Across the country, flashy company perks are on the rise, yet employee satisfaction is slumping. Despite the deluge of gift cards and pizza parties, our workforce is more emotionally disconnected than ever before.

We all know that free stuff doesn’t make company culture. So why do so many teams use giveaways as a crutch to keep their workers happy? Despite the best of intentions, employee appreciation programs that rely entirely on free stuff are destined to fail.

With that in mind, let’s try to rethink employee appreciation.

So, what makes workers happy?

Workers want to feel like they are a part of something. Abraham Maslow, a pioneer in human motivation theory, created a hierarchy of needs to visualize and prioritize intrinsic motivation.


In his model, our need for belonging comes after the most essential needs for food, water, and safety. It includes things like friendship, mentorship, and a sense of connection to others. Only after you’ve met this base level of motivation can you address things like recognizing achievement and reaching self-actualization.

Our motivations in the workplace are no different. So the next time you’re thinking about shelling out yet another gift card for your colleague's big win, consider investing in a work culture — and tool — that brings your team a little closer together.

Check out these posts for more on worker happiness and how you can encourage it:

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