Employee Engagement

15 Employee appreciation ideas that your employees will love (especially during a pandemic)

Employee appreciation ideas

Employee appreciation ideas are a lot like jeans - while a nice pair of denims will always be a wardrobe staple, the type of jeans that work at a given time is bound to change with the times.

Right now, high-rise, narrow-leg jeans are all the rage, but let’s not kid ourselves - those floor-sweeping bell bottoms are due for a comeback any second.The same thing goes for employee incentives. In order for a token of appreciation to be effective, it has to speak to the zeitgeist of the moment.

This is why employee appreciation ideas that are rolled out in 2020 should ideally speak to the needs of a workforce caught in the cross-fire of the personal, legal, corporate and administrative ramifications of a worldwide pandemic.

READ MORE: The power of employee recognition and why it shouldn’t stop in times of crisis

COVID-19 hit the business world like a tsunami and has had a major impact on every major South African industry.


  • The mining industry is buckled under the effects of decreased trade with nations like China and India.
  • Manufacturers are stymied by reduced demand.
  • Retailers are under pressure due to lower spending by key demographics.
  • Commercial property owners and cash-strapped tenants are at loggerheads,
  • and the tourism and hospitality industry are feeling the brunt of continued movement restrictions.

With many businesses electing to have their employees work from home at this time, new operational challenges have emerged, and it has become even more important to boost employee morale at every turn.

This is where innovative employee appreciation ideas come in. Here are a few ways to show your employees you care about them in 2020:


1. Regular personal check-ins

Wait, wait, we don’t just mean just another Zoom-based status report. We mean an honest-to-goodness chat with each employee to see how they are doing and what they need to make their lives a little easier. If your team members tend to be on the shy side when it comes to asking for support, it may help to pave the way for some honest feedback with a digitised survey they can fill out on a weekly basis. This way you’ll know if they need more flexibility in the schedule to take care of household responsibilities, access to company resources like printers or cloud-based services, etc.

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2. Mobile data

If your employees are working from home, chances are they are using a fair amount of data to stay up to date with work. If they are home-schooling their kids at the same time, their data charges are likely to be sky-high. Reward top performers with mobile data, or make it available across the board from anyone who needs it if possible.


3. Mobile food delivery

Support the local restaurant industry by treating your team to mobile lunch deliveries to their homes every now and again. Alternatively, you can go the fresh route, and have veggie boxes delivered instead.

READ MORE: 8 Companies that have great employee appreciation initiatives


4. Company branded PPE

Wearing a mask in public is mandatory in South Africa right now. This is the ideal time to drum up brand recognition while simultaneously providing your team with personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks or buffs they can wear when they head out in public to go to the store, etc.


5. Digital grocery vouchers

Help your team to stay safe and sound by showing them some love with digital grocery vouchers that allow them to shop for food and other essentials from the comfort of their own home.


6. Entertainment subscriptions

With sports performances, concerts and large gatherings of any kind on the back burner for the time being, most employees are stuck at home over the weekends as well. Subscriptions to streaming services like Netflix and Showmax can provide some much-needed entertainment at this time.

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7. Tickets to streaming concerts

The South African music industry is also under a lot of pressure at the moment. Treating your team to tickets to streaming concerts are a double-whammy - you give them a shared experience and you support the arts at the same time.


8. Have plants or flowers delivered

Having plants in your home has been shown to boost mood, productivity and creativity. Have house plants delivered as a thank you to your team, or opt for flowers if you’re feeling a little more traditional.


9. Mobile beauty treatments

Since beauticians and hairdressers are allowed to ply their trade under Level 3 lockdown restrictions and lower, it’s now completely possible to spoil employees with home-bound beauty treatments like manis, pedis, massages and haircuts from innovative suppliers who have adapted their business models to offer at-home services.


10. Drive-by celebrations

If your team normally celebrates personal milestones like big birthdays or baby showers with an in-office occasion, it might be a nice idea to do a drive-by version of such an occasion. E.g. have a gift dropped off at the home of the colleague in question and drive by in convoy to share your well wishes and make them feel special.


11. Digital access to a medical professional

Most South African medical schemes are providing members with access to a digital platform where they can get digital advice from a medical professional. Check to see if your company’s scheme does so, or find a way to get your team connected to a healthcare provider of your choosing free of charge via email, WhatsApp or a similarly convenient platform.


12. The ability to pay it forward

Everyone knows someone who is struggling right now. Give your employees the opportunity to pay forward their appreciation collateral to a friend or family member outside of your corporate sphere in need in the form of food delivery, etc.

READ MORE: 10 Companies that have the best company culture


13. Matched charitable contributions

Offer employees the option to have their charitable contributions matched by the company. E.g. if they contribute R500 to Ladles of Love, your company does the same.


14. Financial management support from a professional

If your company had no other option but to institute salary cuts to keep the boat afloat, providing your team with access to financial management advice from a seasoned professional can make all the difference. Sometimes all you need is a fresh set of eyes to see how you could be putting your money to better use.


15. Unexpected time off

Working from home when you’re not used to it can often lead to an ‘always on’ mentality, which can quickly turn to burnout when it’s not addressed. If you can tell that an employee is burning the candle at both ends in order to show their worth to the company in these trying times, giving them some unexpected time off can be a total game-changer. Something as simple as ‘it’s a lovely day outside - go spend it with your family, we’ll see you again tomorrow’ can make all the difference.

Reduce turnover, boost staff performance and increase employee productivity. If you’re not sure how to get started, take a look at our 10-step guide to help you take the leap. Click the button below 👇 to grab your copy. 

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