, you can make events for occasions like workiversaries, birthdays, or non-mainstream holidays that certain staff members celebrate. You can also include work specific events like major presentations or first days in a new position. These notifications can trigger teammates to reach out to each other and offer well wishes and words of encouragement, and can also remind management to acknowledge the occasion. Employees are welcome to add their own special days to the calendar.

By referencing the calendar, culture leaders can create special shout outs via email or Slack with specially-made Canva graphics.

16. Dark Days

One way to thank online employees for their diligent work and productivity is to introduce dark days to the working calendar. Dark days are extra off days that employees can take off and rest without dipping into personal PTO. These perks are especially effective during slow periods following busy periods. For instance, TeamBuilding gives HQ staff the week off between Christmas and New Years following the hectic holiday season. We recently also introduced a well-received “lite January” perk, where employees can work four day workweeks the entire first month of the year.

You can adjust these days to fit the company’s needs, for instance, staggering the days off to suit staffing needs, working half days, or requiring employees to respond to urgent matters only.

Even though teammates may not have to travel into the office to work, having time off to unplug, recharge, and refocus is one of the best appreciation gifts you could give your staff.

17. Virtual Retirement Parties

Virtual Retirement Parties honor years worth of hard work. When a teammate leaves the working world, you can gather the virtual team together to celebrate. Simply schedule a Zoom meeting and plan activities and tributes to recognize the retiring team member’s contributions. Good ideas for virtual retirement parties include personal slideshow presentations, Bingo, digital cards, and group gifts. These events not only send longtime employees out on a note of appreciation, but also signal to the rest of the staff that the company values employee loyalty and legacy.

Check out this list of tips for planning a DIY online retirement party.

Final Thoughts

Showing appreciation in virtual offices is especially important because remote workers can often feel that their work goes unnoticed and is underappreciated. Taking the time to give staff a virtual round of applause assures employees that they are a valued part of the team. Plus, these occasions give virtual teammates opportunities to celebrate together, and the resulting sense of camaraderie strengthens community and creates a sense of company culture in your fully remote workplace. Modeling appreciative behavior encourages employees to continue the culture of gratitude in the online office.

Next, check out these lists of virtual Administrative Professionals Day ideas and Boss’ Day ideas.

We also have a list of employee recognition ideas for work, a guide to the importance of employee recognition, and a list of the best gift ideas for virtual events.

FAQ: Virtual employee appreciation

Here are answers to common questions about virtual employee appreciation ideas.

What are virtual employee appreciation ideas?

Virtual employee appreciation ideas are ways to recognize employees online. These gestures are methods of making remote team members feel more seen and valued in online workplaces. The goal of these tactics is to improve company culture, staff morale, and talent retention.

What are some good virtual appreciation ideas? 

Some good virtual appreciation ideas include online awards shows, digital gift cards, care packages, and remote lunches.

How do you show remote employees appreciation?

To show remote employees appreciation, be sure to create channels to facilitate ongoing congratulations and praise, for example, Slack channels, regular employee appreciation Zoom meetings, and apps that enable peer to peer thank yous. You can plan special events like virtual award shows and team celebration dinners, and can also celebrate occasions like birthdays and work anniversaries.

As a general rule, seize as many opportunities as possible to tell your employees “thank you,” “you rock,” and “I see your hard work.”

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Marketing Coordinator at teambuilding.com.
Team building content expert. Angela has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and worked as a community manager with Yelp to plan events for businesses.

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