10 Ways to Celebrate Work Anniversaries [+ Case Study]
A work anniversary is a significant milestone and like we’ve written about before, it’s super important to celebrate them the right way. When we talk about celebrating work anniversaries, we’re talking about more than just a number!
After all, every new year with a great team member isn’t just another tally in their records—it’s an achievement that should be celebrated with purpose. They’ve built relationships, accomplished goals, and made an impact on your company and its culture, all things that should be celebrated.
You can start with creative employee rewards, but there are so many other options out there beyond handing out plaques or paperweights. Ultimately, on a team member’s work anniversary, you should be showcasing the immense impact their work has made on an organization. Recognizing their efforts makes them feel seen and appreciated, increasing their likelihood of being engaged with their future work.
Remember, you want ideas that show the recipient they’re valued at the workplace and are making unique contributions to its organizational culture. Let’s make it memorable! 🎉
Share these ideas with your team with a PDF! Download our resource How to Celebrate Work Anniversaries!
1. Handwritten notes
In this technology-driven age, it’s rare that people sit down to thoughtfully pen their sentiments. That’s why an old-fashioned, handwritten note can be so meaningful to its recipient. The milestone of a work anniversary is the perfect opportunity to gather the team together to express their gratitude in writing.
In a world where so much communication is merely utilitarian, these simple acts of investment, remembrance, gratitude, and appreciation can show the people who matter to your life and business that they are important to you.
–John Coleman, HBR
Plus, there’s something tangible about appreciation in writing. For remote workers, there can be the additional joy of letters in the mailbox! There are even services like Caroo that will deliver your letter of appreciation inside a curated work anniversary care package filled with delicious healthy snacks, custom swag, and unique items for their special day. Plus, the recipient can put these notes up in their workspace as a reminder of their hard work—a great pick-me-up for a rainy day. 📝
2. Public recognition
This one takes personal notes a step further. Don’t underestimate the power of public recognition! Since work anniversaries are such an important epiphany moment, this is a great time to truly broadcast someone’s accomplishments in a year.
Here at Bonusly, we (of course) use Bonusly’s Work Anniversary Award to automatically recognize our teammates when it’s their special day. Since it’s automated, the award shows up on the recognition feed and also serves as a reminder so the rest of us pile on to mention achievements, special moments, inside jokes, and more.
Even if you’re not utilizing Bonusly, public recognition can easily be done through email or even as a special shout-out during an all-hands meeting (we know one company that plasters a wall full of post-it notes for the person being celebrated!). In addition to honoring a well-deserving employee, making recognition a regular practice at your organization can increase employee engagement levels by nearly 60%.
3. Decision-making power
This can go a number of ways! For someone’s work anniversary, you could let them hold the power over the day’s lunch selection; a new piece of art at the office; the design for company swag; an addition to the company’s employee handbook; the possibilities are endless!
Allowing someone a special chance to make their mark on the day—or more permanently on the company—is a meaningful gift that conveys their importance to the organization and its culture at large.
4. Time off
Time is a valuable commodity, which makes a day off a great reward for those who have reached their work anniversary. It gives an employee an unexpected break from their day-to-day, which is sometimes all someone needs to come back refreshed and ready to do great work.
If you can’t swing letting them have a full day off, consider late arrivals and early releases, too.
5. Career-planning session
Like we’ve said before, work anniversaries are an important epiphany moment, meaning that it’s an occasion where employees assess their goals and whether they’re happy in their position. That makes holding an intensive career-planning session a natural fit for this milestone and shows employees that their company is invested in their future and success.
6. Paid sabbatical
Of the organizations listed, Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2012, 25% offer paid sabbaticals.
Paid sabbaticals are great for attracting talented employees, but they’re also a great benefit for retaining those employees. Reserve this special perk for employees that have been at your company for five years or longer, since sabbaticals are an opportunity for them to take a step away and come back refreshed.
The way most folks get a nice, long break from work is they leave their job and then scratch their itch and find a new job. [Sabbaticals] give people a break and something new without losing them for good.
–Brendan McGovern, MeetUp CFO and cofounder
Aside from giving an employee a fresh perspective, a decline in stress, and better overall well-being, sabbaticals or extended leaves also impact the company as a whole. Researchers found that when well-seasoned team members take time off, the circumstance gives aspiring leaders a chance to grow and results in better collaboration once the sabbatical is over.
7. Charitable donation
Donating to a non-profit organization in an employee’s name communicates that their personal values matter to their company, and it makes a real impact on those in need! Plus, Bonusly users can make donations directly through the Reward Catalog.
Share these ideas with your team with a PDF! Download our resource How to Celebrate Work Anniversaries!
8. Break into the archives
Whether it’s an employee’s first work anniversary or 10th, chances are they—and the company—have changed a lot! Look back at your old chat logs, emails, and files to create a collection of old memories. This can spark some quality team bonding, sentimental conversation, and blackmail opportunities. 😏
Bonus points if you can scrounge up some company swag that was made in the year an employee joined, and even more bonus points if it features a horribly outdated logo. 😂
9. Custom swag
Instead of looking back, create something new to truly distinguish a long-tenured employee! Fun t-shirts, pins, and patches are all great mementos and a visual indicator to other team members that they should be giving their congratulations. ServiceTitan, a Bonusly customer, goes as far as ordering a custom jersey with an employee’s last name and what number employee they came in at for their work anniversary!
10. Special treats
We saved the best for last. Honestly, everybody appreciates a free lunch, happy hour, or their favorite dessert. Let them choose their treat of choice, or surprise them!
Whether it’s donuts, a sundae bar, or even a bucket of chicken fingers (you always have that one team member...), it’s a thoughtful gesture that shows the company cares. Plus, it’s a moment when everybody gets to take a break, celebrate their fellow team member, and enjoy. 🍰🍦🍩
Need more ideas? We’ve got plenty! Here are a few that don’t need much explanation:
- Have storytime! Ask the person celebrating their anniversary what their favorite moments were, funniest stories, low lows, and high highs, etc. (also a great team bonding and culture-sharing opportunity!)
- Host a long-distance lunch gathering with remote employees enjoying their lunches together through their screens
- Tie balloons to an employee (or more realistically, their desk 😉) with the number of balloons corresponding to their years of tenure, or with a literal balloon shaped like a number!
- Fly in remote team members for a mini-getaway and a chance to celebrate in-person!
- Feature employee work anniversaries someplace visible, like on a special wall in your office, on a screen in a public gathering place like the kitchen, or even on your website
- Offer a remote/work-from-home day
- Designate a VIP parking spot for them for the day
- Schedule a lunch with the leadership, and use it as an opportunity to gather feedback
- Ask teammates for peer recognition, and format it in a special way, like in an animated video, mug, or framed print
- Organize a coordinated round of applause or shout-out during an all-hands meeting (works for video conference meetings, too!
- Decorate their desks
- Social media shout-out
- Create a post-it wall of appreciation from colleagues
- Give them a shout-out in the company newsletter
- Send a care package with their favorite goodies
- Ideas for Employee Appreciation Day and more
The goal is always to celebrate the impact an employee’s had on their workplace, but it’s also important that they feel recognized all year long. Here’s how Bonusly customer InVision weaves in recognition throughout the year, and how they thoughtfully celebrate anniversaries in a way that makes an impact on the organization's culture.
Recognition in Action: InVision Case Study
As an innovative user experience and design company, InVision understands that its products can be built with just a laptop and an employee’s creativity. That’s why, even with an 800+ headcount, InVision is a fully remote company.
"It's about results, not where your IP address is," Mark Frein, InVision’s chief people officer explains. "We care about what you're able to do or achieve. If you're able to achieve something great while working wonky hours, then that's great."
InVision’s employees have the freedom of a flexible schedule, but it becomes a bit harder to high-five someone when they’re halfway across the world. So the question is, how do you recognize employees in a meaningful way when the team is scattered across the world?
“There’s no office to bring a cake to,” Julie DeBuhr, InVision’s Senior Director, Employee Engagement, says. “Public recognition becomes that much harder. We have to celebrate milestones in another way.”
It became important for InVision to find a tool that allowed them to practice recognition around the globe. It needed to translate well to different cultures and employees across the world, or even be easily exchanged into different currencies in the case of monetary rewards. This became a core part of InVision’s employee engagement strategy, with priority placed on improving employee recognition.
This is where Bonusly comes in. 😉💚
“In terms of recognition and perks, the dollar amount and social aspect of Bonusly hits at those and feels more substantial than a plaque,” Julie says. “I know it resonates with our employees.”
Using Bonusly to celebrate work anniversaries was just one way to integrate recognition into InVision’s organizational culture. Having a consistent, automated work anniversary reminder has made a big difference in rewarding employees, and it gets easier as employees see more bonuses roll through their feeds. Julie explains that managers and peers are involved in work anniversary recognition through Bonusly comments and add-ons, which are publicly visible to the whole company.
“For some folks at InVision, the company has doubled in size since they joined—it can be easy to lose sight of their accomplishments during that time.” Julie says. “[It’s important to] recognize people for what’s happened since they joined—what have they seen, what have they done? What’s changed in that time frame? Tell those stories!”
“Celebrating [milestones like] work anniversaries communicates that InVision is a place for your career. It’s good to see other people who have been there a long time as an indication that InVision is a good place to be.”
–Julie DeBuhr, InVision’s Senior Director, Employee Engagement
It’s also important to keep day-to-day recognition top-of-mind. Work anniversaries and other time-based milestones are just one aspect of InVision’s overall employee recognition and engagement strategy. “We look for any opportunity to connect,” Julie says.
Which is what employee engagement is all about, really. Nice job, InVision! 👏
Now, let’s turn it over to you—what does your workplace do to celebrate work anniversaries, and how would you like to celebrate your work anniversary? Let us know! 👇
Originally published on September 14, 2021 → Last updated January 28, 2022