Happy Work Anniversary! How to Celebrate Your Employees Each Year

Work anniversary gift

A work anniversary is a lot like a birthday: some people make a big deal out of it while others let it slide by unnoticed. But if you care about your team and your business, you might want to consider going the “big deal” route. 

Whether you’re a small business or a large enterprise, these annual celebrations can go a long way in keeping your team engaged.

Why a work anniversary is worth celebrating

According to Bonusly and SurveyMonkey, 82% of employees consider recognition an important part of their job happiness. That recognition can take any form, from a coffee delivery to a promotion. 

But celebrating a work anniversary is different from most other forms of recognition:

  • It’s consistent. Promotions might only come once every few years, but a work anniversary is an annual opportunity for recognition.
  • It isn’t performance-based. Anniversaries allow you to celebrate the human relationship that exists between you and your employees. You can reward and recognize people without the usual pressures and competition related to performance.
  • It’s an indicator of retention. Every anniversary you celebrate is a literal example of someone choosing to stay with your company. And five- or 10-year work anniversaries show you that your retention efforts have succeeded.

In summary, work anniversaries are an opportunity to look back at a team member’s previous year (or years), and celebrate their contributions and growth. Your employees will appreciate the recognition — and a little gift never hurts either. 

Wishing “Happy work anniversary!” the Unito way

Marc Boscher, Unito’s CEO, often talks about the importance of building strong employee relationships.  

The hiring process is like the start of the relationship. The interviews are when you first meet. Our pilot projects are like the first date. When a candidate is hired, that’s when the commitment starts. 

And when a member of the team celebrates a work anniversary, we take inspiration from actual wedding anniversaries. 

Traditional gifts

Each year of marriage is traditionally associated with a specific gift. Here’s what the first five years look like:

  • First anniversary: Paper
  • Second anniversary: Cotton
  • Third anniversary: Leather 
  • Fourth anniversary: Fruit and flowers, or linen and silk
  • Fifth anniversary: Wood

Unito is less than five years old, so we haven’t gotten further up the list yet. So far our work anniversary gifts have been as follows:

  • First work anniversary: A notebook 
Work anniversary gift notebook
  • Second work anniversary: A cotton laptop case
Personalized laptop case
  • Third work anniversary: A leather desk caddy 
Monogrammed leather desk caddy
  • Fourth work anniversary: A custom pillow

These gifts are personalized with the person’s name, and they’re given the choice of color or pattern. And once we know the person extremely well, we try to insert inside jokes or align the gift with their interests. We want them to feel like they’re receiving a gift meant for them and only them. One of our development leaders Nilovna recently celebrated her fourth year at Unito and received a unicorn-themed pillow, because she loves them. 

The work anniversary gift is only part of it; we also announce the anniversaries in our weekly all-hands meetings. As people hit milestones, their managers take the time to share a quick word about their time at the company and share why they’re such a valued member of the team. 

Everyone really enjoys celebrating these special moments. 

But if this approach doesn’t work for your team — maybe you don’t have any budget or you work in an organization with hundreds or even thousands of employees — here are a few more gift ideas to consider. 

5 work anniversary gift ideas

Gift cards 

Is your employee an avid book reader? A movie buff? Is a local coffee shop or restaurant one of their favorite haunts? A gift card is an easy way to show recognition to employees without being too impersonal. If you want to tie the gift card to how long they’ve been at the company, consider increasing the increments each year. 

Lunch or snacks

Treating your team member to a special lunch makes for a happy work anniversary. It also allows you to spend some personal time with them, and share your appreciation for their hard work. If you want to get creative, you can build a special snack package, so they can enjoy all of their favorite bites on demand.

Custom swag

Does your company have t-shirts, sweaters, or other branded swag? You could create custom gear that’s given out for work anniversaries. Your employees could wear their “five-year-club” baseball cap with pride, giving newer team members something to look forward to.

A hand-written card or note

If you don’t have the budget for a gift, a hand-written “happy work anniversary” card or note can be a very personal way to thank someone on their work anniversary. Get the entire team or company to sign and offer their own personal messages. Consider including a team photo so they can see how the team changes and grows each year they’re at the company.

Extra time off

How do you have a happy work anniversary? Maybe enjoying the sunshine or hitting a spa! Giving your employees extra time off is a great way to thank them. Maybe half day for every year with the company? Or, you could offer extra holidays based on milestones, like an extra week of vacation for every five years they’re a member of the team. 

Stock options

A lot of companies — technology companies and startups in particular — choose to celebrate work anniversaries through stock option grants. While it might not have the same impact as a raise, options are a powerful incentive for employees.

Make every work anniversary a happy one

We spend a remarkable one-third of our lives at work. That’s 90,000 hours over a lifetime. While people once spent their entire careers in a single business, employees now tend to jump around. Celebrating work anniversaries is an easy way to increase retention, and show the people you work with that you value them.