Employee Appreciation Ideas that Work

Picture of Angela Petro

Angela Petro

CEO & Keeper of the Culture at Together & Co.

We’ve all seen the memes…There’s no doubt that the holidays can be a stressful time for all of us. And that stress can ramp up even more if your industry is seasonal. With workers setting boundaries around personal time more than ever, how can we show employees appreciation during the holidays in ways that feel authentic and motivating? 

A meme that's a screenshot from the movie Office Space. The meme indicates the boss is talking to an employee in a cubical setting. The text above the boss says "If you could just stay late for the office pizza party", and the text below the boss says "Yeah that'd be great."

At the heart of appreciation is a company’s culture and values. If you’re already dreading managing the added stress that the holiday season brings on your employees, I get it. But it’s easier than you think!

Here are 5 ways to boost holiday morale and avoid employee burnout:

Three employees stand outside a venue under a tent. Two of them are beaming at the camera, the third in the middle is looking of to their right and smiling. The person on the right has their hands on their hips.
An employee holds an hors d'oeuvre platter at an event. They are smiling big, their head tilted up a little.

1.    Personalize Appreciation

Your employees are smart and they know the difference between being appreciated and being bought off. Whether providing a casual holiday lunch, surprising your team with an afternoon sundae bar, or bringing in a chair masseuse, show that you value each person’s contribution as individuals.

Have a "Holiday Traditions" Potluck

At Together & Company we hold a “holiday traditions” potluck. Each person brings a dish and gets a card to display alongside it that shares why this food is special to them. It’s a great way to get to know each other better while enjoying a meal. And a word of advice for company leadership: SHOW UP! It may sound elementary but when company leadership is involved and present, it lets employees see that you care. Nothing derails your efforts like breezing in and out without engaging.

2.     Build Morale By Reinforcing Values

We love employees who show up because they are the ones who feel connected to our work and our culture. Communicate clearly and creatively why shared values matter. At the end of a long day during a stressful season, employees who show up because they care will be more resilient than those who are disconnected.

Five smiling employees are holding up henley style long sleeve tshirts. The three employees on the right are showing the front of the tshirts, which say "be the cookie". The two employees on the left are showing the backs of the shirts that say "do what it takes", with their last names above it.

Showing Values CAN Be Fun!

We create holiday swag that includes our company values and aren’t afraid to gift it early in the season. When it’s been a particularly grueling week, seeing our values on a t-shirt, hoodie, or tote bag can provide the rallying force we need to get through another long day. We like gifting apparel because it’s highly visible to each other (and our clients). And who doesn’t love a cozy hoody or a fun t-shirt? Keep in mind, if your values aren’t more than pretty words on an inspirational poster, this will fall flat.

Organize a Service Project

A shared service project is another way we fill our energy buckets while living our values as a company. Each year we have an employee Get Together with quick updates and kudos, a great lunch, and then do a paid team service project for a local non-profit.

We’ve done everything from stuffing holiday gift bags for A Kid Again to assembling and donating dressers to Furniture Bank. It’s another way for your team to connect, and to do something values-aligned together.

Three employees look up from working on a group service project and smile at the camera. The person in the middle is holding a thumbs up. They are all decked out in red and green holiday clothing and accessories.
Team Together & Co. boxing up gifts for a holiday service project

3.    Find Ways to Lighten Their Load

Acts of service are a great way to show appreciation for your employees and help lighten their load during the busy holiday season.

Consider hiring a “Task Elf” to do personal tasks for your employees – everything from picking up and wrapping gifts, to grocery shopping and mailing packages for team members. Eliminate the stress of meal planning entirely by surprising them with a bag of groceries and recipe cards. Better yet, send them home during the busy times with freshly prepared heat and serve meals. A caterer or home chef can make this simple to execute.

4.    Give Them Something to Look Forward To

Consider holding off on work parties until after the holiday season. Having your holiday celebration when employees have more free time can turn your well-intentioned gathering from a work obligation into an annual event everyone looks forward to.

And here's an insider bonus:

Restaurants, caterers and entertainment venues won’t be booked solid in January and may be more available to host. At T&Co. we have our holiday gathering in Q1 out of necessity, but it has given us extra time to plan themes, create fun awards programs, or bring in special vendors who wouldn’t be available in December.

A group of people in a large event space are wearing neon accessories and sunglasses. They are dancing with their hands in the air, laughing and singing.
Together & Co. employees let loose at a 80s themed holiday work party

5. Make Time For Celebrating

Yes, we’re all extra busy this time of year but taking team breaks goes the distance. Cater lunch or dinner, throw a surprise mid-afternoon happy hour, make time for fun and festivities! Bringing people together over a meal or a shared activity rather than grabbing a plate and taking it back to the desk goes a lot further.

Get Crafty With It!

We have a holiday tree each year and set up a craft station so that everyone in the company can decorate their own ornaments. We kick this off with an afternoon happy hour break with snacks, and holiday music. It might sound a little hokey but our team loves it!

A Caterer That's Here for You

You now know how simple it can be to genuinely appreciate employees while avoiding burnout and driving home company values this holiday season. Order from our seasonal menus at Together & Co. to make your employee appreciation a breeze this year. 

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Angela Petro is a twenty-six year veteran of the hospitality industry and founder of Together & Company and Sweet Carrot. Her Purpose in life is to Recognize Potential. While catering and special event planning were the beginning of her entrepreneurial journey, its sharing what she’s learned and empowering others through those stories that keep her coming back. You’ll find her on Linked In or can reach out directly at

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