5 min read

Easy Ways to Say Thanks to Employees

By Kathy Irish on May 23, 2019 2:00:00 PM

Topics: Human Resources
ej4 Blog - Easy Ways to Say Thanks to Employees

Some old school cynics may argue that you get paid to do your job. Salary, benefits, etc. 9-5 get your work done. No “thanks” necessary. I believe in showing employees appreciation and saying thank you. From a civility and common courtesy perspective and for motivation to do their best.

In many cases, we spend more time with our coworkers than we do with our family. The “daily grind” can be exhausting and difficult. Having a culture where employees are appreciated can help employees through challenging times. It is important for ej4 and important for all of our clients. I think that is one reason why they invest in training.

We all handle a wide spectrum of work that covers small daily tasks, bigger projects, and efforts that go above and beyond. The methods of appreciation and thanks run across a spectrum as well. Some require a budget. Others just require thought and effort.

Office Environment

Let’s start with the day-to-day. The environment in your office surrounds employees every day. It’s constant. It is there when you are not. It sends a message from day one for a new hire and day 3,650 for your veterans. Small gestures are meaningful and show gratitude.

At ej4, we need to be creative on a daily basis. We want our employees to feel appreciated so they can produce the most creative and engaging training solutions in the industry. Maybe a handful of chocolate covered almonds can help get them through an afternoon writer's block or design slump. Other ideas include:

  • Offer snacks, soda, coffee to maintain energy throughout the day.
  • Allow pets in the office to make people smile and relax.
  • Provide standing desks for physical relief and proper ergonomics.
  • Provide ping pong, shuffleboard or foosball so employees can connect, take a break, and reset.
  • Open up your training library so employees can find the courses they need in the moment of need (shameless plug).
  • Allow flexible hours so employees can plan their tasks according to their energy levels.
  • Offer the choice to work from home in the event of a sick child or home repair.


Outside of formal recognition programs with certificates and awards, what can you do to thank individual employees for excellent work on daily tasks and big projects?

  • Simple, common courtesy, say thank you in the moment.
  • Write a thank you note or email.
  • Call them out in the team meeting or in writing in a team email.
  • Privately thank them face-to-face.

Going Above and Beyond

We all know in most companies it takes more than 40 hours a week to get things done. We need employees to go above and beyond sometimes. Not everyone will and that is ok. Think of the bell curve with your A, B, and C players. When someone does give you that discretionary effort, you have to say a larger thank you. I've seen things like this:

  • Run client packages to the airport FedEx before it closes at 8 pm.
  • Work overnight for scheduled technology launches.
  • Give up an entire Saturday to be in a company video with no promise of pay or comp time.

Larger gestures of thanks:

  • If the schedule and workload allow, offer comp time.
  • Write a LinkedIn recommendation or an official note for their HR file.
  • Pizza party. For some reason, pizza is a popular food for recognition. Why is that?
  • Team lunch at a nicer restaurant with table cloths and dinner entrees.
  • Group outing at a sporting event with food and adult beverages.
  • Reserved parking spots from executives.

No Budget for "Thank You's"?

In my career, I have worked for several companies whose business went through very dark times. We’ve all been there. Declining revenue, budgets being slashed, and lay-offs pending. You still need employees to give 110% to have any chance at turning things around. Employees can sense the stress of management. They notice when groups of lawyers start showing up. They can get distracted and disheartened. So, how do you show appreciation and say thank you in this environment?

  • Keep a positive attitude at work and keep your team focused on the priorities.
  • Day-to-day simple thanks you’s in person and in email.
  • Encourage work-life balance and stress management.

A few more involved ideas

All of these examples came from my colleagues and I. They are real-life examples of us, as managers, spending our own time and money to make our teams feel appreciated and thanked. 

  • Prize drawer
    • I bought $5 gift cards and dollar store items. When a special thank you was in order, my team members got to choose something from the prize drawer. (Kind of like at the dentist when I was a kid.)
  • Office Luau 
    • We all brought in festive food for breakfast and lunch.
    • We bought a Luau bowling set (coconuts and pineapples) and created a bracket tournament.
    • Hula hoop contest.
    • We bought these weird, little, tiki toothpicks and hid them around the office. We offered a prize for the person who found the most. People were wildly competitive and had a great time.
  • Christmas in July food day
    • We all brought in Christmassy food.
    • We bought fun, random items from the dollar store and wrapped them so each employee got a “present.”
    • Not to be confused with our Christmas in July FUNdraiser.
  • Movie lunch
    • Over two days, we watched the movie "Napoleon Dynamite" in the conference room with our own "brown bag" lunches.
I think the message here is that a thank you does not have to be extravagant to be meaningful. It just has to be genuine. Silly putty or a glow stick from a dollar store can bring a little joy and show appreciation. And so can a smile and two simple words: "thank you."

Related Training

ej4 offers a variety of training videos related to the suggestions in this blog. They are from our Business Skills Library. Calling out these courses for your employees can show care, concern, and gratitude, especially when the more elaborate ideas really aren't an option for you.

  • Ergonomics: If your budget doesn't allow for standing desks, you could offer our full series on Ergonomics that covers chair position, eye strain, your workspace, and stretching.
  • Managing Time vs. Energy: If your company is unable to offer flexible hours, this course can still help employees use their time effectively and prioritize work around their energy.
  • Creating Civility in the Workplace: Everyone's Responsibility: This course reviews common courtesy and highlights behaviors people may not realize are harmful or hurtful.
  • Staying Positive: We can all use simple reminders on how to say positive. This course gives tips on how to handle negative factors. 
  • Thank You Notes: This is becoming a lost art. Our course provides six quick tips on how to write a meaningful thank you note. 

Additional Resources


Kathy Irish

Written by Kathy Irish

Kathy joined ej4 in 2007 as our first Instructional Designer. She has over 15 years’ experience in Human Resource Management, Training and Organizational Development. In addition to managing and planning ej4’s yearly new content development, Kathy also oversees all the production on updates (both legal and style-wise) to current off-the-shelf content.

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