As non-profits face the challenges of running their organization during COVID, it is helpful to think of ways to keep up morale and thank their employees for the great work they are doing during one of the most stressful periods any of us have faced. Since many of us are facing strained budgets these days, it is not always possible to provide financial incentives, but there are many other ways you can show your appreciation. Here are some ideas:

Elizabeth Wasternack, Parthenon Management Group

Blog By Elizabeth Wasternack
Senior Project Manager

  1. Offer a PTO day after a particularly hard week/month at work. When COVID hit and our staff had to quickly pivot to virtual meetings there was a steep learning curve and massive amounts of time required from all staff to ensure that we provided the best content and platforms possible. This was a very stressful time and it was a welcome gift when we received an email saying that we were all getting an extra PTO day as a thanks for pulling together to get through this time.
  2. Allow your employees to give back to a cause they care about by offering a Give-Back Day. During this day they can volunteer with whatever organization they are passionate about and help others in the community and still get paid for the day.
  3. Coordinate social outings. Even during the times of COVID, you can get the office together by organizing an outdoor movie night, a socially distanced picnic with individual picnic boxes or a night out at the botanical gardens.
  4. Let your employees be comfy! If your office does not interact with clients in person on a regular basis, why not let your employees wear their favorite jeans or team sweatshirt.
  5. Organize a way to allow your employees to be able to work from home. This has become a standard during COVID, but why not take this opportunity to develop a permanent plan for your employees to be able to work one or more days a week from home. This can be a major benefit to employees and research has shown that productivity remains as high, if not higher (one study says performance can increase by up to 13%, not to mention decrease attrition rates by up to 50%!), than the traditional model of working in the office full-time.
  6. Feed your staff! Who doesn’t love to eat?? Surprise your staff with a pizza party for lunch or bring in doughnuts for breakfast or a nacho bar for an afternoon break. Try to keep in mind any dietary restrictions of your staff so there is something for everyone.
  7. Set-up voluntary opportunities for your staff to socialize over Zoom calls, especially when many of them work remotely. It’s important to make these voluntary because while some people love the opportunity to connect over Zoom, or a similar platform, others will find it a distraction and unnecessary. You can make these calls themed such as a trivia game, dressing up for a holiday sweater contest or a virtual painting class!
  8. Happy Hours! Allow time outside of the office for employees to gather and socialize and make it extra special by closing the office an hour or two early so they can get a jump start on their night.
  9. Virtual wellness activities. Before COVID, our CEO taught Pilates at a gym close to our office. When the quarantine started, she moved her classes to Zoom. There are many opportunities online to participate in virtual workouts, yoga, HIIT classes, and more. Breaking up your day with a virtual workout helps keep energy balanced.
  10. Create a place for informal interactions. In the office, co-workers would interact about non-work-related things such as pets, sports, movies, and more. Now people are connecting over virtual board game spaces, photo competitions, recipe sharing, etc.
  11. Recognize employees. Most people just want to be appreciated for their contributions, and it’s often as simple as a companywide email of acknowledgement. We recently started a program where employees can recommend co-workers for an Exceptional Service nomination. All nominations are emailed out companywide and promoted on social media.
  12. Get to know one another. Since not everyone is able to see each other in the office as much these days, consider having your staff send out Fun Facts emails about themselves and give them a platform to let others know interesting/funny facts about them or share their interests and humor by way of memes and gifs and personal stories. Also, consider sending out birthday emails for each employee to the office so everyone has a chance to send them best wishes on their special day!
  13. Introduce new team members companywide. With many people working from home, we have found this to be an easy process through email. Our company collects employee information (using an online survey) during the onboarding process that can be used in introductory emails which include the team member’s name, title, direct supervisor, some items from their resume (previous experience, university, etc.), and fun facts about them. This helps facilitate connections between employees, and makes the new employee feel welcome.

There are so many ways to show your appreciation to your staff- have fun with it and get creative. One thing to keep in mind is that every employee is different. While one might appreciate a social outing, others might prefer a PTO day. Variety is key! By providing benefits such as the ones mentioned previously, you can keep your employees engaged and make them feel appreciated AND rewarded. Who doesn’t love that?!