How to Celebrate Success in the Workplace

Recognizing and rewarding your employees for their work can go a long way.
Gauraa at SmartGift
August 20th 2021Aug 20, 2021

As the delta variant continues to stall return-to-office dates, many companies like Apple, Google, Uber, and Lyft are looking at continued remote work for their corporate staff. Other companies, like Microsoft, Ford, and Citigroup, are basing their plans entirely on a new hybrid model.

It’s been a year and a half since coworkers were uprooted from their cubicles and scattered across the country and globe. Now, it’s more important than ever for managers and employers to preserve important aspects of company culture formerly relegated to the office space, such as snack room small talk, spontaneous brainstorming sessions, and workplace celebrations.

Studies show that social functions and workplace celebrations create a culture of recognition, and can help cultivate a strong social culture within the team. According to Quantum Workplace, companies with formal recognition programs reduce voluntary turnover by 31%, and are twelve times more likely to see strong business outcomes.

While organizing social time and celebrations for employees can be time-consuming — and let’s face it, downright expensive — high employee engagement levels are guaranteed to increase productivity and overall profits. Simply put, investing in your employees leads to better business.

How to Celebrate Milestones in Virtual and Hybrid Work Environments

So, how can employers practice celebrations to improve employee engagement, boost business metrics, and motivation? To help you get started, we’ve compiled 4 ways to celebrate in the virtual workspace.

Incorporate Social Facetime

A survey from Virgin Pulse tells us that working from home is more likely to disengage employees, and therefore increases their likelihood of quitting. Incorporating facetime outside of company meetings can help reinforce human touchpoints that were focal to the office before the pandemic.

The next time you close a sale, or reach a company milestone, try setting up a company or team-wide celebration using Skype or Zoom so you can give your team a well-deserved round of applause. Remember: celebrating wins together encourages team-building and helps foster a sense of ownership for employees.

Social facetime shouldn’t be limited to work-related celebrations, either. Scheduling unstructured social calls for employees to catch up with each other outside of more formal settings can help recreate the serendipity of hallway conversations at the conversation. Even a ten-minute video chat goes a long way to alleviate the isolation of working alone.

Personalize Corporate Gifting (or Buy Them Lunch!)

The purpose of corporate gifting is to create a positive work atmosphere while forging a connection with the recipient. But business gifting and office swag can often feel mechanical and detached. Personalized gifting shows employees that management is paying attention, and can help them feel valued, understood, and appreciated.

If you know your employees have developed green thumbs over quarantine, send them a new plant for their desk or windowsill. Plus when you send with SmartGift, you’ll be granting them options to customize their gift to their liking. Your attentiveness to detail will show employees they are valued. Even a spontaneous offering to reimburse employees for a lunch can be a welcomed surprise, and open up facetime for teams to share what they chose and eat together over a video call.

Recognize Employee Celebrations Publicly

Public acknowledgement is one of the best, and perhaps most important, employee engagement strategies. It increases motivation, morale, and also creates a healthy environment where employees feel part of their peers’s success.

Try starting meetings with positive accomplishments that have been made or congratulating work-related achievements on a public Slack channel. This will especially help new remote hires feel recognized and a part of the team they haven’t yet met in person.

Celebrate Important Milestones and Occasions Together

The benefits of workplace celebrations are seemingly countless, but we’ll list a few: they bring people together, strengthen both personal and professional connections, boost confidence, and deseculate stress levels. While celebrating success in the workplace is crucial, the festivities shouldn’t end there.

Birthday celebrations in the workplace are equally important. According to a study published by the Harvard Business Review, there is a 12 percent uptick in job searches right before birthdays. Midlife milestones, especially, can “prompt employees to assess their careers and take action if they’re unhappy with the results.”

Celebrating employees’ birthdays together — whether by throwing a party through Zoom, having treats delivered for the department, or simply by sending a gift to their homes — can make employees feel recognized and reduce turnover. An important consideration is giving your time to celebrations, so make sure to not schedule them between calls or at the start of the day.

Traditions are important touchstones. Which is why celebrating holidays in the workplace, too, can show great results. Send remote employees green cupcakes on St. Patrick’s Day, or schedule a virtual costume party on Halloween. The best practices for inclusive holiday celebrations in the workplace reflect mindfulness of diversity, and should ensure that holidays specific to one religion (such as Christmas and Hanukkah) should not get more attention than Diwali, Eid al-Fitr, Kwanzaa, or Lunar New Year.

Other virtual employee engagement activities and employee engagement ideas — fit for both birthdays or seasonal occasions — include virtual team retreats, and team based games like Werewolf.

How to Celebrate Milestones Together at the Office

While many companies have reconfigured their timelines due to the delta variant, nearly one-third of the American workforce is still projected to return in-person in some capacity this fall. And of course, essential workers such as those working in critical care, child care, critical retail, and agriculture, have not had the option to work remotely over the past sixteen months. These members of the workforce are faced with more risk every day, and deserve to have their hard work and dedication acknowledged and rewarded.

Here are 5 ways you can celebrate milestones and success in person, at the office.

Organize a Celebratory Lunch or Happy Hour

Food has consistently been, and continues to prevail, as a great way of showing appreciation. You can recognize employees with a gift certificate to a local restaurant or café, bring in a box of homemade goodies, or a full breakfast for the team. But for personal milestones, such as birthdays, work anniversaries, or promotions, it’s best to carve out time to take them out for a meal personally.

Decorate Workspaces and Break Rooms

It is no secret that office space affects employee well-being and productivity. According to Forbes, a “quality workspace design leads to a less stressful and more productive atmosphere. It’s essential that employers take the physical work environment of their employees into consideration.” Employees work hard. What better way to show employees that you’re seeing them, and making them feel at home, than customizing their workspace just for them?

Try giving employees a small stipend to buy desk accessories, ask teams what they would like to see in the company snack bar, or hang pride flags in the break room during June. Fun seasonal decor can also liven up the office space and elevate employees’ day-to-day grind, and be a positive change in atmosphere.

Incorporate Fun Breaks During the Work Day

Whether you’re celebrating a birthday, achievement, holiday, or special work-related milestone, giving employees a break from work can help them relax, recharge, and improve focus when they return to work. Try booking a conference room for social breaks, so employees can catch up with each other during their downtime. You can also follow in Google’s footsteps and schedule free classes (such as Pad Kee Mao cooking lessons!) so that employees can meet new people in the office, and strengthen their relationships with existing team members.

Company Swag and Gift Exchanges

Studies show that appreciation renders a high ROI, especially during the holiday season. Google gifted each one of its 55,000+ employees a new Android smartwatch, while Ariana Huffington of the Huffington Post used the holiday season to gift a set of Calvin Klein pajamas, customized with the company logo, to her employees across the world.

But that doesn’t mean that corporate swag needs to be expensive — useful products, personalized treats and goodies, donations in the employee’s name — can all go a long way to celebrate together and create an emotional bond with the company.

Gifts, of course, don’t need to come from the company alone. Hosting an office gift exchange such as Secret Santa, or White Elephant is an inexpensive way for colleagues to show their appreciation for each other during the holiday season, and can boost team-morale throughout the year.

Personalized Cards and Notes

While employees appreciate cash rewards and gifts from the company, a personal, handwritten note of appreciation is among the most thoughtful employee engagement strategies. To quote Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines, “Making the extra effort to say thanks in a genuine, personal manner goes a long way.”

A birthday card or note from departments, management, or seniors in the company shows a genuine level of care, and is likely to keep the team motivated. For important milestones such as welcoming a baby into the family, encourage hand-written cards from the team.

With a record number of workers quitting their jobs in 2021, employee engagement and workplace celebrations aren’t just optional employee perks anymore. The pandemic has led to a psychological shift in human values, priorities, and relationships between employees and employers. Demonstrating a deeper understanding of your employees will stave off tomorrow’s losses.

For more employee engagement tools, check out our Team Engagement Series.

SmartGift’s Team Engagement Series aims to spotlight how small interactions can have big impacts on company culture. Over the course of the forthcoming weeks, our Team Engagement Series will define challenges and pain points for employees while offering solutions for different work environments.