65 Creative Employee Reward Ideas (2019 Update)
There are all kinds of employee rewards out there. To help you out, we’ve scoured the internet and wracked our brains for the very best and most creative employee reward ideas, and put it all into one big list for you. 😎
In fact, this list has been so popular that we’ve updated and expanded it multiple times—and we’re happy to say that this time around, we’ve rehauled the entire list and its categories! Plus, by popular request, look for 🚫💰peppered throughout this list for free or low-cost ideas!
Creativity, not cost, is the real secret to building an assortment of employee rewards that everyone will be excited to earn. So let’s get started!
1. Branded clothing / swag
Of course, the first idea on our list is to utilize what you likely already have in your arsenal—your company’s own branded swag! There’s always t-shirts or water bottles floating around the office, and most people love the opportunity to rep their company. Most people also love free things. 🤑
Take this moment to think about your swag designs. Are they cool? Is it just your company logo slapped on a plain t-shirt? Listen—your company logo might be really snazzy, but crowdsourcing swag design is a great way to get employees involved and show off your team’s creativity.
2. Spotify Premium or Apple Music subscription
Nearly everybody has a preferred work playlist. So you’re grooving along, in the zone, and then—screech—a horribly jarring ad comes on and ruins your focus.
You hate it, I hate it, everybody hates it. So eliminate those moments altogether by rewarding your employees a premium account to their music streaming service of choice.
3. Plants 🚫💰
According to US News & World Report, British and Dutch researchers have “found that having office plants created a better work environment.”
Why? Here’s what the research suggests: “One possible explanation is that greenery increases engagement by making people more physically, cognitively and emotionally involved in their jobs.”
If your employees would consider it a gift and not a source of stress, give them a plant to care for at the office. We recommend low-light, easy-care plants like succulents and cacti! 🌿🌱🌵🌼
4. Book of the Month
Have a few bookworms on your team? Book of the Month is an easy, subscription-based gift that provides readers with their pick from five buzz-worthy new novels each month. Plus, if there are multiple big readers at your company, you basically get a built-in bookclub!
5. Charitable giving
Many of your employees are likely making charitable donations already. You can help them to amplify the impact they’re making by making a donation on their behalf, or matching a donation, as a meaningful reward.
6. Gift cards
There’s no doubt a huge variety of gift cards from your team’s favorite retailers that you can offer. There’s a special feeling you get when you buy a pair of new shoes, a spa day, or a cup of coffee on the weekend—with the knowledge that your company just foot the bill. 😉
7. “____” club
It’s the gift that keeps on giving. 😉
Getting a package in the mail every month with goodies is always delightful, and now you don’t even have to go through the trouble of packaging it up for someone and heading to the post office. There are so many monthly subscription services out there with every theme under the sun. Here are a few of our favorites:
8. Coffee memberships
Nearly everybody has a morning routine, whether they’re a coffee, tea, or juice drinker!
This reward is inspired by a local café in Boulder, CO, home of Bonusly HQ! It may take some research, but check around and see if any cafés around you offer memberships or subscriptions—this typically means customers can pay a set price, often discounted, for a month or more of unlimited beverages. Fronting that cost brightens mornings and supports local businesses!
Depending on your location, there might be an app for it, too! ☕️🍵
9. Designated “fun” budget
It’s easy to feel more engaged with something when you have direct control over it. It’s a lot like having a piggy bank—except when it’s full, the team can decide on a fun thing to do together.
10. Website or newsletter feature 🚫💰
Getting a public shout out never gets old. If you have a company newsletter or blog, writing up a small feature on an indispensable team member is sure to make them feel recognized and appreciated.
11. Rented or professionally styled outfits for special occasions
Every once in a while, employees typically encounter a Big Deal event—this can be presentations to clients, speaking engagements, or charity galas! Show the organization cares and is rooting for them by footing the bill for a snazzy outfit from Rent the Runway or Generation Tux. It’ll make the recipient look and feel good. 💅
If you’re an organization that requires specific dress, like business-professional attire in a law office or steel-toed boots for construction firms, expensing those additional costs can go a long way for your employee in terms of budget—but also for their feelings of inclusion and belonging.
12. Send a care package
Personally, going to the post office is a huge chore for me. So when I do, you can bet that the person I’m sending mail to is someone I really value!
At its core, receiving personally-addressed things in the mail feels so good of the time and care someone displays in going through the process of posting mail. It’s a similar feeling to receiving letters! Except a care package can contain snacks. 😎
13. Personalized stickers, mugs, magnets 🚫💰
Surprise your employees with stickers, mugs, or magnets printed with their faces or their dogs’ faces! Great for decorating laptops, drinking coffee, or playing on the kitchen fridge, these personalized items are like custom Slack emoji for the physical world. Check out Sticker Mule for excellent die cut and kiss cut stickers for this kind of project.
14. Cookies 🚫💰
Listen. Everybody likes cookies. Supermarket cookies are acceptable, but bonus points for finding a cool recipe and making them yourself.
Research by Exeter University’s School of Psychology found that employees who have control over the design and layout of their workspace are not only happier and healthier—they’re also up to 32% more productive.
–Karen Higginbottom, Forbes
Invite your employees to select new artwork for your office space. Give them a budget and designate a wall space, then see what they propose! If your office doesn’t necessarily have the wall space for new artwork, a print for their home is also a thoughtful gift that will remind them of your company’s appreciation for them.
16. Supportive shoes or insoles
You know how they say you should buy a good mattress, because you spend a third of your life sleeping? We’d like to say the same about good shoes—but for the third of your life where you’re working! 👟
Supportive shoes and insoles are especially important for professions that require a lot of time on someone’s feet—like the healthcare, retail, and hospitality industries. If you’re in one of these fields, keeping your team members comfortable should be part of your business expenses.
17. Custom emoji 🚫💰
If you’re big Slack communicators at your company, a custom emoji dedicated to someone’s likeness is a quirky and unexpected reward. It’s also an excellent way to welcome new employees to the team!
18. Personal recognition note from CEO 🚫💰
Knowing that someone at the very top of your job hierarchy appreciates the work you do can be thrilling. Take the time to make sure your leaders know about the great work your team members are doing, and ask them to write letters of appreciation to individuals that are killin’ it.
19. Office resource library 🚫💰
An investment in your employees’ professional development is an invaluable reward. Offer to cover the cost of a book they’ve been wanting and add it to your office’s resource library. Personalized bookplates to recognize each person and their reason for adding a book could be a nice touch, but you don’t have to go overboard. Supporting your employees and owning your role in their development as they build their personal skillsets is a generous and symbolic gesture.
20. Classes and courses
There are a plethora of courses out there for every subject under the sun, both in-person and virtual, and it’s an easy way to get someone refreshed and inspired about their daily tasks.
If you can’t necessarily fund attendance for a whole course, designate some time once a week to watch webinars or conference videos. It’s a no-cost opportunity to learn something new.
Similar to classes, seminars are typically less of a time-commitment, but are just as packed with information. They’re also a great opportunity to network!
Sponsoring an employee’s admission fees into a professional organization has a long-lasting impact. It communicates that an organization cares about an employee’s career development beyond their tenure at a particular company, and provides a plethora of opportunities for networking and learning.
Similar to courses and seminars, conferences are excellent opportunities to learn about the current state of your industry and network with potential customers.
24. Books 🚫💰
As an employer, you can provide the materials an employee needs to improve their mastery over a subject. Find out what kinds of books and other educational resources might be valuable to your team—and don’t forget about leadership, communications management, and interpersonal help books!
Audiobooks and eBooks are also a great option since they’re delivered digitally, which makes fulfilling them easy.
25. Hackathons 🚫💰
Designate a day or week for a hackathon! We recommend pizza, too. 🍕🤖
Hackathons don’t have to be centered around developers—at Bonusly, it’s a week where the team is encouraged to “hack” anything, whether it’s an outdated process, an old piece of content, or a better organization system for your resources. The projects that take place during this time are typically those that employees really want to work on, but are often pushed aside.
Plus, hackathons are a really great opportunity to explore different areas of the industry, try out new things, and flex your skills in a new way.
[B]reaking out of the day-to-day routine can reinvigorate and inspire staff, but hackathons also demonstrate to employees that innovation is not only welcomed, but also expected.
–Elizabeth Spaulding and Greg Caimi, Harvard Business Review
26. Dinner with someone in the company
Networking and mentorship can be a little awkward at first, so break the ice with an excellent meal. Delicious food and great conversation? Sign us up.
27. Upgraded or premium office products
Do your team members long for better Adobe stock photo options? Or the pro version of your project management tool? Consider upgrading your current software and products to make your team members’ daily tasks more efficient and their work higher quality.
28. Sponsored content on LinkedIn or Forbes
For many people, it’s super meaningful to have a byline on a well-written article. If they have some insights that are useful to the industry, broaden their reach by promoting their article on LinkedIn or submitting it to Forbes.
29. Session with a financial advisor
Unfortunately, long-term financial planning isn’t exactly freely offered. If a 401k match is already offered as part of your total rewards package, consider having a financial advisor on deck to help our employees throughout the year. It makes a tremendous personal impact and dispenses valuable knowledge for any individual’s future.
30. Skill-sharing 🚫💰
There’s no use in siloing information in a company! Take the time to encourage skill-sharing through lunch-and-learns or even just dedicated professional development time. From HTML basics to social media best practices, these topics can be useful across the team.
31. Dogs at the office 🚫💰
Having a dog-friendly office has a ton of benefits for humans (although doggos probably love it, as well). A 2017 study showed that employees at dog-friendly offices are less stressed, more collaborative, and more likely to give higher ratings of trustworthiness to their team members.
Of course, it’s not possible for every office to be dog-friendly. A great way to feel those same benefits is by partnering with your local humane society or rescue organization to schedule a puppy pitstop by the office. Aside from playing with adorable dogs, team members get to take a break, spend time together (dogs in the office are also shown to be an excellent ice breaker), and make some great memories.
32. Work from elsewhere 🚫💰
Support local businesses and treat your employees to a working day outside the office. If your team likes rock climbing, for instance, you can get day passes to a rock climbing gym that offers wifi and lounge areas. You can host active team-building activities and productive creative sessions all under the same roof. (We like Movement here in Boulder, CO; Brooklyn Boulders has locations in New York, Chicago, and Boston).
33. Fly in remote team members
If you have more than one office, offering employees opportunities to spend time working in a different office is a great way to break the monotony of the daily routine, while still getting great work done. It’s also a nice way for employees who may never have met face-to-face to forge valuable friendships.
34. Subscription to Headspace
Don’t just give people breaks—give your team members a sign that you care about their mental and emotional wellbeing. A gift of a Headspace subscription can provide valuable guided meditation sessions that’ll leave employees feeling refreshed.
35. Wine-tasting or brewery tour
For those that drink alcohol, a guided wine-tasting or brewery tour is educational and fun. Plus, you get to support a local business! 🍷🍺
36. Local restaurant experience
Good food? Always appreciated. After accomplishing a big milestone, treat your employees to a private dinner at a local restaurant.
37. Cooking class
Learning something new with your team members! Whether you’re heading to a professional kitchen to learn how to make sushi or enlisting a skilled coworker to teach the office how to make their famous crepes, it’s bound to be a fun and yummy time. 😋
38. Pottery class
Ceramics is a unique, hands-on, totally messy experience that’s bound to be a hit with your team. Plus, you get a kiln-fired pot, mug, bowl, or… artistic lump… to commemorate the occasion. 😎🔥
39. Tickets to a concert, movie, sports game, festival
Tickets to a basketball game, local food festival, or Ariana Grande concert are easy crowd-pleasers and always lots of fun!
40. Yoga classes
Yoga can help improve fitness of both the body and mind. Offering yoga classes to employees can be a great reward, since it can help them feel focused at the start of the day or unwind after a hard day’s work.
41. Remote Year
Remote Year brings together groups of inspiring professionals to travel, live, and work in different cities around the world for a year or four months. For some of your employees, your support for their application and acceptable to RemoteYear could be the ultimate reward.
42. Volunteer day at employee’s non-profit of choice 🚫💰
Support a non-profit organization, and an employee’s personal passion! Volunteering is a great team-bonding activity, and it’s even more meaningful when it’s for a cause near-and-dear to a team member’s heart.
43. Express Experience 🚫💰
There are a lot of ways to feel special, and one of my favorites is by getting to skip to the front of the line. Whether that’s the privilege of jumping to the front of the line at the company cafeteria or skipping the printer queue, this is a small but mighty reward for your hard workers.
44. Design a swag
Get your employees involved in designing your new company swag, whether it’s a wall calendar featuring the dogs of your office or a t-shirt featuring a company mascot. Handing the creative reins to your employees can inspire new collaborative dynamics, give them a sense of ownership, and imbue the final product with more meaning! 🎨
45. Airbnb experiences
Airbnb offers tons of excellent local experiences! If you have a team member who’s really excited about an upcoming trip, picking something from Airbnb’s extensive catalog is a great way to make your employee’s trip even better.
Plus—take a look at your own hometown’s Airbnb experiences! You’ll no doubt unearth fun new opportunities to bond with your team members, without even having to go anywhere!
46. Museum membership
Museums are rich institutions of culture and education, and a trip to one makes for a great weekend afternoon. Corporate museum memberships are great rewards, since team members can also take their family and friends!
47. Music lessons
Enriching your employees’ personal life and hobbies can only lead to better work in the office. Has a teammate always wanted to learn the piano, ukulele, or trumpet? Sign them up with the local music school and encourage them to show off their new skills with a mini talent showcase. 🎶
48. Gym membership
Staying physically healthy is a big contributor to feeling mentally and emotionally healthy. Reward your employees with a membership to a gym or, if they like variety, a program like ClassPass. Consider memberships to yoga and indoor cycling studios, too!
49. Personal training vouchers
It’s in an employer’s best interest to help their employees achieve their goals, whether that means operating at the top of their professional field or getting in tip-top shape. If members of your team show interest in this type of reward, it’s a great way to help them achieve their personal goals.
50. Book a spa appointment
It’s very rare that we get to slow down and be pampered. After a hard project, it’s especially important for an employee to hit reset, and an indulgent day at the spa is an excellent way to do just that.
51. Sponsor an individual or team in a race
It’s especially meaningful when a company recognizes an employee’s personal passions and hobbies. If that passion is running, why not sponsor their admission fee in a race? Or a whole team, if they’re interested!
From 5ks up to marathons, these races often contribute to important causes and charities as well, making it a double-hitter of a meaningful gift.
52. Subsidized recreation
Depending on where your workplace is located, you may see some preferences in the weekend activities among your team members. For Bonusly HQ in Boulder, you’ll find us at a U.S. National Park in the summertime and on the ski slopes during winter!
There are often some expenses that can add up, and a great way to encourage your employees to stay active is by subsidizing any recreational costs they may come across. From parking passes to memberships, there are many ways a company can show support for their employees’ out-of-office activities.
53. Catered lunch/food truck lunch
Go a step further than ordering in lunch! Ordering from a food truck is always a fun experience, and it’s a way to treat employees to food that would be a great change in pace from their standard repertoire of soup and sandwiches.
This is also a great time to take a break and enjoy a picnic lunch together—an excellent team-bonding opportunity!
54. Time off 🚫💰
Time is a priceless resource, and it’s one thing you can never get back. Why not offer some extra PTO to your team as a reward for great work? Even for people who love their jobs, a little extra free time is always welcome.
There are many time-based ways to reward your employees for their hard work, from flexible scheduling to summer hours. Even consider sleep-in days and early releases!
55. House cleaning
You don’t always need to give employees time away from the office to give them the gift of time. Personally, my living space is always a disaster when I have a big project going on at work, and it stresses me out even more! 🙈
By rewarding hard-working employees with a one-time or ongoing house cleaning service, you’re eliminating a big chore and time-suck from their lives.
56. Laundry service
If you’re located in a city where laundromats are a way of life, this is just another example of an easy way to give time back to your team.
57. Project takeover 🚫💰
Delegating a task you’re dreading to someone else is such a relief. Reward a hard-working employee with the ability to push off a task to someone else on the team—or let them have dibs on an “easy” project, next time around.
58. Subsidized commute
Depending on your location, getting to and from work can be a challenge, and in some cases, expensive. If it’s not already mandatory in your city to offer transit assistance to employees, subsidizing their commute costs is a great way to eliminate the daily stressor of getting to and from work.
59. Rideshare reimbursement or credits
If your employees are working late or are hopping around town meeting clients, knowing that they can expense a Lyft definitely puts the mind at ease. Even if you’re in a small city or the suburbs, ordering fancy town cars for your employees can be a special treat for holiday parties.
60. Car maintenance
There’s nothing more stressful than sudden car repair expenses! If you have employees who spend a lot of time on the road, like those in field marketing, regional sales, or consulting, making sure that their cars are in tip-top shape is a very appreciated reward. Consider offering car washes, oil changes, and tire changes on a regular basis.
61. Bike share
At Bonusly, our NYC-based employees can select a yearlong CitiBike bike share membership available as a reward. This is a great perk because it enhances both health and transit! If you’re not based in a city with a bike share program, there are likely some similar services to take advantage of.
62. Bike maintenance
Make a one-time investment in a bike pump, Allen wrench set, and screwdrivers to keep on hand for employees who commute by bike. You’ll be supporting their environmentally-friendly transportation choices and help them stay safe on the road!
Alternatively, you can cover the cost of an annual tune up, which usually includes brake pad replacements and truing the wheels of the bike. 🚲
63. Catered meals or meal delivery
Eliminate the chore of figuring out lunch for the day by providing a catered lunch or ordering delivery. It’s a nice change of pace for an employee’s day-to-day, and eating lunch together is a fun and underrated team-building activity.
64. Dog walking service or doggie daycare
Unfortunately, not all offices can be dog friendly! But subsidizing or providing a dog-walking services like Wag or making a deal with a local doggie daycare can go a long way in providing peace-of-mind for your team members. It also shows that your company really cares about their employees’ personal lives and families, including their furry ones! 🐶
65. Dibs 🚫💰
Do we ever grow out of the simple joy of calling dibs? Reward employees by allowing them to call dibs on coveted things, whether it’s the most comfortable desk chair, their favorite mug, their schedule of choice, on not cleaning up a spill… you can call dibs on anything, really.
At its core, each of these rewards communicates your true appreciation and recognition for the hard work of your team members. I hope these ideas have inspired you to think about the unique and creative ways you can reward your employees so that they feel genuinely valued.
If you’re wondering how else you can show your employees you appreciate them, our Guide to Modern Employee Recognition is your next step: