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Celebrating your employees’ milestones can help create a strong culture – and can also just make for some extra fun during the workweek. This is extra important as companies struggle to retain employees – hitting work milestones are all the more important now. But working remotely presents additional challenges on how best to celebrate work anniversaries virtually. 

You can wait and host a general employee appreciation at an offsite or all-hands, but showing up in the moment is important for team morale. Before throwing everyone into a Zoom call to give mini speeches in honor of someone’s work anniversary, think about what would be most meaningful to the team member you’re celebrating.

It’s time to get creative in how you celebrate employee work anniversaries in a virtual setting. Here’s how. 

Why celebrating work anniversaries and milestones is important 

Recognition and appreciation may seem like the same thing, but in a work setting they underscore why celebrating milestones at work is incredibly important. 

Recognition is about giving feedback based on performance and results. It can be monetary like raises or bonuses, status-based like promotions, or more informal like thank you notes and shoutouts. 

Appreciation, on the other hand, isn’t solely based on performance, instead focusing on someone’s inherent value. It’s less about what they’ve done and more about who they are. Celebrating work anniversaries is a great way to show appreciation for how long they’ve stayed with a company.

This is an important distinction because if you focus solely on praising outcomes, you miss opportunities to simply appreciate your people without expecting anything in return (like more great work!)

And even if the expectation isn’t there, the result is still the same: In a recent survey, 37% of respondents said recognition would help them produce great work. Employee appreciation is also tied to higher job satisfaction. More engaged employees means higher productivity and profitability – a win-win!   

Tips for celebrating employees and their work anniversaries remotely

Celebrating work anniversaries needs to check off more than the recognition box. Some companies may choose to only recognize notable anniversaries, like the first year, five years, or a whole decade of service. Whatever you do, it should be personal and honor the specific achievements that the employee has contributed in service to the organization. 

When it comes to work anniversary celebrations, make sure you know your employee and what they will actually appreciate. While your most extroverted team member may love a public shoutout in front of the entire company, the more introverted person might be uncomfortable with that kind of undivided attention. 

When in doubt, you can always ask your employee what they prefer in terms of a celebration. While it may not be a surprise, they also won’t be caught off guard. 

The upside of celebrating virtually is the ability to include everyone in celebrations, regardless of how a person wants to be celebrated. For example, the introverted teammate can appreciate a virtual card signed by everyone, and the extroverted one can enjoy a virtual team building opportunity in honor of their work milestone. 

6 examples of virtual work anniversary celebrations

First things first – before you can celebrate, you need to be able to know when these days are so you can plan accordingly. Try an app that allows you to easily collect and track dates, and even sends push notifications when an anniversary or milestone is coming up. Celebrations by Airspeed, for example, can be programmed to remind you prior to the event. 

Now that you know when the days are, it’s time to decide how you’re celebrating! Here are six examples of work celebrations you can do remotely. 

  1. Share on social media – Whether it’s LinkedIn or otherwise, this kind of recognition goes a long way in helping a team member feel valued. They can also share the message to their own networks about their important milestones.

    You can either share the message from your own personal profile or do it from a company profile – either way, make sure the message is personalized and highlights who the team member is. And always be sure to ask permission if you plan to also share any photos of your employee!
  2. Send a treat to their home – This is a fun option for a dispersed workforce. What’s local in your employee’s area? Maybe they have a Jeni’s Ice Cream, or the elusive In-N-Out. Perhaps they have a nationally rated local bakery in their hometown. Take the time to send something that speaks to them and where they live!  
  3. Have them choose a gift – There are many corporate gifting vendor sites out there – all for different needs. Invite the employee to the site, where they can upload the best shipping address for them and choose from a curated online catalog of gifts. All you have to do is set a budget (note: for bigger anniversaries or milestones, like a 20th as opposed to a five year, you can choose to offer a higher tier of options.) Another simple option is to send them a gift card for one of their favorite stores. 
  4. Organize a virtual team building event. While generic weekly Zoom happy hours are a bit outdated, anchoring virtual events around celebrations is a great way to bond and still do something fun together as a remote team. You can organize a mixology class, an online cooking demonstration, or play virtual games with Jackbox.
  5. Send a virtual card with Celebrations by Airspeed. Think of Celebrations by Airspeed as your virtual admin for all important dates. This Slack app, available in the Slack App Directory, handles the sending, signing, and delivery of dynamic cards, complete with GIFs, reactions, and other interactive components. Once it’s in your Slack workspace, you can also use it for other celebrations such as birthdays or promotions.
  6. Give the gift of time – One of the most lovely gifts you can give someone is their time back. Honor your team members by giving them the day off on their actual anniversary, or let them redeem it on a later day. Letting them pick a future date can help them plan how they want to spend their bonus day, and allow you to plan for their day off so you don’t have to bug them for any deliverables. 

Regardless of what how you decide to celebrate work anniversaries, remember the following:

  1. Be sensitive to how people want to celebrate. When in doubt, use a virtual card as the baseline.
  2. Personalize your gift and message. 
  3. Remember appreciation, rather than recognition, goes a long way. 

Work anniversaries are great opportunities to publicly appreciate your people. By not tying it to outcomes or performance, they can truly just be celebrated for who they are and how they show up. 

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