Employee engagement and recognition are year-round priorities for HR teams — but why not set aside a few extra special days to share your appreciation?
Creating opportunities for shared celebration and appreciation is essential for building an engaged culture. Considering that a 2023 Gallup report found only 23% of employees are engaged, most workplaces could use a few more excuses to come together and celebrate.
If you’re looking for team building or event ideas, the below holidays may offer some inspiration.
What is an employee engagement calendar?
An employee engagement calendar is your company's roadmap for making work more enjoyable. It can be a list of dates or even a detailed plan outlining activities and events scheduled throughout the year to boost happiness and loyalty.
In addition to lighthearted national holidays (e.g., “National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day”), HR teams might also want to include holiday parties and other annual company events.
Building an employee engagement calendar is one way companies can show that they want to develop a positive work environment. Simply, it's a tool that helps companies schedule fun and meaningful activities to keep employees engaged and happy at work.
Employee Engagement Holidays in 2024
National Trivia Day (Thursday, January 4, 2024)
If you’re thinking of ways to keep spirits high after the New Year’s holiday, a little friendly competition might do the trick. Organize a virtual trivia night to bring your teammates together. Here are a few trivia game ideas to get the ball rolling.
Bagel Day (Monday, January 15, 2024)
Start your Monday off the right way: Kick off the week with a company-sponsored breakfast. Give your remote employees a breakfast voucher or stipend to spend at a local deli or bagel spot.
Mardi Gras (Tuesday, February 13, 2024)
Mardi on! Organize a Mardi Gras-themed potluck lunch where employees can bring in dishes inspired by New Orleans cuisine, like gumbo, jambalaya, or beignets. For dessert, bring in a King Cake for employees to enjoy.
Valentine’s Day (Wednesday, February 14, 2024)
If you subscribe to Lattice’s newsletter, you already know that We ♡ Humans. Because you feel the same way about your employees, surprise them with a sweet treat ahead of Valentine’s Day. Include a heartfelt note to make the gesture even more meaningful. Don’t forget to send something to remote colleagues as well!
National Employee Appreciation Day (Friday, March 1, 2024)
As an HR professional, you know that employee appreciation matters year-round. Still, you can go above and beyond on National Employee Appreciation Day by giving employees an impressive piece of company swag, sponsoring lunch, or even giving them a surprise long weekend.
International Women's Day (Friday, March 8, 2024)
You can't prioritize DEIB without recognizing the experiences and achievements of women. Highlight the impact that girls and women worldwide have as workers, caregivers, innovators, community organizers, and teammates in the workplace.
St. Patrick’s Day (Sunday, March 17, 2024)
This year, “St. Paddy’s” falls on a Sunday. On the Friday before, decorate the office in green (or share festive Zoom backgrounds) and host a traditional Irish cooking class featuring staples like shepherd’s pie, corned beef and cabbage, and soda bread.
Puppy Day (Saturday, March 24, 2024)
According to a 2021 study on dogs in the workplace, welcoming pets into the office may improve productivity. This year, Puppy Day falls on a Saturday. On the Friday before, capitalize on those benefits by hosting a paw-some virtual happy hour or inviting everyone to share pet photos on Slack. Though this is technically puppy day, extend an invite to company kittens, parakeets, snakes, and other critters.
Earth Day (Monday, April 22, 2024)
This international holiday celebrates environmental protection. Help your company do its part by organizing a volunteering day to clean up a local park, plant some trees, or stitch and decorate reusable grocery bags. Encourage employees to share photos from the event on social media or a company Slack channel.
Administrative Professionals Day (Wednesday, April 24, 2024)
Our workplaces wouldn't be what they are without the administrative professionals keeping everything running smoothly. Take time to recognize these individuals' outstanding contributions using your team praise tool or by organizing a company onsite or virtual event.
Mental Health Awareness Month (May 1 - May 31, 2024)
Started in 1949 by the Mental Health America (MHA) organization, Mental Health Awareness Month is widely observed around the world. Spend the month focusing on providing foundational knowledge about mental health, as well as information on what to do if your or a loved one's mental health is a cause for concern.
Cinco de Mayo (Sunday, May 5, 2024)
This holiday commemorates the Mexican Army's victory at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Take the opportunity to celebrate Mexican heritage with a company-sponsored panel and catered lunch or dinner on the Friday before Cinco de Mayo. Traditional staples like mole poblano and chalupas are closely associated with the Mexican state of Puebla and the holiday.
International Human Resources Day (Monday, May 20, 2024)
For a team so invested in everyone else's engagement, HR deserves its own holiday, too. International Human Resources Day offers a prime opportunity for a team lunch, field day, or other fun team-building activity. Make sure to include your remote colleagues, too.
Doughnut Day (Friday, June 7, 2024)
What better way to celebrate a Friday? This year on Doughnut Day, give employees a tasty treat (with sprinkles on top) to enjoy with their morning coffee.
Juneteenth (Wednesday, June 19, 2024)
Juneteenth honors the day when enslaved people in Texas learned that the Civil War was over and were now free. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, a record number of companies observed the day for the first time in 2020 to give employees an opportunity to reflect.
Start of Summer (Thursday, June 20, 2024)
Spending time outdoors comes with a heap of physical and mental health benefits, including stress relief. Kick off the summer by organizing an offsite picnic for employees at a nearby park. If your team is working remotely, you can also host a virtual lunch over Zoom.
World Chocolate Day (Sunday, July 7, 2024)
Need we say more? Pay homage to the humble cocoa bean by ordering some chocolatey treats for your employees on the Friday before World Chocolate Day. For an interactive twist, consider hosting an onsite or virtual chocolate tasting.
National Ice Cream Day (Tuesday, July 16, 2024)
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream. Beat the summer heat by treating your employees to an ice cream party with all the fixings.
International Self-Care Day (Wednesday, July 24, 2024)
Congrats, you’ve made it halfway through the year — time for some deserved self-care. Organize a series of instructor-led yoga classes or meditation sessions. You can also sign employees up for meditation apps like Calm or Headspace.
National Book Lovers Day (Friday, August 9, 2024)
Looking for a creative way to bring people together that isn’t a happy hour? Organizing a book club is a great way to foster camaraderie, cross-departmental communication, and a little healthy debate. Consider sponsoring book purchases to encourage participation.
Women’s Equality Day (Monday, August 26, 2024)
This national holiday celebrates the passage of the nineteenth amendment, which recognized women’s right to vote. Because there’s more work to be done, host an onsite or virtual panel on allyship and pay equity.
National 401(k) Day (Friday, September 6, 2024)
If your business offers retirement benefits or a matching program, make the effort to reiterate those offerings via a company-wide communication or by organizing office hours. Better yet, ask your 401(k) benefits vendor to host a live Q&A for employees who'd like to learn more about saving for retirement.
HR Appreciation Day (Thursday, September 26, 2024)
People teams endure a lot. You’re responsible for workplace culture, compliance, recruiting, benefits, reviews, and a long list of additional duties. So why limit the celebration to International Human Resources Day? Gear up for HR's busy season by organizing a fun offsite for you and the rest of the People team — one that doesn’t involve work. You can also appreciate other HR professionals in the Resources for Humans Slack group.
Mental Health Day (Thursday, October 10, 2024)
As you enter the fall months and days get shorter, consider giving employees a mental health day to decompress. This is also an excellent opportunity to remind your team to use your employee assistance program (EAP) and other mental health resources.
Halloween (Thursday, October 31, 2024)
Need new creative ways to celebrate Halloween at work? Besides the usual costumes, consider a pumpkin carving contest, horror film screening, or even a costume party for employees’ pets. While no one’s ready for apple bobbing quite yet (or ever again), you can play up the autumn theme by serving hot cider and doughnuts.
Thanksgiving (Thursday, November 28, 2024)
Ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, show employees gratitude with a catered feast featuring all the fixings. While you might not be able to mail a plate to remote colleagues, a generous meal stipend could go a long way in showing your appreciation.
Giving Tuesday (Tuesday, December 3, 2024)
On the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, partner with a charity, community center, or school to give back to the less fortunate. Some ways to contribute include setting up a food or coat drive, donating gift cards to a shelter, or purchasing toys for a local children’s hospital. Make sure to publicize the event in advance of Thanksgiving, so employees can leverage Black Friday specials to give even more.
Ugly Sweater Day (Friday, December 20, 2024)
What better way to ring in the holiday season than with an ugly sweater competition? In addition to organizing the usual contest between employees, you can also enroll in an ugly sweater 5K run for charity.
Winter Solstice (Thursday, December 21, 2024)
December is host to a slew of special holidays, so why not pick a day to acknowledge them all? The winter solstice marks the astronomical start of winter and the shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere. Celebrate your team with an office potluck or holiday party — or send them a surprise bundle of gifts to their home address.
Best Practices for Promoting Holidays to Your Team
Building your employee engagement calendar is just the first step. You must effectively promote the holidays to ensure everyone is adequately prepared and can participate. Here are some best practices to consider:
- Communicate early: Give your employees ample notice about upcoming engagement holidays so they can plan accordingly. Share an HR calendar at the beginning of the year.
- Provide equal access to fun: Ensure that your engagement holidays aren’t geared exclusively for your onsite staff or a specific timezone. Thoughtfully consider ways to involve international and remote colleagues.
- Maintain a holiday calendar: Use a shared calendar or scheduling software to track holidays and time-off requests, making it easy for employees to see when the next company holiday is. Your HR information system (HRIS) can be used to maintain a list of closures and holidays.
- Involve employees in planning: Foster an environment where team members feel empowered to organize their own engagement holidays. Extend an invitation for suggestions on what should be celebrated.
Promoting holidays and encouraging work-life balance is essential for maintaining a motivated and engaged workforce. By implementing these best practices, you can create a more supportive and employee-friendly work environment.
Year-Round Activities to Improve Employee Engagement
Employee engagement holidays aren’t your only means of bringing employees together. Smaller, less involved traditions and events can also help boost engagement and morale. Here are some ideas for year-round activities to improve employee engagement:
- Birthday and anniversary celebrations: Celebrate employees' birthdays and work anniversaries with small parties, decorations, or simple gestures to show appreciation.
- Employee-led clubs or interest groups: Encourage employees to create and lead clubs or groups based on their interests, like book clubs, sports teams, or hobby enthusiasts.
- Work anniversary gifts: Provide small gifts or tokens of appreciation to employees on their work anniversaries.
- Social gatherings: Plan regular social events outside of work, such as happy hours, picnics, or holiday parties.
- Wellness challenges: Organize friendly wellness challenges, such as step-count competitions or healthy eating challenges.
- Lunch and learns: Host regular "lunch and learn" sessions where employees can learn from their colleagues or external experts.
- Volunteer opportunities: Organize opportunities for employees to give back to the community through volunteer work.
You don’t need to wait for a holiday to celebrate your team. Activities and traditions like these can help foster engagement and morale in the workplace year-round.
Why Employee Engagement Is So Important
Investing in employee engagement isn’t just a best practice, it’s a prerequisite for your company’s long-term success. Gallup’s engagement research shows that having an engaged workplace:
- Increases productivity by 14%
- Increases customer ratings by 10%
- Increases sales by 18%
- Increases profitability by 23%
Conversely, Gallup’s research also finds that employee disengagement costs companies $8.8 trillion annually — or about 9% of global GDP. That’s why it’s essential for organizations to deliberately track quantitative and qualitative employee engagement data, including metrics like employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS).
1. Engaged cultures are inclusive and psychologically safe.
Employee engagement and inclusivity are closely connected. Employees who feel valued, respected, and included are more likely to be engaged. Conversely, an inclusive environment enhances engagement by making employees feel connected and appreciated. Company events are a great way to help spark those connections.
In an engaged workplace, there is also a higher level of psychological safety, where employees feel comfortable expressing their opinions, ideas, and concerns without fear of retaliation. This safety is essential for creating an inclusive culture where diverse perspectives are welcomed and considered. A multi-year study on psychological safety’s workplace impact also found that it led to higher levels of employee performance and lower levels of interpersonal conflict.
2. Professional development and engagement are connected.
When companies give employees room to grow, they are rewarded with higher engagement metrics and more creative outputs. Individual contributors may also rely less on management in their daily decision-making, making for more agile teams.
According to one 2023 study on talent mobility, 73% of employees want a better understanding of growth opportunities within their organization. When planning your employee engagement holidays, consider ways to make them educational. For example, ask a recruiting team member to host a lunch and learn to talk through job openings and their required skills.
3. Prioritizing engagement is critical to employee wellbeing.
When employees are engaged in their work and feel valued, supported, and fulfilled, their wellbeing improves. Keep a close eye on employees' feelings using Lattice’s employee wellbeing survey template.
In addition to ensuring workloads are manageable, scheduling engagement holidays can break up the monotony of everyday work and help stave off burnout. Unchecked, burnout can impact several aspects of your employee experience, leading to disengagement and low productivity. Burnout may also contribute to attendance issues and emotional exhaustion.
Creating an Employee Engagement Calendar
So you’re sold on the idea of building an employee engagement calendar. Now what? Before putting pen to paper, consider what you want to achieve with your calendar — like improving teamwork, reducing turnover, or boosting engagement scores.
With your goals in mind, don’t forget to solicit input from your employees via a survey, focus group, or one-on-one. Ask them what activities they'd enjoy and find most engaging. Don’t forget to gather input from a diverse selection of employees. Onsite and remote colleagues should also feel equally empowered to share their perspectives.
Need some inspiration? Pre-order the 2024 HR Calendar — it contains meaningful holidays for a range of cultures and identities, critical HR compliance deadlines, and everything else you need to set your business and people up for success in the new year.