Revealed: What UK consumers want from their company this Christmas

We asked more than 3,000 UK consumers what kind of gift they wanted from their company this Christmas. It turns out they love gift cards!

The big winner, again, was a gift card to spend in a retailer of their choice, and second place went to time off. Takeaways, Christmas parties, hampers, and a team lunch made up the rest of the pack.

The full results are below:

Christmas rewards poll results:

Which would you most like to receive from your company for Christmas?

Staff Christmas party 7.9%
Christmas hamper 14.8%
Time off work 23.6%
A takeaway 2.3%
Team Christmas lunch 5.5%
A gift card for your choice of retailer 45.8%

Total responses: 3,429*

Reading into the numbers

While gift cards have won the day on the poll, we can’t ignore how well the offer of time off did as well.

A day off work is fundamentally a day where you get to choose what to do. A multi-retailer gift card, or a gift card for a retailer of your choice, is also driven by handing employees the opportunity to make their own choices.

This poll reflects a trend we’ve seen in our other recent surveys, where consumers have told us they want to make their own decisions about what they do. Not just about the gifts they receive from brands, but about their time and their money.

As we’ll point out below, this trend towards gift cards and personal choice is reflected in our other polls around what kind of rewards the public like.

Other recent poll results

The company Christmas gift poll isn’t the only one we conducted recently. We also asked more than 13,000 consumers what their preferred gifts are for staying loyal to a company, and which new customer gifts would prompt them to switch to a new supplier.

On both counts, a gift card was once again the clear winner. You can read more about the results here, but a gift card (with the consumer’s choice of retailer) comfortably came first for both loyalty and acquisition, with a discount on their next bill or purchase bringing up second place.

And even then, the discount comes back to choice. A customer is choosing where their money goes, rather than giving it to their utility supplier or insurance company. They’re empowered to make their own choice about where and when they spend their rewards.

Over to you

If you haven’t set your Christmas staff gifts in stone yet, it’s worth taking a second to reassess your plans.

With Appreciate’s help, you might be able to simplify your Christmas gifts to staff, and maybe even save yourself some money, by switching to a physical or digital gift card.

If you want to talk about it, feel free to get in touch. We’ll be here to talk about Christmas right up until the 24th of December.

*Poll data was gathered from recipients of a Love2shop e-Gift Card in September and October 2021.

Our Lockdown Legacies – 12 positive changes we’ll be keeping for the future

The last year has been tough, there’s no getting around that, but hasn’t all been gloom. Not by a long shot. When the world does start going back towards “normal”, there are plenty of things we’re excited to take with us.

We came up with 12 things we liked from the last year that we want to stick around after lockdown. Lockdown Legacies, if you’ll excuse us blatantly trying to coin a phrase!

A quick note

Before we go into our list, we should acknowledge that it’s heavily influenced by our own world. We know that workers in retail, healthcare, logistics, and many other industries are doing the same work as before (if not more), but without their social lives for rest and relaxation.

We’re grateful for everything they’ve done, and we acknowledge that some of the benefits we mention here have been propped up by our essential workers.

1. Work from home is here to stay

After years and years of arguing over the benefits and drawbacks of remote working, within a month we proved it was possible.

It won’t be credible for an empathetic business to tell their staff they have to be in the office 40 hours a week to be productive in the future.

Combined with some businesses looking to save costs on office space over the coming years, we expect the benefits of work from home to stick around, even if it’s only two or three days a week.

Having access to remote working brings a raft of benefits we’d like to keep, that we’ll go into here.

2. Formal office wear is out

We asked when the last time our team saw a tie in real life was, and the only answer we got was a bus driver.

After a year of kids, pets, and tracky bottoms on display during conference calls, we really don’t think we’ll be rushing back into formal office clothes when we can meet up in-person. We really don’t want to, either!

3. We can put more faith in our staff

Appreciate Business, like a lot of businesses, found themselves in a suddenly-digital world last March.

In tackling the new obstacles that presented, staff have shown themselves to be impressively flexible and creative problem-solvers.

When we talk to clients, we hear the same stories about their staff, too. It gives businesses confidence and optimism to know that their staff can be trusted to meet and overcome challenges in the future.

It lets businesses believe their workforce can do more than they thought was possible before 2020.

You can read a bit more here about how one of our clients in the care home sector dealt with those challenges, and how we helped them reward their impressive staff.

They didn’t do it alone, though – the difficulties of 2020-21 also brought them closer through collaboration.

4. We built stronger connections to each other

None of us could have made it through the last year on our own. Whether it’s personally or professionally, we all had to turn to someone for leg-up to get by.

Helping each other through a difficult year has brought staff closer together. We’ve noticed it internally, and it’s one of the themes we see when catching up with clients – their teams are more close-knit than ever, even when they’re this far apart.

We look forward to taking those stronger bonds with us when the offices start opening again.

5. Creative employee recognition

With face-to-face interaction out the window, and employees digging deep to keep the wheels turning while the world changes around them, companies have had to get creative to recognise great work.

As an added complication, not everyone is in the daily mix right now – some staff are on furlough.

Recognising and engaging them all at once, while they deal with very different daily challenges, is a task in its own right.

But overcoming that challenge gave us all a blueprint for more effective, creative employee recognition in the future. Our client Hobbycraft shared a great example of this, using Valentine’s Day to spread the love to their staff:

“We wanted an incentive that would work remotely for those working from home as well as still being accessible for furloughed colleagues. We emailed out to all our employees, and asked them to send in nominations.

 “The Friday before Valentine’s Day, the People team played cupid and shared these anonymously to everyone. We added Love2Shop rewards as an extra thank you from senior management, and this also encouraged colleagues to send in their nominations.

 “It has been a tough start to 2021 and we wanted to give our colleagues chance to connect with each other. This incentive has also given our teams chance to reflect on how much they miss seeing their workmates, as well as showing each other how much they appreciate each other’s support over this challenging time.

“We may be apart, but we are still united. The feedback we have had from everyone especially those who had just read their valentines mail was very heart felt and it went down well.”

– Emma Pickworth, People Administrator, Hobbycraft

6. No more daily commutes

The working day ends when the laptop screen closes, not an hour or two later when you’re walking through the door.

You can get outside and enjoy the last few rays of sunshine with the dog, or just enjoy being able to turn off at the end of the day without worrying about traffic jams and train times.

Even better, you’re not stuck in the middle of town or on a business park for your lunch, either. You’re at home, where you can run an errand, take the dog for a walk, exercise, or just relax for a bit.

7. Home offices are healthier

Plenty of workers started off their April sat on piano stools and beanbags, having thrown together a makeshift home office over a weekend.

Now, they’re riding high on plush ergonomic office chairs, with a head-height monitor and a wrist-rest for their keyboard.

Some employers have even used our digital reward codes to make sure their staff could get the chairs, laptop risers, keyboards and monitors they need.

In the future this will make it easier, and healthier, to blend home working and office working without having to make any compromises on physical health.

8. We can balance kids, pets, and work

After spending a year working with children and pets in the house, we’ve picked up the skills to balance time for both.

We’ve also learned how important they are for our own wellbeing, which lets us prioritise and protect time with them. We hope we keep the healthier attitude towards managing children, pets, and work in the future.

9. Public spaces are more public

As our public spaces have been lifelines to our sanity, they’ve given us two massive benefits.

One is being able to enjoy more nature.

That might be seeing your local wildlife get a bit bolder without so many cars around, watching the bird feeder in your garden, or just taking more time to appreciate how lucky we are to have beautifully maintained public parks.

We’ve also had the chance to get to know the people around us. Rather than rushing off to work, or to a social event, we’ve had the chance to stop and talk to the people we recognise from the neighbourhood.

One person from our marketing team admitted they hadn’t spoken to their next-door neighbour in eight years before March 2020.

We hope we can hang on to both of those benefits long after we’re out of national restrictions.

10. We found new ways to stay in touch with family

Many people have been talking to their family more over the last year. To do that, we’ve helped our older generations catch up on new technology so they can stay connected.

Those new tech skills will stay after lockdown, and we hope the connection to our family does, too.

11. We have new hobbies and passions

With pubs, clubs and restaurants shut, we’ve had to find new distractions to keep us occupied (and sane) while we knock about the house.

We’re looking forward to the budding painters, bakers, writers, gardeners, runners, readers and more keep their new hobbies going when they can share their new passions with like-minded people in-person.

12. No one feels guilty about self-care

Throughout the stress of the last year, there have been times when we all just needed to stop. Whether it’s an hour, an afternoon, a day, or more, we’ve needed a bit of time to make sure we take care of ourselves.

Because of the exceptional circumstances, no one has questioned the need for their colleagues or employees when taking that time.

We’re hoping that this carries on when we’re back to normal. With colleagues, managers and companies recognising that everyone needs judgement-free time and space for self-care now and then.

What do you think?

Is there anything you’d like to hang on to when we start getting back towards normal life? We’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment here, or pop over to our LinkedIn and let us know.

The crucial trick to motivating and engaging your remote teams

A year ago, a great deal of blog space was still being dedicated to pondering and postulating about home working. How will we scale security? Will employees be motivated at home? Will our company culture suffer? Will productivity take a nosedive?

A year later, those questions are going through a global stress test. According to YouGov, 38% of the pre-crisis workforce are now working at home. The interesting part is, they don’t particularly want to go back, either.

A massive majority of workers simply do not want to go back to the office full-time, according to some recent research by Okta. And that’s while the rest of the world slowly takes the shape of normality.

Eggs and flour are regular features on the supermarket shelves again, along with your favourite craft beer and wines. You can even pop out for a pint and see your friends in the park. But the country’s staff aren’t gagging to give up remote working.

What this tells us is that we’re past the point of adjusting to a crisis. The shock has passed, and most of us are pretty happy with this version of “normal,” at least when it comes to our work. That means it’s time to address one of the downsides of a remote workforce – isolation. Our company, Appreciate Group and Appreciate services, have had to address this ourselves and find a way to make sure everyone’s engaged and motivated at home.

Not just the chat and banter, and the office friends. But the sense of camaraderie, company culture, and the feeling that we’re all contributing to something wider than the narrow furrows we plough. The one thing any company can, and should, do to combat the feeling that staff are plugging away in their own little world is communicate.

Communicate to engage a remote team

If it’s not too gauche to blow our own horn, Appreciate, and our parent company Appreciate Group, have done a great job of handling the sudden dispersal of our teams. At group, department, and team levels, we have tactics to keep employees engaged and connected.

Group-level communications

Weekly round ups

Every week, Group and Human Resources put together a round-up of news and views from around the business and push it out to staff. That might include blogs written by people in our company, surveys to get opinions and feedback from staff about their work and their response to Group efforts, news on how the business is responding to COVID-19 developments, and any human resources developments that might affect staff.


Some of the leadership figures around Appreciate have been putting together podcasts talking about what’s happening in their corner of the Appreciate universe. That might be our senior leadership team fielding questions from the staff, our design managers talking about our latest product developments, or even just some stories of kindness to cheer everyone up.


Meetings are not the word that fills everyone with the sense of thrill and wonder, we know. But we’re not trying to blow anyone’s socks off, we’re trying to keep everyone connected to each other.

Weekly meetings

Weekly meeting are where department-level discussions happen. They’re where we talk about what the individual teams that make up the wider departments are doing, what projects are being delivered, and how we’re performing as a division against our targets. We also run through news, introduce new hires, and talk about what’s happening at Group level and how it might affect our day-to-day work.

Daily meetings

Our daily catch-ups give us a chance to see some friendly, familiar faces, talk about what we’re doing inside and outside of work, gripe about some things, gloat about others. It’s also crucial for making sure everyone is on the same page with their tasks.

Which is useful because one of the of the downsides of working remote is that it’s hard to just turn to someone and ask a question. It’s just that much harder to do that at home.

Having a time every day where you can ask some stupid questions to make sure everything is going in the right direction gives you a bit of psychological runway. That runway pushes back doubt and uncertainty, letting staff get through their work with confidence and satisfaction about their efforts.

Don’t let grumbling put you off

You might be thinking “everyone hates meetings though”. Which might be a fair point, but in our experience everyone’s still on time for them, which wasn’t always the case when they were face to face. And they still contribute.

We’d happily err on the side of having one meeting too many, one podcast too many, one email too many, than risk staff feeling like they’re twisting in the wind or not valued.

And ultimately, that’s what why communication and inclusion produces motivation and engagement. We’re putting every day, every task, every role into a wider context. Showing that other colleagues appreciate and depend on their work, and demonstrating that what they’re doing has value.

Cash-value rewards, recognition software, and incentive systems do work, but only prosper long-term when employees are motivated by more than a transaction. That’s why you need to embrace communication to keep engagement and motivation in good supply in the home office.

It’s not always fancy, but it is effective

The importance of talking and communicating with your staff can’t be understated. These are simple tactics, but sticking with them is how you’ll be able to communicate culture, talk about your values and make sure everyone feels connected.

Like we said in another blog recently, you can’t put this genie back in its bottle. We all know now that we could have done this before. It just won’t be possible to tell a workforce in the future that home working isn’t realistic. At least not with a straight face.

Baking these habits into your company now is how you’re going to keep, and strengthen, company culture and staff morale as you navigate the world during, and after, COVID-19.

As always, if you want to talk about motivating and engaging your staff, get in touch. We’re always happy to chat.

Case study – Digital rewards make sure healthcare heroes are recognised


A large UK healthcare provider, whose portfolio includes numerous care homes, found themselves unable to safely reward their staff with plastic gift cards following the outbreak of COVID-19 in the UK.


The challenge

For more than three years previously, the client had been enjoying our Love2shop Gift Cards. While we always discuss our digital reward options with clients, in this case, our client was understandably reluctant to change a winning formula – their reward scheme was producing good levels of engagement and positive feedback with using plastic gift cards.

While the client was happy with their status quo, the COVID-19 outbreak forced a change. Not only was there a sharp increase in the demands placed on the workdays of their employees, meriting more recognition and reward, but there was no safe way to distribute physical gift cards to their employees. A solution had to be found, and fast.

“Crucially, we’ve been able to keep engagement high, and keep rewarding our amazing staff, through a difficult time.”

Appreciate’ solution

After a conversation with their account manager, Jackie Reynolds, about these difficulties, we recommended they switch to our digital reward codes.

Our codes are an end-to-end digital product, meaning there’s no physical interaction between our clients and their staff when buying or delivering them. Clients order them through our Self-Serve portal, and they’re delivered digitally. The codes themselves come to employees as emails or text messages, and those employees redeem them online. Perfect for sending rewards when physical contact is dangerous.

As it was unthinkable that our client’s incredible staff would go without rewards for their work during this difficult period, these digital rewards were a natural fit. Jackie helped them through an initial transition, and made sure the client got right back to thanking their employees with exciting rewards as soon as possible.

“The codes are so simple to use that our staff have had no trouble making the switch.”

The outcome

Most importantly, our client was able to lift morale among their staff in a trying time. For Appreciate, part of Appreciate Group plc, this is one of the aspects of our work we’re most proud of. Employees doing great things deserve to be recognised and celebrated. It’s a privilege to help deliver that for our clients.

However, the rewards have also been a success in other ways. For instance, our client’s staff have enjoyed their digital rewards so much, they are considering continuing to use digital rewards even when contact is safe in their workplace again.

The digital ordering and delivery process for our reward codes also deliver significant advantages in fulfilment and ordering. Especially when centrally managing a nationwide scheme. Our client would previously order their gift cards, and have them delivered to their central office. From there, the client would separate the rewards and send them to individual facilities, creating a time-consuming administrative task on top of postage fees.

Our simple ordering process, and digitally fulfilled rewards, massively simplified that process, removing the need for physical fulfilment. The combined effect is less time, and less money, being spent to deliver better rewards.

Jackie Reynolds, the Love2Shop Engagement Consultant who managed the project, added: “What’s good to see is how easily their staff have adapted to their new rewards. Many clients have concerns about changing their staff rewards, especially if it involves technology, but our experience is usually that employees adapt quickly to the switch. It’s heartening to see that’s also the case for this challenge, given how important these rewards are to the client.”

Our contact inside the company said: “All our worries about switching from plastic to digital evaporated straight away. The codes are so simple to use that our staff have had no trouble making the switch. Crucially, we’ve also been able to keep engagement high, and keep rewarding our amazing staff through a difficult time.

“Appreciate, and our account manager Jackie, have done a great job helping us quickly make the change, and making sure that our incredible staff get the thanks and rewards they deserve so much during this difficult period.”



*At the request of our client, this case study has been anonymised.

employee recognition ideas for when the piggybank is empty

15 Cheap employee recognition ideas that work

Having no budget to implement your employee recognition ideas shouldn’t hold you back. All you need is a bit of thought, creativity and the will to execute your plans.

Cash-value rewards are exciting, and they do positively affect motivation and performance. But they should be treated as an amplification tool to recognition. Praise should be dished out regularly to employees, regardless of whether rewards are available or not.

Recognition works when it embraces an employees’ need to be valued. Everyone wants to know their work is worthwhile, and they want to feel that they’re contributing to something bigger than themselves.

So, it’s not good enough to simply shrug your shoulders and complain you have no budget. You can start with almost nothing and still show your employees that you value their daily contributions with regular recognition.

No-cost employee recognition ideas


1. Verbal recognition

verbal praise is a great employee recognition ideaSay it and mean it. Let staff know the great work they do is valuable, and it’s helping your business reach its goals. Verbal recognition is personal and emotional. It can have great upticks in employee morale.

The only downsides are that it’s fleeting. And it’s difficult to connect verbal recognition with your company’s values without coming across as stilted.


2. Written recognition

Written recognition, such as a small note or a letter, is very effective. You can present it alongside a verbal recognition, and it becomes a little trophy. It’s also much easier to include a mention of your company’s values in a written statement.

It might seem like a small gesture, but taking time and care is always valuable to staff. You putting effort in validates the effort of staff and helps them see how valuable you think they are.


3. Team-level recognition

Not every team has a stand-out star. Not every project has a lead individual to single out for recognition.

Teams might achieve goals through exceptional teamwork, or problem solving. They might work across departments, or incorporate new ideas quickly. Equally, they might have acted on their own initiative to lay the groundwork for an upcoming project.

In these situations, it would be hard to single out one employee, so recognise the whole team. Call them in for a meeting, praise their exceptional efforts, and perhaps offer a reward of some kind.

A lot of companies that don’t have a budget to work with use flexibility as a reward. Time off for a whole team, an early-dart in an afternoon, or for individuals to use some extra flex-time.

4. Ask for feedback

Having a voice in the company matters as much as hearing one.

When someone demonstrates exceptional effort or achievement, listen to them. Offer the employee a chance to give their feedback on what’s happening in the company.

You might gain valuable insight from your top performers. And the employee will see that you don’t just treasure the value of your work. You see value in their thoughts and ideas too.


5. Boast achievements internally

Lean on your internal communications to showcase the achievements.

Even if you don’t have anything formal in place for internal communication, you can write an email. Depending on your position in the company, you might limit that to your department or division.

The wider your message goes, the bigger the impact of the recognition. But we understand not everyone has that luxury. If you have the seniority though, go company-wide.

If you’re casting the net wide, ask other managers for suggestions. They’ll nominate the stand-out performances from their teams. With care and consistency it could become something your employees look forward to seeing.


6. Share achievements externally

Share your teams’ wins with the world.

Take to social media, your website or your monthly newsletter. Use these mediums to highlight your employees’ recent successes.

Setting up a LinkedIn page, or a Facebook page, and connecting with your customers costs you little. And it would give your employees immense pride to have their work highlighted there.

Some companies squirm at the idea of putting things out in the public. We understand that. But as long as what they’re doing lines up with your values, you should fine.


7. Noticeboards or whiteboards as a makeshift wall of fame

If you can spare one, whiteboards and noticeboards are extremely useful. It’s not as advanced as proper employee recognition software, but it has its own low-tech charm.

You’re limited only by what’s available around you. Written notes, photographs, letters from clients, certificates or more.

Your little wall of fame could quickly become a popular centrepiece of the office.

It won’t be measurable like a formal platform, but it will be fun for your staff. And it doesn’t have to go away if you do introduce a formal platform.


8. Measure achievements and progress

Measure progress towards personal and departmental goals. Acknowledge employees when they get past milestones on their way to those goals.


9. Celebrate milestones

It costs you nothing to write down and always make sure to acknowledge your employees’ milestones.

Birthdays, work anniversaries, or product launches. Anything that you know your employees will find valuable, make a note of it.

This one is so simple you can’t lose. And as we’ve outlined before, we think it’s important to recognise all employee longevity. Even after just one year.


Be creative with your employee recognition ideas

If you can peel off even a bit of extra cash, recognition possibilities start to open up.

Start with the culture of your company. Not just the formal values you lay out for staff to adhere to – the way your employees actually interact with each other.

Take that, and get creative with your employee recognition ideas. There are some really energising, funky recognition systems out there that don’t break the bank.

We’ve seen some creative, successful ideas put together with very little real budget.


10. Stickers or badges

Stickers are cheap, but fun and disposable. Pop one on an employees’ equipment, their workstation or their document folders.

Badges, also, give you a little creative outlet that’s easy to implement. Your staff might wear them on their uniforms, attach them to lanyards, or affix them to the back of their chair.


11. Picking the team lunch

If you can afford to foot the bill for a team lunch, let a star performer pick the weekly or monthly meal, however best suits your team.

Team meals are a great way to coax your staff out of their shells a bit. Having one team member pick the meal might also give you a glimpse of your staff’s personalities and let them create deeper bonds together.


12. Time for projects

In today’s world, almost everyone is time poor. Professional lives blend and blur with the personal, and both can suffer for it. A lot of good ideas tend to go to rust when employees don’t get the time they need to develop them.

As an act of recognition, you might give an employee the space to develop an idea. If it’s a really good idea, the company could stand to gain from it being developed. And your employee will enjoy a sense of personal ownership over the project.


13. Charitable acts

Put aside cash for a monthly donation to a smaller charity of choice. Big charities will barely notice a £50 donation, but many staff have charities close to their hearts. So target smaller charities with causes close to your staff’s lives.

A donation in their name would mean a great deal to your employees, and would have a bigger impact on the charity.

Or perhaps your employee would appreciate a bit of time for volunteering for a cause of their choice. As we pointed out above, everyone is perpetually stretched for time. And extra activities like volunteering are often what takes the hit when staff allocate their time.


14. Group trophies

Rather than shelling out month after month to make an office full of trophies, just buy the trophy once. The monthly winner of the trophy gets to keep it at their workstation for a month.

For an extra twist on this employee recognition idea, make it a vote. Offer your staff the chance to vote on who should be recognised every month. You can read our blog here on why we favour a bit of democracy in the workplace when it comes to recognition. Our recognition platform, Shout!, is based on the idea that employees should have a say in what’s important and who gets recognised.


15. Car washing

Invite a car wash team on site to clean and detail someone’s car. Or maybe offer money off a bike service for a bicycle commuter. Train commuters are bit harder, but you can always be creative – Kindle books, books on tape, Acast podcast subscriptions. Just use your imagination and your knowledge of your employees.



Making your employee recognition ideas work

Good employee recognition ideas keep individual personalities in mind. Look around your office, and look at what makes them tick. Look at what generates humour, enthusiasm and participation in your teams. Take that as your starting point and use it as a launching point.

Just remember not to discard the basics. Whatever funky initiatives you decide on, keep them linked to your company culture and values.


Put values in the spotlight

More than once in this piece we’ve mentioned values. We talk about them so often because they’re so important. They’re vital to shaping the attitude and the culture of your company.

Focus on your company’s values to get more out of your recognition. Filtering recognition through your values puts employee behaviour through a lens. It lets them see how their work contributes to a greater whole.

This is a building block towards an engaged workforce.


Be consistent

Make recognising staff a habit. Build it into your daily, weekly and monthly work. A lot of staff will notice if you suddenly start then stop something or lose interest over time.

If you buy into the idea, make sure you show your staff that you buy into the idea.


It’s not complicated or expensive to recognise employees. Platforms and cash-value rewards have an impact, but they’re not the focus.

They’re a welcome addition but the crux of your effort needs to be about making employees’ value feel seen, welcome and treasured.