Connie Du

Connie is a former Content Marketing Specialist at Bonusly. ☀️ She loves writing, her cats, and a well-placed emoji.

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In recent years, the concept of “bringing your whole self to work” has gained momentum. But research shows that, for LGBTQI+ employees, many environments still aren’t safe enough to bring every aspect of who they are to the workplace. In fact, the Center for American Progress found that half of the LGBTQI+ participants in its 2022 study had experienced discrimination or harassment at work within the past year.

This Pride Month, while corporate ads, slogans, and social media campaigns support LGBTQI+ equity abound, it’s critical to consider how organizations can move beyond performative allyship and “rainbow-washing” toward creating environments that are truly safe and inclusive for all employees.


pride parade

Key ways to support your LGBTQI+ employees at work

Your organization may be bursting with employee Pride, but if leaders aren’t sure how to talk about Pride Month at work, a powerful opportunity for celebration, education, and connection can pass right by.

Here are a few thoughts on how you can support your LGBTQI+ colleagues during Pride Month and beyond:

💡 Diversity and inclusion is a value-add for organizations. Download this fact sheet to see how!

1. Encourage empathy

First, let’s talk about interpersonal inclusion. It’s generally what we think of when we think about inclusion in the workplace—it’s how employees interact, connect, and communicate with each other. And it’s also how an organizational culture is formed.

To create a truly inclusive culture, encouraging empathy among colleagues is paramount. And for non-LGBTQI+ workers, listening to the experiences and perspectives of LGBTQI+ colleagues can be a powerful way to gain understanding.

Some organizations find it helpful to set up structured learning opportunities, including:

  • Experience talks, in which LGBTQI+ colleagues or guests speak about their experiences within certain industries.
  • Expertise talks, in which a LGBTQI+ colleague or guest speaks about a relevant business topic, serving to diversify an organization’s speaker set while also supporting educational goals.

Of course, co-workers sharing experiences with each other in less formal ways is an invaluable way to learn and build empathy. But it’s important to note the very real challenges LGBTQI+ employees face in openly discussing their lives in many work environments.

“Operating with empathy is the ultimate way to forge a more equitable and inclusive culture, and this has to be embedded into the overall company culture.” – Sander van ‘t Noordende, CEO, Randstand

“We often hear from straight, cisgender leaders that one of the biggest challenges to LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace is the lack of exposure to what life is like for LGBTQ+ people. We can all benefit from listening to new perspectives, stepping outside of our comfort zones, and considering what life is like for people with identities that are different from us.” – The National LGBTQ+ Bar Association
pride love


2. Know that small talk is no small thing

Whether it’s catching up in the office after a weekend or engaging in virtual watercooler talk, work environments demand a certain level of sharing and chit chat among colleagues. But small talk is no small thing.

In its most recent national study, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Workplace Equality Program determined that 36% of non-LGBTQI+ workers feel uncomfortable hearing a LGBTQI+ colleague talk about dating, and 59% of non-LGBTQI+ workers think that talking about sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace is unprofessional.

In other words? LGBTQI+ employees may feel they have to carefully navigate conversations that their non-LGBTQI+ colleagues breeze through without a second thought. In some environments, LGBTQ+ workers still feel they have to avoid even mentioning a same-gender or nonbinary partner.

“ . . . a double standard for LGBTQ workers persists in significant ways where they receive a message that their sharing is not welcome.” –  A Workplace Divided, Human Rights Campaign Foundation

Still, connecting about non-work-related topics is an important way for colleagues to build and strengthen relationships. Conversational signals that can help LGBTQI+ employees feel safe talking about their personal lives include:

  • Avoiding heteronormative assumptions (e.g., if a woman mentions they’re married, don’t assume “husband” is the word to use for their spouse)
  • Using neutral terms like “partner”, “significant other,” or “spouse”
  • Avoiding a binary assumption of gender (e.g., instead of saying “ladies and gentlemen,” use neutral language: “Hi, everyone”)
  • Sharing gender pronouns
  • Using inclusive vocabulary

“Using gender-neutral and anti-ableist language isn’t about just being politically correct … It’s about allowing yourself to broaden your perspective. Language is powerful and doesn’t only affect the listener, but also the user. By taking the extra energy to be more mindful of the language we use, we’re training new circuits in our brains and becoming more aware of how certain language can create a more supportive work environment.” – Sayume Romero, speech pathology student and LGBTQ activist

3. Audit your organizational policies

For HR professionals, the engagement and wellbeing of all employees—including their safety, security, and peace of mind—is a primary concern. And counting on organizational guidelines or EEOC regulations isn’t sufficient.

After all, it wasn’t until June 2020 that the Supreme Court actually ruled it illegal to fire someone on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. And in many organizations, plenty of heteronormative or discriminatory policies still remain in employee handbooks.  

If you’re in an HR role, consider whether your organization:

  • Offers benefits to domestic partners.
  • Clearly communicates what constitutes harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
  • Explicitly includes sexual orientation and gender identity in its nondiscrimination policy.
  • Uses equitable language in its policies (e.g., “parental leave” instead of “maternity leave”).
  • Requires a dress code that reinforces gender stereotypes.
  • Offers healthcare benefits covering transgender and mental health support.
  • Offers support and the appropriate office amenities for employees who are non-binary or transitioning.

💡 Diversity and inclusion is a value-add for organizations. Download this fact sheet to see how!

pride heart

For more information

If you’re looking for information about what other equitable and inclusive organizations across the country are doing to support their LGBTQI+ employees, check out the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index. The Foundation’s Trans Toolkit for Employers is also a valuable tool in setting up your organization to be transgender-inclusive. For questions about healthcare benefits, reach out to your insurance broker to understand your options.

71% of the Fortune 500 [...] offer transgender-inclusive health insurance coverage, up from 0 in 2002 and 22 times as many businesses as twelve years ago. – Corporate Equality Index, Human Rights Campaign Foundation

Next steps

What is your organization doing to support your LGBTQ+ employees: Tell us in the comments below.

Additionally, check out these additional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion resources from Bonusly:


At Bonusly, we’re strong believers in bringing our full selves to work—including our ethnic and racial backgrounds. Not only that, but we like to celebrate it. Recognizing and celebrating employees’ racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds can be effective in building psychological safety and employee engagement!

If your leadership team or key stakeholders need a bit of a nudge to embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion, download this fact sheet for some of the most compelling D&I statistics around.

The beginning of May signals a month-long celebration of the many, many, cultural backgrounds that make up the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) identity. AAPI Heritage Month is a great opportunity to have fun, learn about your colleagues, and educate yourself! 


In 1976, congressional staffer Jeanie Jew witnessed the United States’ bicentennial celebration (it’d been 200 years since the Declaration of Independence was signed) and was troubled by the lack of recognition for AAPI contributions. Her great-grandfather, M.Y. Lee, had immigrated to the United States in the 1800s to help build the transcontinental railroad—a tremendous accomplishment that was blighted by violent anti-Asian discrimination and the introduction of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

She’d mentioned her concerns to New York Congressman Frank Horton, and it took until 1992—more than 15 years later—before the legislation to permanently designate May as AAPI Heritage Month passed through Congress.

“The revelations about Mr. Lee and the story of Asian Americans led [Jeanie Jew] to believe that not only should Asians understand their own heritage, but that all Americans must know about the contributions and histories of the Asian-Pacific American experience in the United States.”
–New York Congressman Frank Horton

So, why May? It commemorates the first Japanese people to immigrate to the United States, on May 7, 1843, and also is a nod toward the May 10, 1869 completion of the same transcontinental railroad that Jeanie Jew’s own grandfather had worked on.

Now, 23 million Asian American and Pacific Islanders trace their roots to more than 20 countries in East and Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, each with their own unique histories and cultural practices. There’s a lot to cover—here are a few ways to get started.

To see a list of the other best workplace holiday celebrations by month with guides to help you plan in advance, check out our recommended calendar


Often seen as a monolithic “model minority,” we should first understand that “Employment and economic status among members of the AAPI community are also far from uniform: While some AAPI subpopulations are heavily concentrated in higher-wage professional and management occupations, others are heavily concentrated in lower-wage service occupations.”

This danger of a single story rears its head here. The AAPI community consists of more than 50 ethnic groups, grouped together as a demographic purely because of vague geographic borders; it’s impossible to capture a singular “Asian-American experience.” Instead, the following ideas and resources are meant to capture the diversity of narratives and stories present in the AAPI community.


Read a book by an AAPI author

There’s nothing like diving into new experiences through a great book. Host a book club with your team members, and learn together!

Some of our favorite books by AAPI authors include:

The Making of Asian America: A History
Erika LeeMinor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning
Cathy Park HongAsian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People
Helen ZiaThe Sympathizer
Viet Thanh NguyenHow to Pronounce Knife
Souvankham ThammavongsaTime is a Mother
Ocean VuongThe Island of Sea Women
Lisa SeeSour Heart
Jenny ZhangPin Ups
Yi Shun LaiPachinko
Min Jin Lee


Watch a movie by an AAPI director

There are excellent movies out there that explore the multiplicity of the AAPI experience. At Bonusly, we often host movie screenings (virtually, for now!) as a way to learn about our cultures and spend time together.

Nomadland (2020)
Chloé ZhaoMinari (2020)
Lee Isaac ChungSaving Face (2005)
Alice WuThe Farewell (2019)
Lulu WangAlways Be My Maybe (2019)
Nahnatchka KhanBitter Melon (2018)
H.P MendozaWho Killed Vincent Chin? (1987)
Christine ChoyTigertail (2020)
Alan YangMeet the Patels (2015)
Ravi Patel, Geeta PatelMinari (2021)
Lee Isaac Chung


Eat and drink

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again—eating and drinking is one of our favorite ways to get to know a culture better. Here are a few different ways to enjoy and learn about AAPI cuisine:


Participate in asynchronous discussion

For a lightweight way to learn and discuss, Bonusly likes to post a prompt in the beginning of the week—typically a short video or article—with some questions to get everyone thinking. Team members are free to discuss and chat about what was striking, surprising, or new to them.

Here are some media we’re planning to talk about:

Make a contribution to an AAPI non-profit organization

Donating to an organization that advances AAPI issues is a great way to tangibly support the AAPI community. Here are a few to applaud, research, and donate to:

Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) 

Fighting for civil rights and empowering Asian Americans to create a more just America for all.

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

SAALT’s vision is to help build a South Asian Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty with shared val­ues that uplift all peo­ple of col­or, and will cross lines of race, caste, gen­der, sex­u­al­i­ty, and reli­gion to abol­ish sys­tems of oppres­sion and achieve col­lec­tive lib­er­a­tion.

Asian Mental Health Collective

Asian Mental Health Collective seeks to raise awareness about the importance of mental health care, promote emotional well-being, and challenge the stigma concerning mental illness amongst  Asian communities worldwide.

Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund

National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF)

Our mission is to build collective power with AAPI women and girls to gain full agency over our lives, our families, and our communities.

Red Canary Song

A grassroots collective of Asian & migrant sex workers, organizing transnationally.

Stop AAPI Hate

Stop AAPI Hate began as a reporting center to track and analyze incidents of hate against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through our reports and advocacy, we have raised national awareness about the issue of anti-Asian hate.

Host a speaker from your local AAPI coalition

Chances are, you have a local organization that's working hard to advance the AAPI community and pursue justice in your area. They're your experts—why not invite them to speak at your company about the unique issues your city is tackling? It's a great way to build stronger relationships in the community you reside in. Google around for who's present in your area—this list is also a good place to start. 


Next steps

Has this post sparked inspiration? Tell us in the comments below, or check out these additional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion resources from Bonusly:


In my opinion, International Women’s Day on March 8th is up there with Galentine’s Day as one of the most fun occasions. The day is an opportunity to empower one another, celebrate female-identifying friends, and recognize the the hard work, sacrifices, and joy evident in the long history of women’s social, economic, cultural, and political achievements.

I mean, come on! Just reading that inspires me! 😭🎉💪

However, the story of women in the workforce is a long and often troubled one. We’ve made strides in some areas of the world, but the reality is, women are still underrepresented in many fields and in the executive suite. When you take into account racial and ethnic background, the disparity becomes even more stark.

We've also gathered some of the most compelling diversity, equity, and inclusion statistics into one resource.

-> 11 Diversity and Inclusion Statistics That Will Change How You Do Business

So, with a mind for guaranteeing an equitable and diverse workplace, let’s continue to empower, recognize, and celebrate women’s accomplishments. 


How to celebrate International Women’s Day in the workplace

Before we dive into ideas, it’s important to note: Inclusion is key. 🔑

While it’s wonderful to have women-owned coalitions and support networks, it takes a careful balancing act to allow space for psychologically-safe conversations but also not push these conversations aside.

For example, I recently listened to a woman speak about how awesome it was to be invited to speak at so many women-in-tech conferences—but that it was a bummer that more “mainstream” conferences regularly overlooked her proposals. 

In the spirit of inclusion, you should think of different identity groups as contained within your company culture, not as separate entities! 

So when it comes to celebrating women’s accomplishments, challenging the status quo, and understanding gender disparity, it should be a company-wide effort.

Got it? Cool. Let’s talk about ideas.

To ensure you're being inclusive to other groups at your organization, check out the best workplace holiday celebrations by month with guides to help you plan in advance in our recommended calendar.  

1. Reflect 

International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to reflect on your current equity and inclusion practices. Take a moment to dig into the data: What are the current demographics of your team? What does your hiring pool look like? Who gets recognized, and who receives promotions? 

Take a look at your HRIS or people operations systems—you should be taking advantage of its people analytics capabilities! If you’re using a recognition and rewards platform like Bonusly, you can easily see who your team is collaborating with and recognizing

These are hard questions, and the data can be surprising. If you have an equitable company culture, great! If not, then we have some work to do. 💚

For example, women are less likely to advocate for themselves in conversations about raises and promotions. Much like how the loudest voice in the room is often the most listened to, you can reduce this bias by standardizing performance review cycles and hosting a company-wide workshop on how to reduce bias in the review process. 

2. Educate

Learning about the impact of diversity, equity, and inclusion is important for every organization. Think of it as a career development opportunity! 

A common bias? Assuming that everyone on your team identifies as a man or woman. Celebrating International Women's Day may backfire if you highlight someone who might not identify as a woman. That's why, here at Bonusly, our email signature templates include pronouns

Diverse and inclusive companies are more likely to be financially successful. There are a lot of theories surrounding this, the most prominent of which describes the importance of different perspectives in innovating and solving problems. Diverse workforces are just smarter, and building inclusive teams is a goal that can be worked toward like any other company objective. 

International Women’s Day is a great time to kick off this initiative. Bring in speakers, arrange workshops, read books… There are a lot of ways to learn about the impact of diverse workplaces.

Here’s a good place to start:

-> 11 Diversity and Inclusion Statistics That Will Change How You Do Business


3. Mentor

Mentorship is important in many business settings, and it’s shown to increase the promotion rates of women, both for the mentees and the mentors. 

The benefits of mentorship in the workplace extend beyond the employee to the company itself. Effective mentorship is proven to help companies improve retention and minority representation in management roles. 

Encouraging mentorship opportunities solidifies peer relationships in the workplace. Unfortunately, recent research shows that 60% of men in senior-level positions are uncomfortable taking on a mentor role with younger women, leaving women 24% less likely than men to receive career advice from senior leaders. 

More than ever, senior leaders (who are still primarily men) need to support and advocate for women. 

Kickstarting a formal mentorship program at your organization, with careful consideration into complementary personalities, is a way to circumvent informal and/or casual mentorships, and make sure everyone has the opportunity to benefit from learning from a company leader. 

4. Support

Research confirms that people seem to have an inherent need and desire for meaningful work—work that is perceived as significant and purposeful. 

This also applies to the philanthropic, charitable work that your company does! Whether it’s through fundraising or volunteering, lending a helping hand is a good deed and is a great way to showcase your company’s values. 

In honor of International Women’s Day, consider making a donation or volunteering with a women-focused organization. Women- and girls-focused organizations only receive 1.6% of all charitable giving, so your support will definitely be recognized. 

Here are a few to consider:


5. Recognize 

The higher you go up the corporate ladder, the fewer women you see. Do you have any women on your executive team? 

Considering that companies with gender diversity on their executive teams are more likely to be financially successful, we should all be working toward a diverse and engaging workforce—and that includes making sure everyone gets recognized.

I mean, only if you want a higher chance for your company to succeed. 😉

It’s not enough to simply hire women and hope for the best; you have to make sure they have the environment they need to succeed. That means celebrating and recognizing their accomplishments!

Look at your directors and managers. What’s the gender ratio like? What are the unique challenges they’ve had to face, and what successes can you highlight? 

This doesn’t have to just be a hierarchical practice. Who are your culture leaders? These leaders are the ones who take it upon themselves to amplify the ideas of other women, or the ones who always go the extra mile. International Women’s Day is the perfect day to make sure you see them and their efforts. 

But more than that, you’ll find that recognizing your employees is more impactful when you extend it beyond just one day. Make it a 365-day effort, and you’ll find a more transparent and inclusive company culture.

When coupled with consistent recognition, employee resilience can help build a sense of purpose, progress, and belonging at work to support every member of your team. Download our resilience guide to get started. 👇

There are all kinds of employee and corporate rewards out there. Since Bonusly is the top-rated employee recognition and rewards program, we're pretty familiar with the best employee appreciation ideas out there. To help you, we’ve gathered the very best and most creative employee reward ideas and put them all into one big list. 😎

This list has been so popular that we've updated and expanded it multiple times—and we’re happy to say that this time around, we’ve rehauled the entire list! Plus, by popular request, look for 🚫💰 peppered throughout for free or low-cost ideas! 

Creativity, not cost, is the real secret to building an assortment of employee rewards and incentives that everyone will be excited to earn. Bonus points: rewarding your employees is important when building your organizational culture and growing your benefits and perks offerings.

Looking to build stronger, more engaged, and motivated teams in 2023?

-> Download the Free Guide: 3 Steps to Building Engaged, Resilient Teams

Before we get started—if you're looking for a better way to reward employees on your team or in your company—we can help! To learn more, you can take a tour of our platform, request a demo, or try it out for free today! 

Ready, set, rewards! 

Here's a shortcut to our favorite categories. ⬇️

Gifts Professional Development ExperiencesServices



1. Branded clothing/swag 

The first idea on our list is to utilize what you likely already have in your arsenal—your company’s own branded swag! There are always t-shirts or water bottles floating around the office, and most people love the opportunity to rep their company. Most people also love free things. 🤑

Take this moment to think about your swag designs. Are they cool? Is it just your company logo slapped on a plain t-shirt? Listen—your company logo might be really snazzy, but crowdsourcing swag design is a great way to get employees involved and show off your team’s creativity.

Maybe you landed on an elephant riding a rocket ship wearing your company logo? Great! Consider working with a company like Caroo to create and send out your new favorite designs in curated swag boxes to employees. You can take this quick 60-second quiz to get personalized results.


2. Spotify Premium or Apple Music subscription

Nearly everybody has a preferred work playlist. So you’re grooving along, in the zone, and then—screech—a horribly jarring ad comes on and ruins your focus.

You hate it, I hate it, everybody hates it. So eliminate those moments altogether by rewarding your employees with a premium account to their music streaming service of choice.

3. Plants 🚫💰

According to US News & World Report, British and Dutch researchers have “found that having office plants created a better work environment.”

Why? Here’s what the research suggests: “One possible explanation is that greenery increases engagement by making people more physically, cognitively, and emotionally involved in their jobs.”

If your employees would consider it a gift and not a source of stress, give them a plant to care for at the office. We recommend low-light, easy-care plants like succulents and cacti! 🌿🌱🌵🌼

4. Book of the Month

Have a few bookworms on your team? Book of the Month is an easy, subscription-based gift that provides readers with their pick from five buzz-worthy new novels each month. Plus, if there are multiple big readers at your company, you basically get a built-in book club!

5. Charitable giving

Many of your employees are likely making charitable donations already. You can help them to amplify the impact they're making by making a donation on their behalf, or matching a donation, as a meaningful reward.

For more, see how Bonusly users donate within the employee recognition platform. 

6. Gift cards

Gift cards are one of the most impactful types of employee rewards (especially when you automate them with Bonusly!). There's no doubt a huge variety of gift cards from your team's favorite retailers that you can offer. There's a special feeling you get when you buy a pair of new shoes, a spa day, or a cup of coffee on the weekend—with the knowledge that your company just foot the bill. 😉

7. “____” club

It’s the gift that keeps on giving. 😉

Getting a package in the mail every month with goodies is always delightful, and now you don’t even have to go through the trouble of packaging it up for someone and heading to the post office. There are so many monthly subscription services out there with every theme under the sun. Here are a few of our favorites:

💅 Beauty: Birchbox
🍦 Ice cream: Jeni's Ice Cream, Salt & Straw
🍺🍷 Beer and wine: Beer of the Month Club, Winc
🍭 International snacks and candy: Universal Yums, Bokksu 

8. Coffee memberships

Nearly everybody has a morning routine, whether they’re coffee, tea, or juice drinkers!

This reward is inspired by a local café in Boulder, CO, home of Bonusly HQ! It may take some research, but check around and see if any cafés around you offer memberships or subscriptions—this typically means customers can pay a set price, often discounted, for a month or more of unlimited beverages. Fronting that cost brightens mornings and supports local businesses!

Depending on your location, there might be an app for it, too! ☕️🍵

9. Designated “fun” budget

It’s easy to feel more engaged with something when you have direct control over it. It’s a lot like having a piggy bank—except when it’s full, the team can decide on a fun thing to do together.

10. Website or newsletter feature 🚫💰

Getting a public shout-out never gets old. If you have a company newsletter or blog, writing up a small feature on an indispensable team member is sure to make them feel recognized and appreciated.

11. Rented or professionally styled outfits for special occasions

Every once in a while, employees typically encounter a Big Deal event—this can be presentations to clients, speaking engagements, or charity galas! Show the organization cares and is rooting for them by footing the bill for a snazzy outfit from Rent the Runway or Generation Tux. It’ll make the recipient look and feel good. 💅

If you’re an organization that requires a specific dress, like business-professional attire in a law office or steel-toed boots for construction firms, expensing those additional costs can go a long way for your employee in terms of budget—but also for their feelings of inclusion and belonging.

12. Send a care package

Personally, going to the post office is a huge chore for me. So when I do, you can bet that the person I’m sending mail to is someone I really value!

At its core, receiving personally-addressed things in the mail feels so good from the time and care someone displays in going through the process of posting mail. It’s a similar feeling to receiving letters! Except a care package can contain snacks. 😎

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Want the TL;DR version of this blog post? Download the free PDF!

13. Stickers, mugs, and magnets oh my! 🚫💰

Surprise your employees with stickers, mugs, or magnets printed with their faces or their dogs’ faces! Great for decorating laptops, drinking coffee, or playing on the kitchen fridge, these personalized items are like custom Slack emojis for the physical world. Check out Sticker Mule for excellent die-cut and kiss-cut stickers for this kind of project.

14. Cookies 🚫💰

Listen. Everybody likes cookies, and not just on employee appreciation day. Supermarket cookies are acceptable, but bonus points for finding a cool recipe and making them yourself.

15. Art

Research by Exeter University’s School of Psychology found that employees who have control over the design and layout of their workspace are not only happier and healthier—they’re also up to 32% more productive.
Karen Higginbottom

Invite your employees to select new artwork for your office space. Give them a budget and designate a wall space, then see what they propose! If your office doesn’t necessarily have the wall space for new artwork, a print for their home is also a thoughtful gift that will remind them of your company’s appreciation for them.

16. Supportive shoes or insoles

You know how they say you should buy a good mattress because you spend a third of your life sleeping? We’d like to say the same about good shoes—but for the third of your life where you're working! 👟

Supportive shoes and insoles are especially important for professions that require a lot of time on someone’s feet—like the healthcare, retail, and hospitality industries. If you’re in one of these fields, keeping your team members comfortable should be part of your business expenses.

17. Custom emoji 🚫💰

If you’re big Slack communicators at your company, a custom emoji dedicated to someone’s likeness is a quirky and unexpected reward. It’s also an excellent way to welcome new employees to the team!



18. Personal recognition note from CEO 🚫💰

Knowing that someone at the very top of your job hierarchy appreciates the work you do can be thrilling. Take the time to make sure your leaders know about the great work your team members are doing and ask them to write letters of appreciation to individuals who are crushing it.

Employee recognition is a crucial component of engaged, adaptable teams. Start building stronger teams today!

-> Download the Free Guide: 3 Steps to Building Engaged, Resilient Teams



Professional development

19. Office resource library 🚫💰

An investment in your employees’ professional development is an invaluable reward. Offer to cover the cost of a book they’ve been wanting and add it to your office’s resource library. Personalized bookplates to recognize each person and their reason for adding a book could be a nice touch, but you don’t have to go overboard. Supporting your employees and owning your role in their development as they build their personal skill sets is a generous and symbolic gesture.

20. Classes and courses

There are a plethora of courses out there for every subject under the sun, both in-person and virtual, and it’s an easy way to get someone refreshed and inspired about their daily tasks.

If you can’t necessarily fund attendance for a whole course, designate some time once a week to watch webinars or conference videos. It’s a no-cost opportunity to learn something new.

21. Seminars

Similar to classes, seminars are typically less of a time commitment, but are just as packed with information. They’re also a great opportunity to network!

22. Memberships

Sponsoring an employee’s admission fees into a professional organization has a long-lasting impact. It communicates that an organization cares about an employee’s career development beyond their tenure at a particular company, and provides a plethora of opportunities for networking and learning.

23. Conferences

Similar to courses and seminars, conferences are excellent opportunities to learn about the current state of your industry and network with potential customers.

24. Books 🚫💰

As an employer, you can provide the materials an employee needs to improve their mastery of a subject. Find out what kinds of books and other educational resources might be valuable to your team—and don’t forget about leadership, communications management, and interpersonal help books!

Audiobooks and eBooks are also great options since they're delivered digitally, which makes fulfilling them a breeze. 

25. Hackathons 🚫💰

Designate a day or week for a hackathon! We recommend pizza, too. 🍕🤖

Hackathons don’t have to be centered around developers—at Bonusly, it’s a week where the team is encouraged to “hack” anything, whether it’s an outdated process, an old piece of content, or a better organization system for your resources. The projects that take place during this time are typically those that employees really want to work on, but are often pushed aside.

Plus, hackathons are a really great opportunity to explore different areas of the industry, try out new things, and flex your skills in a new way.

[B]reaking out of the day-to-day routine can reinvigorate and inspire staff, but hackathons also demonstrate to employees that innovation is not only welcomed, but also expected.
–Elizabeth Spaulding and Greg Caimi, Harvard Business Review


26. Share a meal  

Networking and mentorship can be a little awkward at first, so break the ice with an excellent meal. Delicious food and great conversation? Sign us up.

27. Upgraded or premium office products

Do your team members long for better Adobe stock photo options? Or the pro version of your project management tool? Consider upgrading your current software and products to make your team members’ daily tasks more efficient and their work higher quality.

28. Sponsored content on LinkedIn or Forbes

For many people, it’s super meaningful to have a byline on a well-written article. If they have some insights that are useful to the industry, broaden their reach by promoting their article on LinkedIn or submitting it to Forbes.

29. Session with a financial advisor

Unfortunately, long-term financial planning isn’t exactly freely offered. If a 401k match is already offered as part of your total rewards package, consider having a financial advisor on deck to help your employees throughout the year. It makes a tremendous personal impact and dispenses valuable knowledge for any individual’s future.

30. Skill-sharing 🚫💰

There’s no use in siloing information in a company! Take the time to encourage skill-sharing through lunch-and-learns or simply dedicated professional development time. From HTML basics to social media best practices, these topics can be useful across the team.



31. Subsidized recreation

Depending on where your workplace is located, you may see some preferences in the weekend activities among your team members. For Bonusly HQ in Boulder, you’ll find us at a U.S. National Park in the summertime and on the ski slopes during winter!

There are often some expenses that can add up, and a great way to encourage your employees to stay active is by subsidizing any recreational costs they may come across—like offering the gift of a U.S. Park Pass. From entrance fees to memberships, there are many ways a company can show support for their employees’ out-of-office activities. 

Head here to read more about employee gifting experiences.

32. Dogs at the office (or on Zoom!) 🚫💰

Having a dog-friendly office has a ton of benefits for humans (although doggos probably love it, as well). A recent study showed that employees at dog-friendly offices are less stressed, more collaborative, and more likely to give higher ratings of trustworthiness to their team members. 

Of course, it’s not possible for every office to be dog-friendly. A great way to feel those same benefits is by partnering with your local humane society or rescue organization to schedule a puppy pitstop by the office. Aside from playing with adorable dogs, team members get to take a break, spend time together (dogs in the office are also shown to be an excellent icebreaker), and make some great memories.

If you're working remotely, encourage teammates to let their pooch say hi to the camera. 

33. Work from elsewhere 🚫💰

Support local businesses and treat your employees to a working day outside the office. If your team likes rock climbing, for instance, you can get day passes to a rock climbing gym that offers wifi and lounge areas. You can host active team-building activities and productive creative sessions all under the same roof. (We like Movement here in Boulder, CO; Brooklyn Boulders has locations in New York, Chicago, and Boston).

34. Fly in remote team members

If you have more than one office, offering employees opportunities to spend time working in a different office is a great way to break the monotony of the daily routine, while still getting great work done. It's also a nice way for employees who may never have met face-to-face to forge valuable friendships.

35. Subscription to Headspace

Don’t just give people breaks—give your team members a sign that you care about their mental and emotional well-being. A gift of a Headspace subscription can provide valuable guided meditation sessions that’ll leave employees feeling refreshed.

36. Wine-tasting or brewery tour

For those that drink alcohol, a guided wine-tasting or brewery tour is educational and fun. Plus, you get to support a local business! 🍷🍺

37. Local restaurant experience

Good food? Always appreciated. After accomplishing a big milestone, treat your employees to a private dinner at a local restaurant.

38. Cooking class

Learning something new with your team members! Whether you’re heading to a professional kitchen to learn how to make sushi or enlisting a skilled coworker to teach the office how to make their famous crepes, it’s bound to be a fun and yummy time. 😋

There are companies that also offer virtual cooking classes and will send ingredients right to the doorstep of participants!  

39. Pottery class

Ceramics is a unique, hands-on, totally messy experience that’s bound to be a hit with your team. Plus, you get a kiln-fired pot, mug, bowl, or… artistic lump… to commemorate the occasion. 😎🔥

40. Tickets to a concert, movie, sports game, or festival

Tickets to a basketball game, local food festival, or Ariana Grande concert are easy crowd-pleasers and always lots of fun!

41. Yoga classes

Yoga can help improve the fitness of both body and mind. Offering yoga classes to employees can be a great reward since it can help them feel focused at the start of the day or unwind after a hard day’s work.

42. Remote Year

Remote Year brings together groups of inspiring professionals to travel, live, and work in different cities around the world for a year or four months. For some of your employees, your support for their application and acceptance to RemoteYear could be the ultimate reward.

43. Volunteer day at employee’s non-profit of choice 🚫💰

Support a non-profit organization and an employee’s personal passion! Volunteering is a great team bonding activity, and it’s even more meaningful when it’s for a cause near and dear to a team member’s heart.

44. Express experience 🚫💰

There are a lot of ways to feel special, and one of my favorites is by getting to skip to the front of the line. Whether that’s the privilege of jumping to the front of the line at the company cafeteria or skipping the printer queue, this is a small but mighty reward for your hard work. 

45. Design swag

Get your employees involved in designing your new company swag, whether it’s a wall calendar featuring the dogs of your office or a t-shirt featuring a company mascot. Handing the creative reins to your employees can inspire new collaborative dynamics, give them a sense of ownership, and imbue the final product with more meaning! 🎨

46. Airbnb experiences

Airbnb offers tons of excellent local experiences! If you have a team member who's really excited about an upcoming trip, picking something from Airbnb's extensive catalog is a great way to make your employee's trip even better.

Plus—take a look at your own hometown's Airbnb experiences! You'll no doubt unearth fun new opportunities to bond with your team members, without having to go anywhere!

47. Museum membership

Museums are rich institutions of culture and education, and a trip to one makes for a great weekend afternoon. Corporate museum memberships are great rewards since team members can also take their family and friends!

48. Music lessons

Enriching your employees’ personal life and hobbies can only lead to better work in the office. Has a teammate always wanted to learn the piano, ukulele, or trumpet? Sign them up with the local music school and encourage them to show off their new skills with a mini talent showcase. 🎶

49. Gym membership

Staying physically healthy is a big contributor to feeling mentally and emotionally healthy. Reward your employees with a membership to a gym or, if they like variety, a program like ClassPass. Consider memberships to yoga and indoor cycling studios, too!

50. Personal training vouchers

It's in an employer's best interest to help their employees achieve their goals, whether that means operating at the top of their professional field or getting in tip-top shape. If members of your team show interest in this type of reward, it's a great way to help them achieve their personal goals.

51. Book a spa appointment

It’s very rare that we get to slow down and be pampered. After a hard project, it’s especially important for an employee to hit reset, and an indulgent day at the spa is an excellent way to do just that.

52. Sponsor an individual or team in a race

It’s especially meaningful when a company recognizes an employee’s personal passions and hobbies. If that passion is running, why not sponsor their admission fee in a race? Or a whole team, if they’re interested!

From 5Ks up to marathons, these races often contribute to important causes and charities as well, making it a double-hitter of a meaningful gift.

53. Catered lunch/food truck lunch

Go a step further than ordering lunch! Ordering from a food truck is always a fun experience, and it’s a way to treat employees to food that would be a great change in pace from their standard repertoire of soup and sandwiches.

This is also a great time to take a break and enjoy a picnic lunch together—an excellent team-bonding opportunity!

54. Time off 🚫💰

Time is a priceless resource, and it's one thing you can never get back. Why not offer some extra PTO to your team as a reward for great work? Even for people who love their jobs, a little extra free time is always welcome.

There are many time-based ways to reward your employees for their hard work, from flexible scheduling to summer hours. Even consider sleep-in days and early releases!

How can HR teams, managers, and leaders inspire employees to be stronger and more flexible in times of ongoing change?

-> Download the Free Guide: 3 Steps to Building Engaged, Resilient Teams




55. House cleaning

You don't always need to give employees time away from the office to give them the gift of time. Personally, my living space is always a disaster when I have a big project going on at work, and it stresses me out even more! 🙈

By rewarding hard-working employees with a one-time or ongoing house cleaning service, you’re eliminating a big chore and time-suck from their lives.

56. Laundry service

If you're located in a city where laundromats are a way of life, this is just another example of an easy way to give time back to your team.

57. Project takeover 🚫💰

Delegating a task you’re dreading to someone else is such a relief. Reward a hard-working employee with the ability to push off a task to someone else on the team—or let them have dibs on an “easy” project next time around.

58. Subsidized commute

Depending on your location, getting to and from work can be a challenge, and in some cases, expensive. If it's not already mandatory in your city to offer transit assistance to employees, subsidizing their commute costs is a great way to eliminate the daily stressor of getting to and from work.

59. Rideshare reimbursement or credits

If your employees are working late or are hopping around town meeting clients, knowing that they can expense a Lyft definitely puts the mind at ease. Even if you’re in a small city or the suburbs, ordering fancy town cars for your employees can be a special treat for holiday parties.

60. Car maintenance

There’s nothing more stressful than sudden car repair expenses! If you have employees who spend a lot of time on the road, like those in field marketing, regional sales, or consulting, making sure that their cars are in tip-top shape is a very appreciated reward. Consider offering car washes, oil changes, and tire changes on a regular basis.

61. Bike share

At Bonusly, our NYC-based employees can select a yearlong CitiBike bike-share membership available as a reward. This is a great perk because it enhances both health and transit! If you're not based in a city with a bike-share program, there are likely some similar services to take advantage of.

62. Bike maintenance

Make a one-time investment in a bike pump, Allen wrench set, and screwdrivers to keep on hand for employees who commute by bike. You’ll be supporting their environmentally-friendly transportation choices and helping them stay safe on the road!

Alternatively, you can cover the cost of an annual tune-up, which usually includes brake pad replacements and truing the wheels of the bike. 🚲

63. Catered meals or meal delivery

Eliminate the chore of figuring out lunch for the day by providing a catered lunch or ordering delivery. It’s a nice change of pace for an employee’s day-to-day, and eating lunch together is a fun and underrated team-building activity.

64. Dog walking service or doggie daycare

Unfortunately, not all offices can be dog-friendly! But subsidizing or providing dog-walking services like Wag or making a deal with a local doggie daycare can go a long way in providing peace of mind for your team members. It also shows that your company really cares about their employees' personal lives and families, including their furry ones! 🐶

65. Dibs 🚫💰

Do we ever grow out of the simple joy of calling dibs? Reward employees by allowing them to call dibs on coveted things, whether it’s the most comfortable desk chair, their favorite mug, their schedule of choice, on not cleaning up a spill… you can call dibs on anything, really.


+1 Bonus idea!

Bonusly is the ultimate customizable gift that rewards employees all year long. The Bonusly platform inspires frequent, meaningful recognition that translates to real rewards. Our solution helps teams and companies build recognition-first cultures which result in more connected, collaborative, energized, and high-performing teams. Learn more at, sign up for a free trial, or request a demo today

Want more resources on building better teams in 2023? This free guide will take you through everything you need to know about creating more resilient, engaged teams today. 👇


Employee Appreciation Day—it's the best day of the year! 😄 🎉 🎶

It's probably no surprise to you that Bonusly takes Employee Appreciation Day very seriously. Recognizing and celebrating employees' great work—not only on this day but every day of the year—is at the core of our mission, after all!

Employee Appreciation Day falls on the first Friday of March—it'll be on Friday, March 3rd in 2023!

On this day, employers around the world make the extra effort to appreciate their employees’ effort and dedication. Over the past 20 years, an increasing number of companies have embraced this occasion to recognize the achievements and contributions of their employees with special events, gifts, and surprises.

We'll cover why celebrating Employee Appreciation Day is a top goal for HR, and we've rounded up a big list of our favorite ideas. Since Employee Appreciation Day might look a little different if you don't have an in-office setup, we've included adjustments to make each idea remote-friendly!

 Looking for a fun activity to celebrate with your team

-> Download Hilarious Team Activity for Employee Appreciation Day


Why is Employee Appreciation Day important?

Most work weeks are focused on business objectives, decisions from management, or customer issues. Employee Appreciation Day, on the other hand, is a special day that should be truly centered around the teams of employees that make things happen every single day.

Even a little bit of recognition can make a big impact on employee motivation. Research shows that feeling appreciated increases morale, improves engagement, and reduces turnover. In particular, employee recognition has been proven to boost oxytocin levels—that’s the chemical our bodies create when we bond socially!



Research also shows that recognizing employees makes for a better customer experience. For example, a study in the hospitality industry found a strong correlation between employee engagement and guest satisfaction.

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson famously said:


Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.


Mic drop. 🎤

15 ways to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day

So how can you make your employees feel especially appreciated on this day? Here are 15 ideas to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day with your team.

1. Volunteer

Volunteer at a local conservation program, homeless shelter, senior living community, or humane society. Give back by planting trees, cooking and serving those in need, bringing joy to seniors, or taking dogs for walks. Research by Deloitte found that 70% of working Americans believe “volunteer activities are more likely to boost employee morale than company-sponsored happy hours.”

Having trouble finding volunteer opportunities and events? Ask your team for ideas or try a service like VolunteerMatch.

Benefits include: Working together with team members, getting to know new colleagues, helping the community, building great memories, and inspiring gratitude.

⚡️ Make it remote-friendly: VolunteerMatch has an excellent virtual volunteering opportunities page to explore. Some other remote-friendly volunteering ideas include:

  • Arranging drop-off locations for a food drive or for donating warm-weather clothing
  • Hosting a virtual fundraiser and raffle off prizes 
  • Volunteering at a food pantry by packing, organizing, or giving out food
  • Delivering groceries or meals to seniors

2. Play games & socialize


Engage in team games like a scavenger hunt, ‘pub’ quiz, or team-based office Olympics. They can be great opportunities for teams to know each other better in a fun setting while introducing healthy competition and encouraging innovative thinking. Chances are you’ll see your coworkers in a whole new light!

Need help getting started? Here are some articles to inspire your next group activity:

Benefits include: Having fun, getting to know colleagues you don’t normally work with, laughing, and feeling closer to the team.

⚡️ Make it remote-friendly: There are tons of ways to play online games with your team. Why not set up a Jackbox Games party? Plus, check out Water Cooler Trivia for excellent, asynchronous trivia competitions.


3. Dedicated employee recognition program

If you're celebrating Employee Appreciation Day to help make your employees feel valued, you're headed in the right direction. As we've mentioned, employee appreciation comes with many benefits. But what if you could make every day Employee Appreciation Day for your team or company? 

With Bonusly, you can! The Bonusly platform empowers companies, from small to enterprise around the world to build values-based, recognition-first cultures all year long. 

⚡️ Make it remote-friendly: Bonusly is perfect for remote teams that might feel disconnected. Because employee recognition is made visible, it can increase collaboration and communication between teams, and help company leaders gain more insight into the work that happens every day! Bonusly is also great for in-office or hybrid work environments. 

To learn more, request a demo today!


4. Gift bags

Create a bag with fun gifts like company-branded clothing, lunch boxes, or water bottles. Include some treats, add gift cards, and share experiences at local restaurants, massage centers, or coffee shops.

Go a step further and ask your staff what kind of gifts they really want. Giving the right kind of swag can increase loyalty and help spark future conversations about your brand.

Benefits include: Feeling appreciated and enjoying gifts with friends and family.

⚡️ Make it remote-friendly: Delivery services have really stepped up their game during the pandemic. Create a custom care box experience with Knack, cult-favorite hometown treats from Goldbelly, or send over the essentials with Doordash


5. Get creative

Research at San Francisco State University shows that having creative outlets outside of work boosts job performance. Introduce your employees to some fun hobbies with a workshop on painting, cooking, flower arrangement, crocheting, or origami.

To make sure that everyone participates in an activity that they’ll enjoy, propose multiple options and let everyone sign up for their preferred activity beforehand.

Benefits include: Focusing on something fun, right-brained thinking, experiencing a new hobby, and getting to take a masterpiece home with you.

⚡️ Make it remote-friendly: Just like delivery services, all sorts of businesses have adapted to the socially-distant environment and are offering classes and experiences online. Browse through hundreds of options on The Vendry, Marco, and Airbnb Experiences! Since Bonusly started working from home, we've attended a virtual cooking class (empanadas!), followed along with an expert mixologist, and will soon embark on a Harlem Renaissance-themed tour for Black History Month!


Appreciate your team with laughter!

-> Download Hilarious Team Activity for Employee Appreciation Day


6. Provide a lunch experience


Provide a catered lunch for your employees and offer activities afterward, like listening to a lunchtime concert, joining a local walking tour, attending a library talk, or going for a bike ride. Eating right, exercising, and concerts all have proven work-related benefits. Poll your team and refer to your local newspaper for venues and events that could be a good fit for your outing.

Benefits include: Discovering new and exciting things to do in your town, enjoying new experiences with team members, and sharing interests.

⚡️ Make it remote-friendly: Make an effort to connect by ordering lunch from a local favorite. While we can't be together in person, enjoying the same food is almost as good. 💚


7. Throw a team happy hour

Happy hours provide a relaxed atmosphere that can encourage positive staff interactions. They allow team members to reduce stress and can contribute to positive company culture. Note that hosting any after-hours activity may exclude some individuals, so consider stopping the workday a little early before other commitments pull people away.

If you choose to host a happy hour, make sure to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of serving alcohol to your team and be sensitive to any folks who don’t drink, providing alternatives.

Benefits include casual socializing and learning something new about each other.

⚡️ Make it remote-friendly: Virtual mixology classes or wine tastings are a fun, fresh way to enjoy happy hours—especially if you feel like the energy around your virtual happy hours is lagging!


8. Take a field trip


Organize a field trip to a local museum, botanical garden, or park. Sign up for a factory, brewery, or winery tour. Use Employee Appreciation Day as an opportunity to better know your community and learn about your neighbors. It might even spark some new ideas!

Benefits include: Creating a memorable day, having fun, enjoying local attractions, and learning something new.

⚡️ Make it remote-friendly: This one is tricky. 😅 

If you have a smaller team that's based in the same geographic location, it may be possible to meet up in a park or do some kind of outdoor activity. Consider having a picnic, or taking a stroll along the lakefront. 


9. Bring in treats

Who doesn't love a dessert spread? 😋

Desserts—cupcakes, donuts, candy—are a common token of appreciation, but take it a step further by keeping track of your employees’ special favorites. Why bring in cupcakes when a team member prefers donuts? Instead of a box of chocolates, how about some vegan cookies

When you’re getting to know new employees during the onboarding process, slip in some questions about their favorite sweets, and you’ll have insider knowledge on how to delight on Employee Appreciation Day.

⚡️ Make it remote-friendly: Delivery services are your friend! Many sweets shops are offering delivery across the United States, like Jeni's Ice Creams and Milk Bar.


10. Spruce up their workspace

You know what they say about March—it comes in like a lion. 🦁🌧

I don't know about you, but March is definitely when I start to get antsy about the dreary weather—especially when you're stuck inside, working remotely. Employee Appreciation Day is a perfect opportunity to help your employees with a spring refresh of their workspace. Pick up some new greenery for the office, or bring in new art for a fresh mindset. 

⚡️ Make it remote-friendly:  Explore options like The Sill or Bloomscape for delivery of indoor potted plants. Also, consider implementing an office equipment stipend to make sure your employees have what they need to be productive and successful!


11. Film a short video

A few months after Bonusly started working remotely due to COVID-19, we kicked off a quick video project. Participating employees shot a selfie video thanking our leadership team for their care and flexibility as we transitioned to remote work, which was stitched together into a full appreciation video! We surprised them by playing it at our all-hands meeting, and it was a hit! Yes, there were happy tears. 😄📹

This is an easy but meaningful way to show your appreciation, whether it’s on a company-wide or individual level. If you’re on a Mac, Apple iMovie will work in a pinch, but there’s also tons of free video editing software out there!


12. Send a postcard or letter

Postcards, letters, and other forms of snail mail are a special joy to receive during the pandemic. Write a letter of appreciation for your employees, and it's something they can pin up in their workspace!


13. Start a mentorship program

According to our State of Employee Engagement Workplace Report, employee engagement is inconsistent. One way to combat this is mentorship. Case in point: another recent engagement report found that 89% of Highly Engaged employees are satisfied with their professional development opportunities, compared to only 36% of Actively Disengaged employees.

Employee Appreciation Day is a great day to announce a new mentorship program. You should be thinking about how you can help your employees learn and grow, but there are many ways you can do this besides paying for expensive conferences and course tuition. Establishing an official mentoring program empowers employees to build relationships, shadow others in desirable roles, and find opportunities for growth.


14. Establish dedicated time off 

Time is a priceless resource, and it's one thing you can never get back. Why not offer some extra PTO to your team as part of Employee Appreciation Day? Even for people who love their jobs, a little extra free time is always welcome.

There are many time-based ways to reward your employees for their hard work, from flexible scheduling to sleep-in days and early releases!

⚡️ Make it remote-friendly: At Bonusly, we’ve been dedicating one Friday a month as “Rest from Home Days”—a way for our leadership team to acknowledge how many employees are working longer and harder throughout the pandemic.

With the shift to more remote work, the lines between work and personal life have been heavily blurred. It’s important to make sure your employees have the time to actually rest and recharge. There's no better way to show your appreciation for your employees' hard work. 


15. Write a LinkedIn recommendation

Writing a LinkedIn recommendation is the perfect way to commemorate Employee Appreciation Day! It’s personal, meaningful, and an endorsement of someone’s hard work. It’s an underrated gesture that communicates your appreciation of a team member, but also that you care about their future success—even if it’s not at your company. Plus, it's free. 😜

LinkedIn recommendations are the gold star of public recognition because it’s truly public. 🌍


Impact of employee recognition

How exactly are employees and companies positively impacted by recognition? Employees experience several positive feelings through appreciation that translate into measurable business benefits:

Job satisfaction

Feeling appreciated and recognized at work helps employees enjoy their work more while also increasing productivity. According to a SHRM study, 48% of employees reported that management's recognition of their job performance was very important to their job satisfaction.


Sense of purpose

The feeling that your work is important and that your contribution is valuable is a great motivator, one that increases employee engagement. According to a study by Alight Solutions, employees who feel rewarded are seven times more likely to be engaged with work than employees who don’t.

-> Download Hilarious Team Activity for Employee Appreciation Day



When an employee feels like their company cares about them, stress levels decrease, confidence builds, and costly turnover decreases. An impressive 55% of workers said that if they feel their employer cares about their well-being, they would want to stay at that company for 10 years or more.



Appreciating employees builds trust. In his book Trust Factor, Harvard Researcher Paul J. Zak states that compared with employees at low-trust companies, those at high-trust companies report 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, and 40% less burnout.


Employee Appreciation Day can be an epiphany moment for many employees, one that you can use to show they're cared for and appreciated.


Make every day Employee Appreciation Day

While it’s a great idea to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day, it’s important to understand that organizations shouldn’t limit employee appreciation to just one day. Every day should be Employee Appreciation Day.

If you haven’t already, start thinking about implementing an employee recognition program. These programs can be a great way to help your team foster a happy, fulfilled, and motivated culture through recognition. Using an employee recognition platform like Bonusly makes it easy to appreciate your team—and experience the benefits that come along with that—all year long.

Want more ideas to appreciate your employees throughout the year? Take a tour of Bonusly or talk with one of our rewards experts.

Kickstart meaningful recognition with this hilarious team activity to appreciate your employees! 👇

How many of you had a dedicated African American history unit in February—Black History Month—as part of your high school curriculum?


For those in the United States, it’s fairly common for schools to recognize Black History Month. But as we get older, mandated education and celebration of African American history gets less common. This is a total bummer and a lost opportunity! It also doesn’t help that February is a short month.

But let’s not dwell on the negative. There’s so much positivity that can be celebrated in that short period of time!

As President Gerald Ford said in 1976 when he officially recognized Black History Month, we need to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Including in the workplace. 🤗

Need help getting your leadership team on board?

Why do we celebrate Black History Month?

Black History Month actually started as Negro History Week in 1917. Author, journalist, and historian Carter G. Woodson—now appropriately recognized as the “father of black history”—lobbied vigorously for the national recognition of Black stories and perspectives. Woodson believed deeply that equality was only possible with the acknowledgment and understanding of a race’s history, and dedicated his life to the study of African American historical research.

“Since its inception, Black History Month has never been just a celebration of black America’s achievements and stories—it’s part of a deliberate political strategy to be recognized as equal citizens.”
Dr. Theodore R. Johnson

Woodson also hoped that the time would come when Black History Month would be unnecessary. Unfortunately, we have a long way to go.

So, how does this relate to the workplace? There’s a plethora of research that covers the racism, discrimination, and unfair treatment that Black employees face. This attitude persists despite the efforts of diversity initiatives.


As HR professionals, it’s up to us to set the standard of how to eradicate discrimination and bias—conscious and unconscious—and, in the process, encourage the inclusion of all employees. Recognizing and celebrating employees’ racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds can be effective in building psychological safety and employee engagement. Thus, celebrating Black History Month in the workplace is an excellent way to achieve that goal.

“Let truth destroy the dividing prejudice of nationality and teach universal love without distinction of race, merit or rank.”
–Carter G. Woodson

Celebrating Black History Month in the workplace best practices

Race in the workplace can be a touchy subject, and many organizations try to be “colorblind” in a misguided attempt at establishing equality.

In fact, when companies downplay demographic differences, this actually just increases underrepresented employees’ perception of bias from their white colleagues and reduces engagement in their work. 😬

So, best practice #1: Don’t be colorblind. Your employees should be able to openly discuss, embrace, and be proud of their cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Embrace your differences!

With this in mind, let’s cover some other Black History Month—and any cultural or ethnic celebration—best practices!

Make it a company-wide effort


In the spirit of inclusivity, everyone in your organization should be encouraged to participate with enthusiasm. It shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of Black employees to organize their own recognition, and you’ll find that it’s transformative to have employees of every background participating and learning during Black History Month.

Don’t single anyone out

Along the same lines, you shouldn’t assume that someone wants to be involved in your Black History Month planning simply because of their ethnic background. That places the burden of responsibility on them, and if they’re a visible minority at your workplace, they might feel tokenized about their role at your workplace—especially if this initiative is a new thing at your company. Remember, for best results, you should be recognizing all your employees, all year round.

Discover ways to support Black colleagues in the workplace via our virtual event recording: Foundations of Anti-Black Bias in the Workplace

Consider areas of growth

“But wait!” you say, “What if my workplace doesn’t have Black employees, or isn’t very diverse at all?”

This is definitely a good consideration! It’s important to understand your organization’s areas of growth, and Black History Month is a great opportunity to do that. If you find your company lacking in its diversity, equity, and inclusion practices, why not take the time to examine your current recruiting, interviewing, and onboarding processes?

Chances are, your fellow team members will appreciate and welcome your efforts. In a survey by Glassdoor, 57% of respondents believe their employers could be doing more to increase diversity and inclusion. And if you’re a company that intends to grow, two-thirds (67%) of active and passive job seekers consider a diverse workforce to be an important factor in evaluating companies to work for.


Trust us, and decades of research: a diverse and inclusive workplace is worth the effort.

Okay, now that we have those principles down, let’s dive into some actual ideas!

Black History Month in the workplace ideas

There’s always an opportunity to learn something insightful when you listen to a new perspective. From unconscious bias training to volunteering to an old-fashioned lecture from an expert, there are lots of ways to recognize Black History Month. Here are a few:

Education 🧠

1. Bring in speakers

Prepare to be starstruck! 🤩 Bring in influential authors, historians, or activists to speak to your employees about race relations, civil rights, and other critical topics surrounding Black identity.

Panel discussions allow for multiple speakers to bounce ideas around for a thorough conversation, while presentations can really highlight a speaker’s area of expertise. Whichever style your company goes with, it’s sure to be an engaging and thought-provoking experience.

2. Plan a workshop


While there’s usually still a main speaker or facilitator involved, workshops are unique in that participants are usually encouraged to be hands-on and think critically about what they’re learning. You’ll be working, not just listening!

At Bonusly, we've done Paradigm’s Managing Unconscious Bias Workshop at our annual company retreat. While not directly related to Black History Month, this workshop will shed light on and address the issues many Black employees face in the workplace today.

3. Organize a book club

Reading nonfiction or fiction books by Black authors can be a poignant and meaningful way to recognize Black History Month. Bonus points if you bring in a facilitator to guide and make the most of your discussions. There are so, so many excellent books by Black authors. For starters, The Stacks makes lists of their favorite books and they always recommend a great variety of Black authors.

Here’s a quick list of recent hits from the Bonusly team:


So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments by Saidiya Hartman

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race, an anthology edited by Jesmyn Ward

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi


Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler


Companies that have the highest rates of diversity and inclusion are the ones that succeed. To get buy-in from key stakeholders:


Service 💡

4. Volunteer

Volunteering with local nonprofits and charities is an excellent way to help the community, bond with your team members, and even inspire engagement and motivation in the workplace!

Lending your support as an organization is uniquely powerful because you can bring a lot of helping hands to a project, but you can also form corporate partnerships and create lasting relationships by establishing internships, apprenticeships, or recruiting programs.

You know your own community better than we do, but Black Girls CODE, National Society of Black Engineers, and My Brother’s Keeper Alliance are good places to start if you’re looking for national Black-led organizations!

5. Donate

Pool your resources together or arrange a fundraiser to support racial justice. Sometimes, the gift of money is the most impactful thing you can give to a charity, especially when it comes to education or legal funds. We recommend checking out The Sentencing Project, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and the NAACP Defense and Educational Fund.

It’s also worth it to look into Historically-Black Colleges or Universities (HBCUs). Consider establishing a scholarship fund or even mentorship opportunities!


Inclusion 💚

6. Reflect


As we mentioned, Black History Month is a great time to think about your company’s current diversity and inclusion efforts and make changes as needed. Teams with inclusive cultures outperform their peers by a staggering 80%, but only about 11% of organizations can say that they have truly inclusive environments. There is always room to improve.

Don’t know where to start? We love this quote from our friends at Officevibe:

“Remember that your organization and its people do not exist separately from the world, meaning that you need to pay attention to how world events might affect your employees.”

Be thoughtful: do you create safe spaces to discuss current events affecting your team members’ communities? Or do you stay silent? Every organization and individual team member has different support needs, but showing you care and bringing these employees into the fold can hugely affect their sense of belonging and inclusion.

One of the best ways to foster inclusion is by seeking out and listening to the perspectives and opinions of those you’re trying to include. Reach out to Black leaders in your organization and get their input on how they would like to be recognized during Black History Month and beyond.

7. Collaborate

Take it a step further by establishing a diversity, equity, and inclusion committee at your organization. This act shows that your company is dedicated to making your team environment a better place, and encourages a free-flowing of ideas and feedback between employees and leadership.

8. Recognize


We firmly believe that employee recognition is crucial to building inclusive workplaces.

Culture Amp and Paradigm surveyed over 7,000 individuals from 35 organizations and found that a sense of belonging was the single metric that was consistently and universally tied to workplace commitment, motivation, pride, and recommendation.

Furthermore, the correlation between belonging and engagement was stronger for underrepresented groups.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? One way to ensure more people are recognized is to diversify the parties responsible for giving recognition. And by pairing inclusive rewards with that recognition, you can amplify its effects.

Considering that executive boards and leadership positions tend to be less diverse, the simple act of implementing a 360-degree peer recognition program at your workplace can make a big difference in your inclusion metrics.

Kickstart your DEI initiatives with this resource!

Next steps

February is a short month, so if you want to implement Black History Month activities meaningfully and thoughtfully, start soon! 👏

Has this post sparked inspiration? Tell us in the comments below, or check out these additional resources from Bonusly:

Want even more employee engagement resources? Check this out! 👇

Here’s how we react when we hear about strong teams: 🎉
Here’s how we react when we hear about “team building activities”: 😰

Let’s face it. Team building activities can be awkward. When you’re used to interacting with folks in a professional context, letting loose can be a challenge, especially when you’re asked to be vulnerable. However, the benefits of strong peer relationships in the workplace are unparalleled, especially when it comes to organizational culture.

Said another way: team building activities are a great way to improve company culture. 🙌

Jump straight to our list of team building activities ⬇️

The simple pleasure of having friends at work is a powerful influencer on job satisfaction, employee engagement, retention, and even productivity. To create a culture of guidance and collaboration, people must first feel comfortable with their team relationships. In fact, Simpli5 found that nearly a third of its respondents had previously considered leaving a job because of negative team environments, so it’s no surprise that building strong teams should be a priority.

Chemistry allows you to get much more out of much less. When people develop rapport and trust, they can accomplish more than the sum of their parts because everyone understands what others bring to the table, which increases output.
–David Hua, Co-founder and CEO, Meadow

A natural inclination would be to search for activities that facilitate team bonding—and the results that pop up may not be… the most effective. In a study carried out by Vodafone UK and YouGov, “a majority of workers surveyed (66%) have been made to do some form of team-building activity, [and] more than half (54%) don't feel that doing more would help them work better with their colleagues.”


Why is this? Esther Cohen, Workamajig’s marketing manager says, “Most team building activities elicit embarrassment rather than enthusiasm. Whatever impact they might have is nullified by the sheer reluctance of your team members to participate in them.”

To build stronger teams, we have to bridge the gap between stereotypical team-building activities, and real, meaningful team bonding. And that’s not going to be with trust falls. Trust us. 😉

Improve your employee experience and start building stronger, more resilient teams today.

-> Download Your Toolkit for Building Stronger Teams in 2023

The dos and don’ts of team building activities

Don’t force people to participate
Do listen to feedback and iterate

The word “mandatory” is often a source of dread. So let’s just eliminate that from our team-building vocabulary right now. It’s important to have whole teams participate in activities, but more importantly, it’s crucial to have employees be personally engaged and invested in building stronger teams.

So plan things that your employees really enjoy! Don’t assume that everybody loves bowling or is fine with staying late for happy hour. On the other hand, if everybody in the office is really stoked about hiking or a particular board game, you suddenly have a great opportunity for bonding.

Consider encouraging team members to plan their own events. This allows opportunities for cross-team collaboration across the office and forges connections across different departments. For example, Bonusly’s Terrace House Appreciation Club brings fans together from different teams and regional offices to freak out over Japanese reality television. Since it stems from a shared interest, we look forward to watching an episode together each week to decompress and socialize with team members we may not be able to interact with normally.

Don’t interrupt work
Do set aside time or invest in retreats and offsites

The most successful, memorable team-building events are the ones that don’t feel like a day at the office.
–Brian Scudamore, CEO, O2E Brands

It sends a strong message when an organization steps away from the office to prioritize team building. Especially with remote workers or offices spread across the country, face-to-face time can make a noticeable difference in everyday work. Seeing nuances in body language and communication styles in a different context can impact how you approach teamwork in the office. Buffer, a social media management platform with a fully distributed team, takes it a step further by flying everyone out to three international retreats a year. It’s a big expense, but Buffer places high value on their peer relationships.

We’ve found retreats to be not only a fun part of our culture, but an absolute necessity.
–Joel Gascoigne, CEO, Buffer

Our friends at Front are on the same page about offsites and have even more great tips on building a collaborative team, saying, “these opportunities open up the door for your team to get to know each other as people, not just as teammates. As a result, when you're back in the office, collaborating will become more fluid and natural.”

It may seem unproductive to take time away from work, but when you invest in building team bonds, you’re sure to see returns.

Don’t have one-off team building events
Do build employee engagement into the organization's culture

Team building activities are not a one-time silly event, but part of an ongoing process.
–Andrei Țiț, Paymo

A company-sponsored pizza lunch or a round of golf can be appreciated but might be too-little-too-late if employee morale is low. Strong team bonds and employee engagement have to be built into your company culture from the ground up. Team building activities shouldn’t be used as a one-off band-aid fix when things get bad, but as regular opportunities to further connect and collaborate. That’s it, that’s the secret. 😊

Effective team building activities

Backed by research, trial and error, and our own experiences, here are seven team-building activities—that actually build stronger teams. 🎉


1. Eat lunch together

This first one is an easy one. The simple act of eating lunch together can go a long way in building stronger teams. It’s more than just eating together—it’s the concept of putting aside time during a busy day to take a break with your colleagues. Whether it's every day, for special occasions like birthdays and work anniversaries, or even now and then, eating together has its benefits.

It’s even been studied: Kevin Kniffin at Cornell University and his team observed a firehouse to see how eating together might correlate with enhanced teamwork. They found that the “field research shows a significant positive association between [eating together] and work-group performance.”

If it works for firefighters—who operate in a notoriously high-pressure work environment—it can work for you. 🔥🚒

This practice is so effective that many companies are investing in providing lunch for their employees. That includes Bonusly! Our Sifted Wednesday team lunches are a highlight of the week.

Creating an experience around food is one of the easiest things a company can do to increase employee morale and overall company culture.
–Christine Marcus, founder and CEO of
Alchemista, a corporate catering service.

2. Play pub trivia

A fun activity whether you include drinks or not, playing a round of pub trivia can foster teamwork in a low-stakes environment. Did you know that your teammate can list every Britney Spears album and the year they were released? Now, you do! Check out Geeks Who Drink for a spirited night at the bar, use Jackbox games for a live trivia game together with your phones, and try Water Cooler Trivia for weekly team trivia challenges.

3. Have Donut chats


Leave it up to technology. At Bonusly, we use Donut to pair up team members that don’t get to interact frequently. It’s a great way to get one-on-one time and learn more about each other and can lead to new ideas and increased collaboration. Remote workers can easily join, too! We highly recommend actually eating donuts as your meet-up activity, just to get into the spirit. 🍩

To maintain a competitive edge, top company leaders understand the importance of optimizing employee experience.

-> Download Your Toolkit for Building Stronger Teams in 2023

4. Sing your heart out

Get ready to harmonize. A study done by Oxford University revealed that strangers bonded faster through singing than through other creative pursuits, like creative writing and crafting. From harmonizing in a company choir to cheering each other on at bar karaoke, there are lots of ways to release those bonding endorphins. For quieter folks, there’s also the option of karaoke in private rooms.

5. Tell office legends

Dropping a new hire into your organizational work culture without explaining any of the lingo or idiosyncrasies of the office can make them feel left out or purposefully not included. Welcome them—and the rest of your team—into your company culture with this activity, which is also a game that remote workers can easily participate in.

Write on post-it notes different prompts, like “last year’s holiday party,” “favorite customer,” or even just “[teammate’s name].” Go around the room and polish off your storytelling chops to shed light on inside jokes, company legends, and memorable moments. Sharing these nuggets of office history fosters an inclusive environment—from the moment that a new coworker joins the team.

6. Volunteer


Giving back to the community gets everyone out of the office for a good cause. 💝In addition to helping out a charity, volunteering can strengthen peer relationships and increase productivity at work. Making a habit of volunteering can also reinforce company values and showcase what employees are passionate about outside of work. Ask around for causes your team supports, or events they’re already planning to attend. VolunteerMatch is also a great resource for philanthropic opportunities.

7. Post daily questions, prompts, and icebreakers

Even just one powerful question can engage employees and spark meaningful conversations. Done easily through your messaging tool of choice, these questions can range from the mundane (“What’s your favorite cereal?”) to the more in-depth (“What was a formative moment in your life?”). With the right prompts, this simple practice can spark playful debates, reveal unknown commonalities, and inspire psychological safety.

In an intimate post about overcoming negative attitudes, OfficeVibe described how they built empathy by sharing anecdotes about themselves. “You want to build lines of trust between people not just in relation to work, but based on personal experiences. If you know where someone is coming from you’ll be way more open to them,” says Marie-Christine Côté, Marketing Director.

At Bonusly, we have a Slack channel dedicated to sparking conversations and chatting. Making space to talk about things outside of work is so important in building strong peer relationships. That's how you get to know your team members as people!

We use Donut Watercooler's prompts, but it's easy to manually write your own questions and automate them to post at a certain time.

You can probably find lists upon lists of "get to know you" questions on the internet, but here are a few unique conversation starters:

  • If you were a brand, what brand colors would you be, and why?
  • You're now on House Hunters—what are your three requirements for a home?
  • If you were a Thanksgiving side, which one would you be, and why?
  • What's the recipe for your go-to, super-easy favorite comfort food?
  • Share a photo from your weekend.
  • What's your favorite way to eat a potato?
  • Post your favorite or go-to GIF!
  • What's the best thing you've ever eaten? What's the worst?
  • Write an acrostic poem with your name. Here's an example:
Screen Shot 2020-12-21 at 12.55.37 PM

8. Have regular retrospectives

Most workdays and projects go fast—but is your team taking the time to reflect?

Making space to think about how your team works together—the good and the bad—encourages vulnerability, creative problem-solving, and empathy between colleagues.  

It can seem intimidating at first, but can quickly open up lines of communication between your team members. Here's a great how-to on running a retrospective from Atlassian, and a more in-depth guide from Retrium.

9. Learn something new together

Taking a class or course as a team on something completely new is a great way to build relationships. It gives your team the opportunity to focus on something fresh (instead of forcing conversation!), ask questions, and collaborate with each other.

Whether it's a course that contributes to your team's professional development goals or something totally new, like a pottery class, gaining new skills is an easy way to make new memories as a team. Plus, if you're on a remote team, don't let your colleagues' physical location stop you! Browse through hundreds of virtual classes on The Vendry, Marco, and Airbnb Experiences.

10. Host a Hackathon

At Bonusly, we reserve a week every quarter for our team to work on something outside of their normal day-to-day projects. We call them our "hackathons!"

Hackathons don’t have to be centered around developers—at Bonusly, it’s a week where the team is encouraged to “hack” anything, whether it’s an outdated process, an old piece of content, or a better organization system for your resources. During these hackathons, teams from different departments are able to work on creative projects with support from the entire organization.

In addition to being a great team-building activity, our hackathons have produced more streamlined processes and actual products!

Hackathons require participants to step out of their normal roles and skill sets. This may mean interacting with different colleagues or performing unfamiliar creative tasks. A short team activity can help participants loosen up, think boldly and open their minds to their colleagues’ ideas.
–Elizabeth Spaulding and Greg Caimi,
Harvard Business Review

Get started on building resilient, engaged, and motivated teams today.

-> Download Your Toolkit for Building Stronger Teams in 2023

The Takeaway  

Despite their less-than-stellar reputation, team-building activities should have a place in your company culture provided you make them engaging and inclusive. Learning about one another, building trust, and having fun together are excellent ways to foster better collaboration and engage employees at work. Successful companies invest in their team culture, and you’re missing out on a key culture element by ignoring team-building activities.

Feel good about your team's relationships? We have some ideas on what to tackle next:

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Originally published on January 12, 2023 → Last updated March 1, 2023

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