HR departments and business leaders (not to mention employees) are no doubt aware that this Friday, March 6, is celebrated as ‘Employee Appreciation Day’. Amidst the gloomy weather and worrying world and business news, employees definitely deserve some appreciation! So prepare for a social media storm of free food, activities laid on by firms, and party pics from EAD parties.

These are all great ideas and we are even having our own Plinko tournament here at e-days, with our very own, bespoke Plinko board. But a one-off day isn’t going to build a lasting relationship between employers and employees; appreciation is something that should be consistently shown to employees, not laid on thick once a year.

We sat down with e-days CEO Steve Arnold to get his thoughts on how companies can approach Employee Appreciation Day. We spoke about what business owners could consider doing all year round to show their most important assets, their workers, that they’re very much appreciated.

Hi Steve. Traditionally ‘Employee Appreciation Day’ is celebrated with late starts, early finishes, and office treats, but is this the most valuable way to spend the day?

Making the day fun and enjoyable for your employees is definitely a good thing to do – it can be a great way to encourage social bonding, break down some barriers in the workplace, and just generally let people know they’re valued. That said, you don’t want to appear gimmicky for one day a year, and not match that with some long term effort to boost employee wellbeing.

Remember that there are plenty of useful resources you can create for employees which don’t consist of free food and drink! Such as healthcare and wellbeing pages on your company site.

It’s worth highlighting these to your employees – maybe on Friday you sit down for 30 minutes to show them how to utilize them in busy or stressful periods; a little reminder that you’re there to support. Demonstrating what support is already possible via your HR systems, and perhaps what you plan for the future, is a good way to show appreciation.

What would you advise businesses do in the long term to ensure employees feel appreciated and supported at work?

Take the time to listen to your employees and understand whether day to day issues are being addressed.

Something like EAD is a useful crux point to get feedback from your staff– but it’s far more important to then action what you can, in a way people are aware of, in the weeks after March 6th.

I’d also recommend that companies consider whether their current ways of showing appreciation are up to scratch and available to everyone. Drinking socials are popular within business, yet there are many that this does not appeal too, for health or religious reasons, for example. Making a point of providing an alternative which appeals to everyone can go a long way to highlight to your employees that you are listening. Today’s generation is more purpose-driven than ever before, and company behavior should shift to meet that. Considerations could include food, drink, or the supplier contracts your company has from an ethical point of view.

What do you think the impact on businesses showing consistent appreciation is?

If you are fostering habits that promote employee wellbeing, it’s not just your people who benefit. Employee satisfaction, retention and productivity are all likely to rise, which translates to business benefit too.

So, focus on providing your employees with the correct tools to do their work efficiently, and a culture of appreciation and recognition, and it’s a win win. Research recently covered in Forbes shows that workers who have been recognized in the last month, are more than twice as likely to see a path to grow their career within their company, and nearly twice as likely to trust their HR team.

Ultimately, a culture that makes people want to come into work is made of more than offering out free coffee and lunches. These are nice but meaningless in the grand scheme of things if after the freebies have finished there is no concerted effort to support employees and their wellbeing in the long run. Let’s celebrate Employee Appreciation Day 2020 without doubt, and also think about the bigger picture and what this means for employees’ wellbeing every day of the year.