121 Creative Ways to Reward Employees Who Kick Ass in 2018
Rewards are a powerful tool used for employee engagement. Recognizing and rewarding your employees effectively is crucial for retaining top talent and keeping employees happy.
Inspired by our list of 121 employee wellness ideas, we sought out to find all the ways companies can reward their employees.
Below is a list of 121 ways to reward employees that you can easily implement at your office. No matter what your company’s culture looks like, there is something here for any business.
Here are the most popular employee rewards, as voted on by our readers.
Vote on your favorite employee reward below (and see how others voted):
Free bonus: Download this entire list as a PDF. Easily save it on your computer for quick reference or print it out for the other managers on the team. Includes 10 bonus ideas not found in this post.
121 Ways to Reward Employees:
1. Hand written note
It’s old school, but effective. Write your employee a note sharing your appreciation for them and their work. It can be in a simple card, or on the first page of a journal you give them. Plus, a sincere note could stay pinned on an employee’s wall for years, while a meaningless tchotchke could end up in the trash.
2. Office massages
Bring a professional masseuse into the office and reward your employees with relaxation.
3. Donate to a charity of their choice
If your employee is passionate about helping people, reward them by helping a cause that’s important to them.
4. Healthy snacks
Keeping the break room stocked with healthy office snacks will keep your employees feeling cared for and productive throughout the long workday.
5. Sporting event tickets
Who doesn’t like a good game? Bonus points if their team is from out of town, and you get them tickets to the game when they play the local team.
6. Secret slow clap
Pack as many people as you can into a room and have the employee being rewarded walk in unknowingly. Proceed to start a slow clap that runs into a standing ovation. It sounds funny, but I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t appreciate a good slow clap.
7. Paid Paid Vacation
Nope, that’s not a typo. HR Software company BambooHR offers employee’s a certain amount of money to put towards vacation once a year. Paid PTO allows for many benefits including better engagement and loyalty, improved well-being, an advantage in recruiting and work-life balance for employees.
8. Play with puppies
Hire a service, or work with a shelter near you, to bring puppies to the office for your employees to play with. Not only is it awesome, but it’s proven to relieve stress.
9. Standing desk
Standing desks are becoming more prevalent in offices and for good reason. It has been said that sitting is the new smoking. Sitting for hours at a time can have serious negative side effects on your health. Oristand recently came out with a standing desk add-on for only $35 dollars.
10. Dunk tank day
Let your employees get that revenge they’ve always wanted. Pick a nice summer day and rent a dunk tank. Everyone can take turns trying to dunk his or her manager. Combine it with some food and drinks, and it’s guaranteed to be a fun event.
11. Blue Apron membership
If your employee likes to cook, or wants to learn, reward them with a Blue Apron membership. Blue Apron delivers fresh ingredients, with a recipe, to their doorstep 2-4 times per week.
12. Dinner on the boss
Take your employees out for dinner on the house. Everybody loves food, and getting a meal on the boss is much more rewarding than cooking one yourself. Plus, this reward brings employees the leadership facetime they crave more than any tangible reward.
13. End of year party with awards
Our friends over at TINYpulse have some big awards they give out at the end of every year including rookie of year, going the extra mile, MVP, and other gifts for employees. They are peer nominated and quote “we go all out”, including video nominations and a huge party.
15. Their favorite liquor
Age restriction (21+) for this reward. Depends on the person, but if they have a favorite brand of whiskey, beer or wine, reward them with a bottle of the good stuff.
Get as creative with these awards as you want. People love showing off their achievements.
17. The throne they deserve
Chances are your employees are sitting most of the day. Well now they’ll be sitting on a modernly designed, memory foam chair that is temperature regulated and gives massages.
18. Car wash
Give them a gift card to the local car wash, or, go the extra mile and wash it for them while they’re at the office.
19. Scratch offs
The reward that keeps on giving. $20 of scratch offs is more fun than a gift card and has the potential to pay off big.
20. Thank you video
This can be one of the most thoughtful rewards/gifts you can give someone. There is an amazing company called Tribute, that makes the process of recording and organizing videos simple. Try them out and reward your employees with a video showing your appreciation.
21. Give them a getaway
Spend as much or as little as you want. Whether it’s sending them to a local spa for the day, or to Napa Valley for some wine tasting, help your employees get away and relax.
22. Custom coffee cup
Create a design and fancy up a coffee cup that lets them show off their reward every morning while getting caffeinated. You can create the design on Canva for free.
23. Company Offsite
A company wide offsite is a great way to reward hitting team goals. It can be anything from a local bowling alley, to an extravagant weekend ski trip in the mountains. An offsite is a great reward that also promotes team building and helps strengthen your company culture.
24. Health club membership
Spinning class, yoga, crossfit, or a free month at the gym. Everyone appreciates the gift of good health.
25. Monday Night Football
Hold a Monday Night Football viewing party for the team/company. Order a few pizzas, get some beverages, and celebrate their hard work.
26. Self-portrait oil painting
Originally made famous by Scopely, it’s funny and awesome at the same time. Who wouldn’t want a beautiful oil painting of themselves to put above their fireplace? Hear about Scopely’s other crazy awards (including 11k wrapped in bacon) in their interview on the Awesome Office Show.
27. Surprise birthday gifts for employees
Recruitment software company, RecruiterBox, rewards their staff by surprising them on their birthday, with a gift sent to their home address.
28. Movie Tickets
Movie ticket coupons will help your employees get out of the house for a night. Throw in some popcorn too because it’s crazy expensive.
29. Edible arrangement
Chocolate dipped fruits in the shape of flowers are a great reward for anyone. You can go to Edible Arrangements and get them delivered right to the office.
30. Five Minute Journal
The Five Minute Journal is one of the more thoughtful rewards you can give someone. Like the name says, it’s a journal that takes just five minutes a day to help practice mindfulness.
31. Send them skydiving
It depends on the employee, but if they’re a thrill seeker, skydiving is generally easier to sign up for than you would think. Send them and a plus one for the ride of a lifetime. Our friends over at employee rewards company BlueBoard curate experiences like skydiving, kayaking, and others, that your employees will actually love.
32. Breakfast of champions
Cater or bring breakfast for the team. Show your appreciation for their hard work while getting them fed for the day ahead. Here are some healthy office breakfast ideas to get you started.
33. Wall of fame
Make a wall of fame and reward your employees with a spot for their picture to live indefinitely.
34. Custom phone cases
Get a picture of their team, company logo, or anything else, and personalize their most used item.
35. Netflix subscription
Simple reward that’s almost guaranteed to be used. Load up 50 dollars on a Netflix gift card and feed their binge watching habit for a few months.
36. Karaoke day
Take the second half of the day to set up a karaoke machine and let your employees sing their hearts out. You might want to have some earplugs ready.
37. Lift tickets
If you’re located around a mountain or some ski slopes, reward your employees with a few lift tickets. It will get them out of the house and active during the winter months.
38. Uber/Lyft credit
Everyone needs a ride occasionally. Get your employees an Uber/Lyft gift card for their next night out. This could also be a team-wide reward by setting up a promo code for them to use over a weekend.
39. On-site fitness classes
Glassdoor, who was recently named a top place to work, rewards their staff with on-site fitness classes and catered lunches.
Probably the most under appreciated object in the office, and often misplaced. These simple gifts for employees sometimes mean the most.
41. Team happy hour
Let the team go out for a drink and some appetizers and have the company pick up the bill. Not only is it a great reward, it also allows your employees to get to know each other outside of the office.
42. Football helmet / stickers
If you want to take it to the next level you can copy the Ohio State Buckeyes Football Team with helmet stickers. Get mini-helmets for everyone and reward them with a sticker every time they do something great.
43. Bring your dog day
Reward the office with a Bring Your Dog to the Office day. It will lighten the mood and is proven to relieve stress.
44. Oversized trophy
Employee incentives come in all shapes and sizes. However, there’s something about an oversized trophy that will make their accomplishment just a little bit sweeter.
Reward your employee with a life sized sticker of them self. The funnier the picture the better. You can create your own custom sticker on their website.
46. Spa day
Give the reward of relaxation. They need it after all of their hard work.
47. Cooking lessons
Most people try to cook, and most people fail. Incentivize your employee, or small team, with cooking lessons one day after work. They’ll learn a lot and get to eat some outstanding food.
48. Airbnb credit
Get them a gift card / promo code for Airbnb. It’s the next best thing to sending them on vacation. Let them decide where they want to go, and cover their accommodations while they are there.
49. One-on-one mentoring
One of the most valuable things for an employee who wants to improve. They are looking to learn from people with experience. Reward them with a few mentoring sessions with one of the executives.
50. Swap jobs for a day
Maybe not for all responsibilities, but enough to make it fun. They’ll have a good time and get some perspective on what other people in the company do everyday. Many companies do regular job swaps to make sure some employees know the essentials of a few different roles. This practice provides another hidden reward: employees can go on vacation and rest assured that someone is prepared and qualified to fill in. According to a recent survey, about 22% of Americans don’t take vacation because they “can’t take time off work.”
51. Life-size cutout in the lobby
Let your employee greet everyone in the lobby for a day. Have a life size cut out of them made and leave it at your entrance for everyone to see.
52. Casual dress day
If there is a “dress code” at your office, incentivize the company with a day/week when people can dress casually.
“Reading is to the mind, what exercise is to the body.” – Joseph Addison. Kindles are relatively cheap and make for a great reward. They will motivate your employees to keep reading and expanding their education.
54. Volunteer at a charity of their choice
Your only real commodity is time. Give some of it to those who need it most. Studies have shown volunteering makes people happy, and the effect increases as people volunteer more. Plus, as Helpguide.org points out, volunteering also presents the perfect opportunities to try out different work roles and even build new career-relevant skills.
55. Birthday PTO
It’s totally acceptable to celebrate birthdays as a kid, yet for some reason, as soon as we hit adulthood we tend to skip the celebrations and treat our birthdays like any other day. BambooHR gives their employees birthday PTO with zero obligations. They find that giving employees a little “me” time helps their employees relax a bit and come back more focused and engaged.
56. Baby on Board
Menlo Innovations rewards their employees by letting them bring their baby/dog to work for a day. It helps their employees relax and have a fun day with their loved ones. Plus, who doesn’t love babies and puppies?
Tracking your movements is a great way to stay motivated on your health goals. You can even give them to the whole team and set up competitions with prizes.
58. Invest in their continued education
This is a big incentive for your transformational employees. Help them get to the next level in their education. Investing in their education will not only reward them, but reward the company in return.
59. CEO for a day
Reward your employee by letting them use the bosses office for a day. It’ll be fun and they’ll get a taste of what it’s like at the top.
60. Tool for anything
If your employee enjoys the outdoors, reward them with an all in one tool. They’ll appreciate it the next time they head out into the woods.
61. Nap time
No more sneaking in naps at the desk. Set up a nap area in your office where employees can hide away and catch a few Z’s.
62. Dance Lessons
Help your employees get rid of their two left feet. You can offer dance lessons at the office, or set them up with a local studio for a great team night out. It’s a fun way to stay in shape and keep the brain healthy.
63. Day Pass
Let them take a day off any time, no notice, no questions asked. Hopefully it’s not a big meeting day.
64. Do their laundry
The last thing you want to do after a long day of work is laundry. Set them up with a laundry service that will pick up/drop off their laundry at the office. Washio is one of many services you could use. This reward gives employees more than just clean laundry; it also helps restore some work-life balance to their lives. Which of the following employees do you imagine will be more happy and productive? The one who spends her Saturday morning at home doing laundry, or the one who comes home Friday night with clean laundry and goes on a glorious Saturday-morning hike?
Buy a ping-pong table for the office. It’s fun and will keep your employees up and moving. Also, most can fold up and be easily stashed away when they’re not being used.
66. Menlo Innovations
Our friends over at Menlo have one of the coolest company cultures around. Along with letting employees bring their puppies to work, they also reward them with team activities like whirley ball. To learn more about Menlo’s amazing culture, check out the Awesome Office interview with their CEO, Richard Sheridan.
67. Group golf lessons / Mini Putt
Buy the team a group golf lesson or take them to play Mini Putt. You can finally learn how to fix your slice and increase your distance, or just get outside in the sunshine for a day. Just make sure you work on your putting drills before hand.
68. Fix their watches
Have your employees bring in all their watches that are broken or need new batteries and get them fixed. It’s something that is simple to do, but never makes it on the to-do list.
No more excuses for being late to those Monday morning meetings.
69. Half day Fridays
Most companies see a dip in productivity during the summer months. Half day Fridays during these months will keep employees happy and have even shown to increase productivity.
70. Food Truck Lunch
Get a food truck to come to the office for lunch.
71. Ice Coffee Keg
Or growlers of iced coffee. Either way, it’s a nice change of pace from the traditional pot of coffee in the break room.
72. Transportation reimbursement
If your office is in a busy city, chances are a lot of your employees use alternative transportation methods. Reward them by reimbursing their expenses for a week.
73. Wine tasting
Depends on your location, but if there are vineyards near by send the team to a day of wine tasting.
74. Work from Home day
Let your employees have a day to work from their couch. It will be a nice change of pace from the office.
75. Pajama day
Go one step beyond casual and let your employees wear their pajamas to work for a day.
76. Nalgene water bottles
77. Employee of the Month
The employee of the month. Another old school idea that’s still super effective. You can even feature them on the your website for some extra incentive. If you’re looking for inspiration, then we have a bunch of non-traditional employee of the month program ideas that focus on honoring employees for specific accomplishments, characteristics, and core values that other employees will observe and then aspire to emulate.
78. Psychic in the office
Bring a psychic to the office for a few hours and let your employees have some fun while learning whether or not they’ll get that promotion they’ve been working for.
79. Hot air balloon
Reward your employees with a hot air balloon ride. It might help them cross something off their bucket list while having a great time in the process.
Take care of one of those tedious tasks your employees have to do outside of work. Have them bring their clothes in and get them dry-cleaned for them.
81. Hair cuts
Whether it’s on site for a day, or coupons for later. Reward them with a fresh cut for the weekend.
82. Sticker Face
Create a sticker of the employee’s face and pass them out at the next team meeting. Your team can have some fun with them and recognize the employee’s accomplishment. Stickermule has a super simple and affordable service for custom stickers.
83. Shoe polishing
Bring a shoe polisher into the office for a day to freshen up your employees dress shoes.
84. LinkedIn Recommendations
Reward your employees by having their managers write them LinkedIn recommendations. They are a great way for the company to express their gratitude while helping the employee’s career.
85. House cleaning
Hire a cleaning service to go to your employee’s house and clean while they are at work. They’ll return to a clean house and be able to relax.
Bring a tailor into the office to get employee’s measurements and tailor their favorite suit/dress shirts.
87. Company clothes
Design some new company gear and give it away as rewards. Shirts, hats, socks, anything you can put a logo on.
88. Concert tickets
Get tickets to a local concert and reward your employees with a night out and some good music.
89. Art shows
For those who appreciate art, reward them with a few tickets to a local art show/gallery. You can throw a dinner for two in with them.
90. Reserve unique office space for the team
Reserve a space for your team to work outside of the office for a day. Whether it’s a park, or a café, it will be a nice change of pace from the office.
91. New office equipment
Get some new equipment around the office. Upgrade to standing desks, new monitors, even comfort-designed keyboards, and mouse pads. All make great rewards and show your employees you care.
92. Let employees reward each other
93. Crossfit membership
Start them with a month membership at a local crossfit gym. They’ll get to try something new, challenge themselves, and stay healthy.
94. Meal delivery for week
Take away the burden of cooking for a week. Set your employee up with a delivery service that will bring them their favorite meals for lunch or dinner.
95. Brewery tour
Take the team to a local brewery for a tour. They can drink some good beer, and learn about the processes behind it.
96. Development conferences
Everyone is trying to master their craft. Helping your employees improve personally, and professionally, not only rewards them, but your company in return.
97. Cool Socks
You show me a person that says they don’t like cool socks and I’ll show you a liar. Check out YoSox and reward your employees with stylish feet.
98. Prize wheel
You hit goal, and you spin the wheel. What’s on the wheel? Anything you want. You’re reading a list of 121 ideas right now.
99. Dream car rental
While you probably can’t afford to give them the raise to buy that sports car they’ve always wanted, you can rent them one for a week. Enterprise has an exotic car rental service that is a great place to start.
100. Phone bill
Call, text, data, streaming, any thing they can think of on the company for a month.
101. Birch box
Reward your employees with a few months of Birch Box. They’ll get to sample different products and find some that they love.
102. Audible account
Start your employees off with a month of Audible. Audiobooks are a great way to tear through your reading list.
103. WWE Belt
Reward your top performers by letting them be the world champion of the office. That is until the next title fight…
104. New and improved job title
Reward their hard work with a new job title. This reward costs nothing and will mean a lot. The Harvard Business Review discusses a study on job titles that suggests employees who get to choose job titles reflective of their purpose and talents felt less emotionally drained and more recognized. They also felt free to take more risks.
105. Super Soaker 9000
Reward your team with a water gun fight during a hot summer day. It is a great way to cool off and act like a kid again.
106. Paintball outing
Depends on the personalities at the office, but if your team is up for it, paint balling can be a great reward. There are a lot of places that take large reservations and have group deals.
107. Money for a personal growth experience
Our good friends over at 15Five reward their employee’s with $500 dollars to spend on a personal growth experience. The only catch is they have to share what they learned with the team… oh, and skydiving counts as a personal growth experience.
108. Home brew kit
Beer brewing is a great hobby that rewards you with beer, which is awesome. Give your employee’s the reward that keeps rewarding.
109. Start a competition
Whether it’s a step off, or most sales for the month, set up a competition where employees can compete for the top spot. Nudge Rewards is a great option to let employees compete through an app and collect rewards!
110. Hit the track
Take your team go carting for a half day, or after work. Remember, if you ain’t first, you’re last.
111. Company wide email
While hand written notes are great, there’s something about an open message that means a lot. Send a company wide email thanking the employee and celebrating their accomplishments.
112. Company stock
Give them stock in the company they love. Not only is it rewarding for them, but it keeps them invested in the company and shows that you value them.
113. Custom briefcase/bag
Set them up with a custom bag to carry their stuff. Embroider a company logo and their initials on it to show your appreciation. Topo Designs is a great place to find some high quality briefcases/backpacks.
114. Give employees credits to redeem rewards and experiences
One of the leaders in employee rewards, YouEarnedIt, uses a program that gives their employees the option to redeem credits for rewards and experiences. Below are a few examples of fun ones.
115. Student loan contributions/Educational Pursuits
Many employees dream of completing or furthering their education. Retain your best employees by helping them pay off their student loans, or pay for a portion of their educational expenses. It means more than simply giving them cash, and can ease their minds of that lingering payment.
116. Magazine subscription
Buy them a year subscription of their favorite magazine.
117. Hire them a personal assistant
This employee incentive is a fun way to help them relieve some stress. Everyone could use a personal assistant to take care of the tasks they can’t get to. Reward your employee by hiring a personal assistant for them for a day, week, or month. FancyHands is a online option that is easy to use.
118. Portable chargers
Great reward with a wide price range. Smaller sizes you can keep in your pocket, to larger, more powerful models for camping. Ideal for employees who like to travel or camp.
119. Guitar/Music lessons
Help your employees learn the new skill they’ve been wanting to. Bring a teacher into the office and let the team rotate for 30 minutes sessions, or do a group lesson.
120. Painting with wine
Take the team out to Wine and Canvas, or a similar chain, to enjoy some painting and beverages. You might discover the next Picasso.
121. Personal chef
Hire a personal chef to go to the employees house for a night and cook them dinner. It will take the stress out of preparing and go a step beyond taking them to dinner.
Exclusive guest speakers
Start an employees-only guest lecture series with inspirational industry leaders. Employees will love getting industry perspective from subject matter experts outside the company. They’ll also love hearing about big-picture topics that broadly relate to their work but aren’t specifically about it. Tap into your employee network for this one: ask around to find out who knows someone who could give a good lecture. Within your company, you probably have plenty of contacts to fill up a whole year of programming.
What could be more rewarding than workdays packed with meetings employees actually enjoy? To boost your company meeting game, consider how you might “brand” your internal meeting process. You have a unified look and mission statement, so why not unify how you run meetings?
A rewarding meeting strategy will look different at every company. Maybe at your company, healthy snacks and awesome icebreakers should make appearances at every meeting. Maybe your employees would love to have music breaks every 15 minutes. Get creative and let your culture shine through in your meetings.
Employee pitch night
Most employees crave recognition from company leadership. Reward amazing work by giving employees a chance to pitch their ideas and make a difference in your company. Offer monthly pitch sessions with leadership in different divisions, and let employees choose which group to “pitch to.” Create a structure for the sessions to allow plenty of time for the pitch and just as much (if not more) time for feedback. Leadership should seriously evaluate the pitch and explain the idea’s pros and cons in detail. And hey, you just might discover your company’s next billion dollar idea!
Establish a professional development budget
This situation happens all the time: an employee stumbles on a conference she would love to go to. The event is relevant, highly rated, and rife with networking opportunities. Then she notices the registration fees, and they seem really high. She’s not even sure if the number is reasonable, and she doesn’t even know who would approve of her attending. She moves on because she’s busy and eventually forgets all about the conference.
By establishing and communicating a development budget – money specifically set aside for conferences and professional education opportunities – you reward employees who have the ambition to learn. This reward says, “you’re worth the investment,” and gives employees the co-sign they need to seriously consider personal development.
Upgrade the kitchen
Your employees deserve all the comforts of home and then some. Invest in a few Vitamix blenders so employees can make their own juices and smoothies at work. (The only catch is a cleaning policy!) Bring in a quality espresso maker complete with a milk frother. Set up a panini press station. There’s a fun and fancy appliance to match any office style.
Give them a “passion pass”
Reward employees by giving them time to pursue their passions, and you’ll have an office full of satisfied, inspired individuals. Give everyone a free hour to pursue a project they’re passionate about, work-related or not. Some employees might paint; others will hit the skate park. Whatever they decide to do, they’ll return to work feeling revitalized. This reward shows employees you don’t value them just for the work they do at the company; you also value them for the fascinating individuals they are.
Employee rewards are a way to set your company apart from the rest. They let your team know that their hard work is being recognized and can even become a part of your company culture.
So, what ideas are you using to reward and appreciate your employees? If we’ve missed any cool ideas let us know in the comments below.
Free Bonus: Download this entire list as a PDF. Easily save it on your computer for quick reference or print it out for the other managers on the team. Includes 10 bonus ideas not found in this post.