Employee Appreciation

15 Creative and Inexpensive Employee Appreciation Gifts

June 2, 2022
min read

It’s a common perception that employee appreciation gifts must be centered around company branded products and merchandise. Products such as coffee mugs and clothing detailed with the organization logo are almost always the go-to items that are used to convey recognition to team members. 

However, this ideal has recently been challenged. In his recent book, The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, Dr. Paul White explains that gifts with company logos focus more on the company and not the employee. 

Although you are gifting your people what you think is a token of appreciation, you’re really promoting and marketing the company through your employees. 

Not only that, but these types of gifts, including gift cards that may go unused, can be impersonal and create the impression that you’re not truly thinking about your employees, their needs and their individual preferences. 

You have a fantastic team of dedicated employees that deserve genuine recognition for their hard work. It’s important to let them know how much you value them and this doesn’t have to be a daunting task that breaks your bank in the process. There are a variety of meaningful and inexpensive gifts that will convey your gratitude to the entire team. 

In this article, we will go over 15 creative and inexpensive employee appreciation gifts! This piece will help you prepare for annual Employee Appreciation Day that falls on the first Friday of March, and will also give you avenues to recognize your team regularly throughout the year. 

Frequent acknowledgement of your employee’s efforts will only enhance your company’s dynamic and will also keep your people more engaged at work

Inexpensive Employee Appreciation Gifts

1. Desk Plant 

Poor ventilation and dull colors in an office can have many adverse effects on your employees, including “sick building syndrome”, in which employees develop non-specific ailments due to their work environment.

This is an uncomfortable realization when you realize that it leads to frequent absence from work, demotivation and lack of long-term focus throughout the day. It can be easily reconciled though, with the understanding that employees are 15% more productive when positively engaged with their surroundings.

One of the ways to accomplish this is through gifting desk plants such as fig trees and succulents that not only add a beautiful touch to the regular office space, but are also easy to take care of in this specific setting. 

What a productive, and inexpensive, way to show your employees that you care about their mental and physical health!

Green air plant

2. Air Plant 

For those employees that are forgetful about their plant parenting responsibilities, air plants are perfect gifts that still have measurable health benefits and offer a natural touch to the office setting. 

For starters, air plants don’t require soil - they just need a place to sit. You can display them in hanging glass terrariums or even on wooden shelves hung from the wall. These plants will also flourish with minimal water and only need the occasional spray to keep them going.

Even if your employee forgets to water their plants, they will still have a beautiful, healthy piece waiting for them in the office everyday.  

Both creative and inexpensive, this gift offers convenience to your employees so they can enjoy their plant with no responsibility!

3. Acupressure Mat  

Acupressure mats are a perfect gift to help your employees ease their stress and tension, and also offer the healing properties of acupuncture without the needles. 

These mats are covered with countless plastic points that deliver pressure to areas of the body that make contact with the surface such as the back and neck. 

A health and wellness gift like this one is ideal for reflecting the care and consideration you have for your team.

A black diffuser on a desk

4. Soothing Desktop Diffuser 

This is another health and wellness gift that helps communicate to your employees you understand the professional tension they face on the job, and want to support them for their continued efforts. 

Not only are desktop diffusers inexpensive, they also have a variety of essential oils that can be gifted alongside them to add an extra touch of appreciation. 

These small diffusers often only need a USB port to plug into and will disperse essential oil molecules into the air through heat and evaporation. The best part about this gift is that every essential oil carries its own healing properties so you can offer a gift that helps employees keep calm, boost their mood or even help them to focus. 

For example, lavender is well known for its calming and relaxing properties while sandalwood is an excellent oil to help control anxiety. If you want to gift your employees a pick-me-up, then peppermint would definitely give them an extra boost and promote a refreshing office environment.

5. Cooling Towel

Not all employees have the luxury to work in an air conditioned office. For those that struggle to avoid the heat while working, a cooling towel would be an effective solution to also communicate that you see their effort and want them to enjoy themselves, and feel comfortable, at work. 

A cooling towel is activated with water and cools to around 65°F (18°C) in just thirty seconds. Your team can hang the towel over the back of their necks and stay cool for up to two hours!

6. Thermal Cork Mug

Although we mentioned that mugs can be impersonal and generic employee appreciation gifts, thermal ceramic mugs take this gift to another level and offer an added touch of care to your employees. 

Those on your team with the busiest schedules will definitely appreciate this present as they can now go about their work day with a fresh cup of coffee at all times. 

Not only are these products temperature controlled to keep hot drinks warm for extended periods and cold beverages constantly refreshing, thermal mugs also have a cork base to protect office surfaces from heat, so your employees won’t need a coaster! 

Their office space will stay clean, their drinks will always be at the right temperature and they will know that you genuinely care about their work conditions!

Brown mouse pad

7. Customized Mouse Pad 

This article has outlined the drawbacks to company branded merchandise for employee appreciation gifts, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give them presents that are customized in a different way!

If you’re able to, find out what or who your employee loves and get a hold of a meaningful photo. This could be their favorite pet or a family photo, and once you have this, you can feature their loved ones on their mouse pad! This will add such a positive touch to their workday as they will catch a regular glimpse of something that’s dear to their heart, and is sure to lift their spirits. 

A personal image from each of your employee’s lives may not be feasible for you to obtain, so instead you could simply find out everyone’s favorite color and customize each mousepad with a printed message of appreciation!

Related: 30 Ideas For Employee Appreciation Gifts To Reward Your Team

8. Personalized Coasters

Coasters are an ideal tool for the office desk as they prevent coffee stains and watermarks on glass surfaces. Similarly to the previous idea, you can personalize this item with meaningful photos from your employee’s life and create a collection of coasters that speak to them personally. 

If you have permission and access, you can always browse their Instagram account and other social media to find the perfect photos, or connect with someone in their life to help you put this gift together. 

9. Pens With Gratitude Quotes

This is an inexpensive and effective way to consistently remind your employees of what they mean to you. Pens with gratitude quotes are usually available at different stationary stores, and have positive messages like “you’re on point” or “we appreciate your hard work” printed on them. 

High quality fine-point pens with gel tips are sure to be appreciated and they also come in a variety of colors! Every time your employee puts pen to paper, they will be reminded of your appreciation for them. 

10. Little Book of Gratitude Quotes

This is a stellar way to show appreciation to your employees every day in the year. There are numerous little books of gratitude quotes available online, and will allow your team to open a positive message 365 days out of a year. 

Not only that, but they are convenient enough to fit in a desk drawer and be kept out of the way, so whenever your people need that added push of motivation, they will have a representation of your gratitude constantly available. 

11. Moving Sand Art 

Moving sand art is not only inexpensive, but highly creative and beautiful to look at. It can also be used as a relaxation tool to help restore calm, take a breath for a few minutes and give your employees a bit of a mental vacation. 

Watching the sand fall and settle into a new form every time the frame is tilted can provide a welcomed and calming distraction from the constant image of a computer screen. 

12. Mesh Ball Tea Infuser 

If your team is made up of a few tea lovers who are interested in high quality loose leaf blends, the mesh ball tea infuser can be the perfect way to share your appreciation for them. 

With this device, you can fill the ball with a spoonful of your favorite tea leaves and attach it to the side of your mug. After filling your cup with hot water, the tea will steep through the mesh with ease and offer a flavorful hot drink to start their day with. 

No mess, no fuss - just great tea! An added consideration for this gift would be to look out for dishwasher-safe infusers and offer the highest quality gift to your team. 

13. Daily Planner Tear-off Pad 

There are countless known benefits of the daily planner. It increases productivity, provides physical organization for your day-to-day responsibilities and helps to relieve stress by providing a structure for time management. 

However, there can also be downsides to the traditional planner - taking up desk space unnecessarily is one them.

With a small daily planner tear-off pad, you only need to use a page at a time and it allows you to work with your schedule at the start of everyday. Simply fill in your plans for the day, tear it off the pad, pin it to your wall or another productive spot for you and slip the rest of the pad back into your desk drawer.

This gift will let your employees know that you are trying to make work convenient for them and also gives them an added sense of organization!

14. Zen Board

Mindfulness and in-the-moment thinking are popular, and effective tools for managing stress and regaining focus. 

The Zen board is an inexpensive employee appreciation gift that is small enough to tuck into a corner of the desk without taking up unnecessary space, and provides the perfect outlet for a stressed-out team member. 

This gift contains a water holder, bamboo brush and reusable board. By using water and the brush, you can create original doodles and designs right on the board. Once the water disappears, so does your artwork, and you can look forward to a clean slate for your next zen break. 

Cupcake decorations

15. Cupcake Decorating Class 

A gift that is a creative experience for your team rather than a physical item, a cupcake decorating class is a great way to have some fun together and promotes team-bonding and collaboration outside of the office. 

Best part is that everyone can reward themselves with a sweet treat after showing off their art skills!

Along with that, a cupcake decorating class does not have to be an in-person event and virtual classes are also available for the remote companies looking to express appreciation to their teams. 

Final Word

You should always be aware of the hard work and commitment your employees offer your company on a daily basis. Regular reward opportunities and consistent recognition only drive a more positive workplace morale and company dynamic, which in turn promotes higher levels of employee retention. 

It’s also important to recognize that as human beings, we all need validation to keep ourselves motivated and engaged with our lives. It’s a fundamental need that isn’t only necessary in the workplace, but is still one of the most important aspects of a healthy work culture. 

If you want to maintain employee engagement and productivity, early and regular recognition of high performance is vital.

The best part is that unique gifts that make employees feel valued do not have to be expensive. Employers should not underestimate the impact of a sincere gift, no matter the size or price. 

To reach a higher level of employee engagement and appreciation, you can always implement an employee rewards program to not only help organize the frequency and structure of rewards, but also give your employees the gift of choice and allow them to decide how they want to be rewarded.

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