Many employers will have been looking for ways to reward staff this December, as always Christmas time has come and gone in a usual flash and now we’re all staring down the barrel of an uncertain New Year with new lock-downs and undoubtedly new challenges that none of us will be able to predict. However some immediate challenges will remain the same; with many businesses feeling the pinch amid the chaos of Covid-19 and the recession fallout, a Christmas bonus or annual pay rise might not be on the table.

You may think that this is the only thing that your staff want, and although it would of course be their ideal choice, if you don’t have the budget, then there are at least other ways to say thank you and show that you’re engaged with your team. A gift or token can be well received, and helps your staff feel valued. This is an important part of creating team morale and starting off 2021 in a positive way.

Handwritten thank you note: A Christmas card / New Year card with a thank you note inside is a really positive way to end the year. Not many people give handwritten thank you cards anymore and this free token could make a world of difference to your team mates. It acknowledges the individual, as well as showing that you care enough to take a little bit of time to scribe something in your own hand. Do you remember how nice it feels to get a hand-written letter in the post? That’s the idea.

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Free mince pies: Treat your staff to a festive snack, the good old fashioned mince pie. This won’t cost you a lot to buy in, but will be a pleasant gesture for your team. Who doesn’t like a mince pie? This of course could easily be replaced with cake or something similar. Bonus tip – make sure you’re catering for your entire team. You need to be aware of intolerances, allergies or lifestyle choices that are reflected in a person’s dietary requirements. You don’t want anyone feeling marginalised so keep yourself right and provide multiple options.

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Free office fruit: Why not promise your staff that 2021 will be a healthier year when we all return to work? Start a fruit basket subscription and have fruit delivered directly to the office each week. This won’t cost you, the employer, a lot, but the benefits are tenfold. Your staff will feel appreciated, their health (and yours) may well improve, and your team may even become more productive. In a recent study by London office fruit provider Fruitful Office: 79% of staff said that office fruit made them feel more valued as an employee.

Zoom Christmas Party: Typically when celebrating the end of a year, an office party is the standard way for staff to kick back, enjoy one another’s company and celebrate the end of the year. Instead of the usual meal out why not organise a zoom party, pour a glass of something festive, play games and order in Domino’s pizza to the party goers home addresses. While unorthodox this type of unusual party can build a truly unique and memorable atmosphere and get staff feeling closer to one another in a new way.

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Certificates of Achievement: You can create a brand specific recognition of excellence in your business and award it to those who deserve it most. Keep your certificates consistent through the years and make sure they look professional to build their prestige and impact. It may get to the stage where these certificates are something worth mentioning on CVs for your employees.

Company Raffle competition: Put together a generous gift hamper full of treats, gift vouchers, alcohol and unique perks and have everyone in the company take a ticket to enter the prize draw. You get to reward one lucky staff member with a lavish gift and give everyone else the excitement of being ‘in it to win it’.

Casual days: Make ‘casual days’ a regular occurrence. Let staff come in an hour later to beat the traffic and have a bit of a lie in. Relax the dress code and order in something fun for lunch. These typically tend to land on ‘casual Fridays’ but experiment with different windows. You might find this works best for the infamous ‘hump day’ or it may even take the sting off on Monday morning blues after your employee’s weekends.

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Time off: Many businesses have different rules about time off over Christmas, and it really does depend on what kind of business you are running (you might even be in the midst of furlough at the moment). However, a week or two off for the festive period is one of the more effective ways to reward your employees. Why not give staff that gap between Christmas and new year off? This break helps staff to relax, rejuvenate, and come back in 2021 refreshed. According to Jamie Mackenzie, marketing director at Sodexo, says:

“Whatever the workforce demographic, age range or religions, Christmas is about getting together and celebrating. [Employers] need to adapt around their employee demographic and recognise what they want. There is no one-size-fits-all answer.”

Tickets to an event: You can often negotiate good prices with group tickets to shows or theatre performances, as well as sports matches. With the shining hope of mass vaccination in the New Year there will be a glut of previously delayed events going on, so look up some local events and get booking. Bonus tip – gauge the idea with your team and get a general feel for what the majority would enjoy. Are they a group that would get a kick out of a live sports event or a stage show? Maybe it’s an escape room event? Engage your staff and let them point you in the right direction.

In summary – If you are attempting to improve office culture and morale, this is the perfect time of year. The festive season often brings out the best in us all. Valuing your employees can improve the staff turnover rate, and improve loyalty and longevity at a company.  There is no reason why you cannot reward staff without spending a lot of money.

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