Traditionally, the months of December and January are the time of year when companies take the time to show their appreciation for employees through holiday parties, bonuses or profit-sharing cheques, and gifts. 

As many holiday parties go virtual or are cancelled altogether—whether by choice or not due to the current COVID-19 restrictions—it’s important to show your employees that their continued hard work this year hasn’t gone unnoticed. 

The pandemic has forced many companies to cut costs wherever possible. But, as an old proverb reminds us, it’s the thought that counts. Continue reading to discover some affordable (and thoughtful) employee appreciation ideas. 

Consider your budget

In any given year, one important consideration when selecting employee appreciation gifts is budget. The ongoing pandemic and resulting financial crisis means that many companies are working within a limited budget, or have no money to spend at all on employee appreciation initiatives. 

If you do have a budget, divide it up equally and spend the same amount on each employee (or consider purchasing the same gift). No budget at all? No problem. Thoughtful holiday cards from your CEO and each employee’s manager or supervisor are a great and sincere way to give a personal gift to each employee and thank them for their hard work over the last year. 

The way to an employee’s heart…

Offer gift cards for meal delivery services, such as Doordash or Skip the Dishes, or local restaurants. This is a great way to help support employees who may be struggling with isolation and the stress of preparing home-cooked meals. It also helps support local businesses. 

According to Fond, “[t]he number of seated diners in restaurants has declined an alarming 64% percent compared to 2019 due to COVID-19 restrictions. While this decline is necessary for the safety of public health, restaurants need to take drastic measures to stay afloat while they wait to reopen dining rooms. Gift cards and takeout orders are how they are staying in business”.

This also offers flexibility to let you give as much—or as little—as you can to each employee towards a free meal. 

A company cookbook

This is another fun way to show your appreciation through food. Ask each employee to contribute a favourite holiday recipe and compile them together in a cookbook to distribute. You can get it printed and bound professionally, or go for a more cost effective option (i.e. free!) and share it as a PDF. 

This is also great because it allows your employees to get to know each other better through their shared family recipes. 

Related Reading: Employee Recognition Ideas: A Little Goes a Long Way

Host a Secret Santa

Hosting a virtual secret santa is easier than it sounds. This is a fun way for employees to show their appreciation for one another. You can use an application such as Elfster, that allows you to set a budget, determine who shouldn’t get certain people (e.g. for teams that don’t work closely together), and gives participants the option to create wishlists. 

Participants choose their own gifts online and enter their address, so all they need to do is pick what they want to get for their giftee and send it off to them. You can then host a gift opening where everyone opens their gifts over Zoom or Meet

Related Reading: A Very Merry Zoom-mas: Virtual Holiday Party Ideas

Time off for good behaviour

Another affordable employee appreciation gift idea is offering extra time off over the holidays. While this doesn’t necessarily work for everyone or every organization, it does show that you appreciate your employees’ hard work and understand that they may need a break or more time to spend with family, virtually or in-person. 

Related Reading: Happier Holidays: Getting Employees to Take Time Off

Did you get inspired to try out some of these ideas for affordable employee appreciation gifts this holiday season? Spread the joy (and the word). Share this article with your network and help them, too.


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