This article was originally posted on University of Mary Washington’s Center for Economic Development blog on December 9, 2021.

There’s no question that this has been a tough year for everyone. It seems that as soon as we see a hint of light at the end of the tunnel, something intervenes to block that light. For me, personally, I could not run my business during a year described as the “The Great Resignation” in the middle of a pandemic while being a mom to my young daughter if it weren’t for the support my team provided. As your business wraps up for the year, it’s a wonderful time to show your employees how much value they add to you and your company. Regardless of your budget there are many ways you can spread holiday cheer! Today, I am sharing four ideas for expressing appreciation to employees during the holidays.

Ideas for Expressing Appreciation:

1) Look at Revamping Your Holiday Schedule

During the holiday season of my first year as a business owner, I noticed overworked and exhausted employees. Whether it was general work burn out, preparing for the holidays, or managing holiday expectations with family and friends, I knew I wanted to positively change the work expectations for future years. So, after the first year, instead of having employees take PTO, we arranged a rotating schedule to make sure the office had sufficient coverage between Christmas and New Year’s Day. This schedule gives our employees time to relax and refresh before jumping into the New Year. I’ve heard positive feedback from our employees since implementing this holiday schedule change. They enjoy the week of down time and feel less pressured to make sure they have enough PTO saved. It’s been so successful that I have pondered doing the same for Thanksgiving week. Though hesitant at first, our clients have adjusted to our schedule change. They understand the value of rewarding hard work in a very demanding industry. If you are familiar with the staffing world, you understand what I mean.

2) Money, Money, Money

Who doesn’t love to receive extra cash during the holiday months? If you can add a bonus to your bottom line (whether big or small), it makes a significant difference in holiday spending for families. To help with morale throughout the year, I would consider implementing quarterly bonuses instead of only at year-end.

3) Gift Exchange Traditions

As a team, we also try to create a fun tradition around the holiday. Whether it’s an ornament exchange or a white elephant game, we try to involve everyone. Fun gift exchanges break up the day and provide hours of non-stop laughter and memories.

4) Giving Gift Cards

Gift cards are always appreciated and well received. No matter the amount it will be put to beneficial use. I give a gift card to a grocery store every Thanksgiving to help with their family meal.

Extending Appreciation Beyond the Holidays

It means a lot to celebrate employees throughout the year, rather than only during the holidays. In our office we organize small birthday celebrations, celebrate large milestones, and offer on-going professional (and personal) training and development. Sometimes we’ll combine development activities with an in-house luncheon, early closure on a Friday, ½ day off for employees, or an organized outside team building function. I try to hold most outside excursions during working hours to be mindful of family obligations after work. If I had it my way, the excursions would be a run, bungee jumping or zip-lining, but I don’t think I would get too many takers!

Like any business owner, we are painfully aware of how the 2008/2009 financial crisis and Covid-19 pandemic have affected our businesses, both financially and emotionally. Even during tough financial times, a small thank you or the gift of time back to employees is all you need to show appreciation.

We’d love to continue this conversation with you. Contact us today to see how our staffing services can support your business’ goals.