The past year has been a challenging one for everyone, both professionally and personally. From instituting remote work arrangements to temporary layoffs, businesses had to make adjustments—often without warning—to stay afloat. Those businesses that have weathered recent storms could not have done so without the loyalty and hard work of their team members. That’s why it’s more important than ever for leaders to show those team members their thanks and appreciation.
Indeed, a little extra love can make a huge difference in employee morale and well-being at any time, but particularly when teams are working remotely and lack the usual in-person interactions. Below, 15 members of Fast Company Executive Board share how they’ve shown their staff their appreciation over the past year and why this approach has been effective in lifting their team’s spirits.
1. THANK EACH OTHER PUBLICLY.
We actively nurture a culture of kudos. We keep a full team kudos-only Slack channel for anyone to give kudos to other teammates. It is a public thanks—an opportunity to highlight and make invisible work seen. About once a month we challenge the full team to publicly state their kudos to themselves—this is a chance for them to be proud and be seen. – Erica Mackey, MyVillage
2. PROMOTE PEER-TO-PEER RECOGNITION.
We have invested in a peer-to-peer recognition system (Bonus.ly), and we encourage everyone to recognize their co-workers. Everyone gets 200 points a month (which equates to $20) to give to others who helped them in their day-to-day routine. When someone gets recognized, it automatically posts to a Slack channel, sharing the kudos with everyone in the company. When a person gets enough points, they can redeem them for a gift. – Brian Price, cloudtamer.io
3. FOCUS ON YOUR CULTURE.
In a period of such tremendous isolation, we’ve focused heavily on our culture. Every month we facilitate a contest, story-sharing, recognition—something personal. We make our work environment more human. We call ourselves a “family of friends.” – Lisa Bichsel, Bichsel Medical Marketing Group
4. CELEBRATE THEIR WINS AS A TEAM.
I express my gratitude by fostering a more uplifting, supportive working environment that acknowledges our employees on a regular basis. We’ve instituted a team email to celebrate wins, started a wildly popular Slack channel for shout-outs, and carved out time during organizationwide meetings for public acknowledgments. We’ve also provided a stipend for employees to brighten up their remote workspaces. – Amit Paley, The Trevor Project
5. ACKNOWLEDGE WORKING PARENTS.
Acknowledge and praise working parents—even more than you think is necessary. Working parents are maxed out, burnt out, and out of gas. Acknowledging everything working parents are tasked with—stress, working from home with children, managing long days—helps ensure my team feels seen for all they have to hold in a day. – Amanda Munday, The Workaround
6. HOST VOLUNTEER DAYS.
Companywide volunteer days during the workweek are a great way to show your team appreciation. Employees want to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. Taking time away from the office as a group to volunteer allows everyone to give back together and contribute to the betterment of their local community. – Kelley Higney, Bug Bite Thing
7. FIND CREATIVE WAYS TO BOND.
Showing my team love has always been important. During the past year, finding ways to bond and creative ways to connect has been a priority. In addition to taking my team to lunches, we have hiked and started a book club. We read a book each month and share our three takeaways on how we can grow and flourish. – Karolina Hobson, Radd Interactive
8. HIGHLIGHT EACH PERSON’S POSITIVE IMPACT.
When we reviewed our first-quarter team accomplishments, I ended every person’s description of what they had achieved by highlighting the positive impact that they had had on me and our clients. I felt that a personal story about how they made a difference to me was the most authentic appreciation I could offer. – Andrew Binns, Change Logic LLC
9. SEND CURATED GIFTS.
In a completely virtual work environment, I’ve leaned into tangible ways to show my love for my team. Physical expressions of appreciation are more important than ever. There is an opportunity to be creative and personal—from a huge box of curated gifts to open during the holidays to a personalized work anniversary gift with a handwritten note. – Liza Streiff, Knopman Marks Financial Training
10. KEEP THEM EMPLOYED.
Don’t give up. When our competitors scaled back, laid off, and mothballed, we did everything in our power to keep going. We took advantage of every government program by doing what they were designed to help us do: keep people employed. – Alex Husted, HELPSY
11. SUPPORT MENTAL HEALTH.
I quit! When I need to, I cancel my meetings. I refuse to think about the business. I go silent and still. I imagine leaving it all. I do this not because I don’t love my work, but because I don’t like some of how it has to get done. And when I pick it back up it’s not because I have to, it’s because I want to. I encourage my team to do the same. Supporting mental health is the ultimate way to care. – Kathleen Griffith, Grayce & Co.
12. PROVIDE ADDITIONAL PTO.
One of the core principles I founded my company on is gratitude. Our team strives to show appreciation and gratitude each day. This past year we added additional PTO days—including shutting down between Christmas and New Year’s Day—to give the team time to disconnect, spend time with family and friends, and recharge. It’s been a high-stress year, and everyone deserves some extra time off. – Ryan Simonetti, Convene
13. HOLD SPECIAL CEREMONIES.
A great example—made even more special during COVID-19—is our team patch ceremony. We have a library of patches that each team member can be nominated for and awarded. These patch ceremonies have become such a special event for our team—it’s a creative way to acknowledge and appreciate others while having fun doing it. Who doesn’t love a new patch? – Bill Kenney, Focus Lab
14. PROVIDE CASH TO SPRUCE UP HOME OFFICES.
Last year, when the pandemic management efforts really took off, we gave everyone in our business the option to buy whatever they needed to support their work-from-home efforts. We set a budget and redeemed purchases made for equipment, furnishings, and related items. It was a much-appreciated gesture that really helped people. I think it also showed that we care about our people. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
15. FIND MORE THAN ONE WAY.
Appreciation comes in many forms. It can be praising your team members, giving them added time off, saying thank you more often, or even treating them to a Friday lunch. People do more when they are rewarded. Always remember to show you value your team members. – Wendi Weiner, The Writing Guru®