Applauz Blog

37 Reward Ideas for Every Employee in Your Company

Published: June 10, 2020

Last Updated: May 7, 2024

  11 min read

Rewards and recognition are key drivers of employee engagement. Here is a list of employee reward ideas to help you express your appreciation.

A crucial component of happiness at work is feeling appreciated and recognized. Praise is a potent motivator that takes a bit of intentional effort from leaders but yields worthwhile results. Offering meaningful rewards to your employees isn’t a “nice-to-have” – it should be part of any well-rounded employee recognition strategy.

Need employee reward ideas but don’t know where to start?

First, keep in mind that employee rewards aren’t about giving an expensive gift or doing something flashy – budget means way less to an employee than the thoughtfulness behind the gesture. Ultimately, the employee wants to feel that their efforts are recognized and, as such, picking rewards that your employees will enjoy and use is key. Below we’ll share some employee reward ideas to help you find the right gifts for your team members.

And, because not every employee has the exact same needs and interests, personalization is therefore important. There’s nothing more disappointing than receiving a generic message or gift after pouring your heart into your job.

Pro Tip: To get a better sense of the type of rewards your employees will appreciate, we recommend you poll your employees – and you can do that with Applauz Pulse Surveys or another polling or survey tool.

Benefits of Employee Rewards

In short, employee rewards foster a positive work environment, supercharge employee engagement, and promote organizational success. If you need even more reasons to ramp up your employee recognition efforts, here are some more specific benefits of a thoughtful employee rewards program for your team. 
  • Morale Boost: 

    When employees feel valued, they are more likely to be motivated and engaged in their work. This creates a virtuous cycle that encourages people to bring their best to work, which makes them more likely to get rewarded again. According to FlexJobs, 86% of employees report that recognition is a major driver of motivation.

  • Increased Productivity: 

    Employee engagement is amazing in terms of well-being – and it’s also good for business. In fact, companies with a “recognition-rich culture” outperform others, according to a Josh Bersin study. Gallup data also shows that highly engaged teams deliver 23% greater profitability.

  • Enhanced Retention:

    Employers and leaders know just how important it is to retain valuable employees. In this way, employee rewards can support organizations in keeping their best employees and, in doing so, reduce turnover rates. An Indeed survey revealed that 30% of people who quit their job within the first six months would have stayed longer if their efforts were recognized more! All in all, when workers feel appreciated at work, they are less likely to seek other opportunities.

  • Improved Workplace Culture:

    A healthy workplace culture doesn’t entirely depend on employee rewards, but there’s no doubt that rewarding employees contributes to a positive workplace environment. Collaboration thrives when respect, appreciation and recognition become ingrained in the way you conduct business. 
  • Greater Employee Satisfaction:

    Related to employee retention, employee rewards can be a key contributor to greater job satisfaction amongst your team members. Again, it’s all about ensuring that your employees feel appreciated for what they bring to the table at work. Happy employees are more likely to remain loyal and committed to their career progression within an organization. 
  • Effective Organizational Alignment:

    Recognition also acts as positive reinforcement for the activities and behaviour that a company wants to cultivate within the corporate culture. Rewarding behaviours and traits that align with organizational goals and values helps drive desired outcomes. 

A Guide to Starting an Employee Recognition Program Download PDF Now

Reward Ideas for Every Employee in Your Company

If a recognition program is new to you, it might be hard to know where to start. If you need inspiration, we've come up with a list of creative and thoughtful employee reward ideas that you can use as ideas for your own rewards program. Mix and match them for best results (and remember, different people value different things so don’t be afraid to personalize gifts). 

  1. Bottle of liquor or wine

    Do you have any whisky-lovers or budding sommeliers on your team? A nice bottle of natural wine or specialty liquor is an affordable gift to provide for a work anniversary or any other special occasion. Online stores such as Saucy are a great place to shop for a wide variety of specialty liquors and alcohol. The team can crack it open for a celebratory happy hour. Or the employee can save it to enjoy at home with family and friends.

  2. An Electronic device

    If your employee is a tech-geek and a significant anniversary or accomplishment is coming up, consider buying them an electronic gadget or device. For example, wireless headphones, speakers, or a fitness watch. Any device that you think will resonate with your employee’s particular lifestyle and hobbies will be much appreciated.

  3. Creating an Employee Rewards Marketplace

    Applauz’s Employee Rewards Marketplace is the perfect way to give your team the gift of choice when it comes to their rewards. After all, it can be hard to know exactly what they might want or need most!

    Here’s how it works: Employees earn rewards through a points system, which is adapted to your organization’s needs. They can then redeem points for rewards and choose from over 30,000 products across several lifestyle categories!

  4. Stylish and practical kitchenware item

    If you have any food and cooking aficionados on your team, gifting a useful or stylish kitchenware item is always a great gift idea. For example, cocktail tumblers, or an elegant ceramic serving bowl, or quirky placemats. You can find excellent houseware items at many online stores such as WayfairWest ElmStructube, and Article.

  5. A personalized thank-you video

    Instead of giving the typical card, why not put together a meaningful video to say thank you? It provides a powerful personal touch, creates a memorable experience for the recipient (and for those participating in the video) and shows that you care enough to invest time and energy into your message of appreciation.

  6. A decorative or useful office item

    In the same spirit, a stylish and practical piece for the office is always a great gift idea. For example, bookends, file holders, pencil tumblers, laptop stands. Ikea and Pottery Barn and other home furnishing shops have endless possibilities for excellent office accessory gifts.

  7. A framed poster or print

    A highly personalized gift that will surely be remembered: a framed poster or print. Choose a print that resonates with your employee’s passions and interests. For example, if they always talk about their travels, a framed vintage travel poster can be a wonderful gift and double as an office decoration. Online shops like Zazzle and All Posters can shop thousands of posters, and framing services can be purchased all at once.

  8. Charitable giving

    Interestingly enough, charitable giving has gained popularity as a workplace reward. In an increasingly uncertain world, employees and corporations alike are prioritizing social responsibility. Having a sense of purpose at work also matters for a lot of people. So, if you’re looking for unique employee reward ideas, consider giving employees the opportunity to give back to a good cause as a form of reward – you can even match their donations.

  9. High-quality artisanal food items

    This is perfect for all foodies and amateur chefs on your team. You can buy a high-quality bottle of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, artisanal hot sauce, chocolate, or specialty ingredients like truffle oil or butter. Online stores like Farm to people, edible Canada, and Pasta cheese all specialize in small-batch gourmet foods. Consumable items make the best gifts because they are practical and will be used multiple times. Your employee will remember your gift every time they cook!

  10. Aromatherapy accessories

    This is a great gift idea for employees you know love their “me” time. Essential oil diffusers or scented candles are an affordable and thoughtful gift for any employee who knows the value of unwinding and relaxing. Diffusers come at a variety of price points: if you’re going for something higher-quality, consider this stone diffuser from Vitruvi. Or, if you’re on a budget, you can grab this one from Amazon for about half the price.

  11. Leave early on a Friday or extra personal day

    One of the best gifts you can offer your employees is the opportunity to relax and recharge. A great way to do that is with time off. A paid or “free” time off is an easy way to thank employees for their hard work. They’ve earned it. In the same spirit, offering an extra paid personal day is a great reward. When an employee has shown that they accomplished their objectives and goals, there’s no better way to reward them with time to recharge.

  12. Bring your dog to workday

    Who doesn’t love the presence of a fun and furry friend? Allowing your employee to bring their dog to work can be a great way to boost employee morale and the entire team.

  13. Paid Group lunch, dinner, or happy hour

    One of the best experiences to offer an employee as a reward is a great meal and drinks from a local restaurant. You can provide a paid team lunch or take your employee out for lunch for a friendly one-on-one.

  14. Team visit to an escape room or similar activity

    For intellectual team members that prefer an interactive group activity, offering to take your team to a local escape room can be a fun way to build relationships. For an extra memorable reward, you can take your team out for drinks afterwards. For those who prefer a more traditional group activity, consider taking your team out for bowling, go-karting, or paintball.

  15. Employee awards

    Effective employee recognition is a day-in-day-out effort. However, there is a time and place for employee awards. Rewarding employees with special prizes and honours once a year can help create excitement and positive feelings that will last for months. It also promotes a culture of excellence – just make sure that there are enough awards up for grabs across categories to keep things fair and inclusive.

  16. An employee appreciation wall

    A public appreciation wall is a great, budget-friendly employee reward idea. An employee appreciation wall can go a long way when it comes to making team members feel valued. No need to spend a fortune on employee rewards! Just put it somewhere visible in the office – or make it a virtual wall, if you have a remote or hybrid team – and encourage people to leave each other notes of appreciation on a regular basis. Gratitude is contagious.

  17. Paid online courses

    A great way to support your employee both personally and professionally is to offer to pay for an online course. Online learning centers, such as Linkedin Learning, provide classes in a wide range of domains. If your employee wants to take a specific course from an online academy related to their particular area of expertise, you can do that. For example, you can subsidize online marketing courses. Online academies and industry experts offer affordable courses and certificates in marketing, SEO, online advertising, and more!

  18. Employee Wellness

    Employee reward ideas can also take the form of perks that align with your culture. Show employees that you care about their well-being by offering employee wellness-oriented rewards. From incentivizing behaviours such as exercise, mindfulness and healthy eating to offering perks such as gym membership discounts or access to counseling, these types of rewards promote a culture of wellness and tend to be much appreciated.

  19. Paid night stay in a local hotel

    In the same spirit as relaxation, a fun reward for a job well done is a night in a stylish local boutique hotel. This is an excellent gift for a significant work accomplishment or a formal work anniversary. The employee you reward the gift to can choose to stay alone or bring their significant other, making the experience all the more memorable.

  20. Voucher to restaurants or cafes

    Who doesn't love a fancy 8$ iced coffee beverage? Offering a gift certificate to a local cafe is an affordable and safe option to say thank you. Let's be real—most people love coffee. If you know your employees will prefer to support local businesses, skip the Starbucks and go for the small mom-and-pop shops. It's all about catering to what your employees want.

    Pro Tip: To get a better sense of the type of rewards your employees will appreciate, we recommend you poll your employees—with Applauz Company Polls or another polling or survey tool.

  21. A paid subscription to an app of choice

    There are so many great apps available. For a truly memorable gift, you can offer a 6-month or yearly subscription to an app of your choice. Some popular options include lifestyle apps such as Noom or Headspace.

  22. A paid subscription to a monthly media platform of choice

    These days, premium, high-quality written content can usually be accessed through a subscription-based model. For example, publications, magazines and newspapers like The Atlantic, New York Magazine, Tech Crunch, Wired, and The New York Times, are all accessible with subscriptions only. Many subscriptions are very affordable.  A subscription to a publication you believe will resonate with your employees' interests and passions make a wonderful gift.

  23. Flexible work arrangements

    Whether you offer childcare on-site or let team members set their own hours, flexibility is a highly valued workplace reward. Employees are people first, and people have different needs. Many of your staff may be busy parents or caretakers to family members, or they may live with a disability. Giving your employees more time back in their day to take care of responsibilities or simply devote more time to their pursuits outside of work is invaluable.

  24. Gift cards for essentials

    Sometimes practical and useful gifts are the best ones. Offering gift cards of various denominations for places like pharmacies, grocery stores, hardware stores and superstores like Walmart or Costco.

  25. Voucher to a food delivery service

    A food-based reward is always appreciated! Not sure what your employees will enjoy? Let them choose by purchasing gift vouchers for local food delivery services such as Uber Eats, Skip the Dishes, Golo, Postmates, and more. This is a great way to support independent restaurants as well!


Start Your Employee Rewards & Recognition Program with Applauz Download PDF Now

  1. A Book

    A book makes a great personalized and meaningful gift for your knowledge-hungry employees. When a manager purchases a book that they know the employee will enjoy, it demonstrates thought and effort was put into the gift. 

  2. A paid spa day

    Those who like being pampered will relish the opportunity to spend the day at the spa. A spa gift card is a versatile reward that can be used on various treatments. Employees can tailor their experience to maximize their enjoyment – and they’ll be extra thankful for their employer after receiving that massage or facial.

  3. A cash bonus

    While money isn’t the only type of reward that matters, it’s one that people will most definitely use. Some employees are extremely motivated by the prospect of a monetary incentive – and there’s nothing wrong with that. Consider implementing a bonus structure based on performance benchmarks or surprising your team with an unexpected holiday bonus.

  4. Branded company swag

    A classic and cost-effective reward is company "swag." This means branded t-shirts, hoodies, caps, mugs, water bottles, pens, bandannas, lanyards, tote bags and more. Custom company swag is affordable to buy, and it's also a great gift for other occasions, such as an onboarding gift for new hires. If you're not sure where to get started on creating custom items, simply Google "custom company swag printing" to find local businesses that offer this service!

  5. Plants for their desk

    Who doesn't like a little greenery in their office? Purchasing a plant for home or office use is a classic and inexpensive way to say 'thank you' to employees. You can even purchase plants online! For Canadians, here is a list of top online shops to buy plants. And for U.S. residents of, here is a similar list.

  6. Personalized mug

    A personalized mug is a fun and easy gift for employees. It's also more meaningful because it's tailored to them. It's that extra touch that really communicates that effort was put into the gift. Online shops like Zazzle, you can personalize different types of mugs with either text or photos of your choice.

  7. An adventure experience

    Adrenaline junkies will be delighted by rewards that cater to their craving for adventure. From sky-diving to winter sports, there are plenty of thrilling experiences out there that you can give team members as a token of appreciation. Just make those activities optional, of course.

  8. A handwritten letter or note

    Sometimes the best reward is a sincere and genuine acknowledgement of an employee's effort and hard work. The best way to communicate your message of appreciation is with a handwritten card or letter. Make sure that you also present it to them in person, if possible.

  9. Quality notebook or stationery

    A classic reward to say 'thank you' is with high-quality notebooks or stationery. For instance, Rifle Paper Co. is a U.S.-based shop that specializes in high-quality stationery and other office accessories. All kinds of special, unique employee gifts can be found in their online shop. Another idea is a classic Moleskin notebook or planner, and it's a simple and thoughtful gift that will always be put to good use.

  10. Concierge services

    Dry cleaning pickup. Travel assistance. Virtual care platforms that allow you to refill prescriptions or find medical specialists. Corporate concierge services are all the rage – and they are useful rewards that can make your employees’ lives a tad easier.

  11. Business travel

    Have you heard of the “bleisure” trend? It involves blending business and leisure travel to keep employees happy. From letting team members extend work trips to sightsee after a conference to hosting corporate retreats that bring hybrid teams together, there are different ways to leverage business travel as a reward.

  12. Professional development

    Career development is a top-of-mind concern for many employees. It’s also a human need to want to grow and evolve. Professional development opportunities, such as training for specific skills or supporting graduate studies, can be fantastic rewards.

 

Whatever you end up choosing, remember that employee reward ideas should be meaningful, personalized, and adapted to employees' interests and preferences. The list above should give you a good starting point and expand your horizons beyond the typical gift basket.

Finally, don’t forget that rewards are just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to your employee recognition strategy. A well-rounded employee recognition program should include different types of appreciation and be adapted to your organizational goals and culture. To create yours, consider an employee recognition platform like Applauz, which allows you to personalize your program based on your team’s needs.

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