Staying Open for Labor Day? Here’s How to Show Appreciation for Your Employees

It may be a major shopping weekend, but don't forget to honor your staff while you make bank.


Offer employees a free meal to show your appreciation while they work on Labor Day. (Photo: GaudiLab/Shutterstock)


by Meg C. Hall


The first Monday in September is Labor Day, which honors the American labor movement. An official federal holiday since 1894, it’s one of the few that guarantees most workers an extended three-day weekend.


“Since it falls at the end of summer, this is a great opportunity for retailers to attract customers,” said Agnes Teh Stubbs, retail and restaurant content analyst for Software Advice. “Stores are looking to get rid of summer clothing, accessories and back-to-school shopping leftovers … to make room for fall and winter inventory.”


Unfortunately, in order to reap the benefits of this big shopping weekend, many businesses must stay open instead of giving their staff the day off. According to Bloomberg BNA, two in five employers (41 percent) require some employees to work on the very day set aside in their honor.


“Going above and beyond to thank workers on Labor Day is a great way for retailers and business owners in general to show their appreciation for their staff [who have to work],” said Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, author of “Retail 101: The Guide to Managing and Marketing Your Retail Business” and co-founder of the Independent Retailer Conference. “Get creative and consider what may make sense for your unique team.”


Here are a few ideas for remembering your staff on Labor Day this year — even when they have to be on the clock.


Consider holiday pay


“Employees working in retail and restaurants often have little say of their schedules in an industry where last-minute changes or shifts are rife. Within the restaurant industry, employees in non-union workplaces typically have no holiday pay and no incentive pay during holidays,” said Stubbs.


While it’s not required by federal law, offering holiday pay can be a great way to thank the employees you need to keep your business running. Look at your budget and see if you can afford giving workers a better hourly rate on Labor Day or other working holidays. If so, the added financial incentive may make it easier to ensure you have enough staff on hand for the busy weekend.


Offer a free meal


You can also thank employees for their hard work on Labor Day by feeding them. Stock the break room with extra snacks and goodies for the holiday, get pizza delivered or even have a full meal catered for staff to enjoy.


“Whether it’s muffins and coffee in the morning or burgers and an ice-cold drink for lunch, your employees will appreciate the gesture and free meal,” said Stubbs.


Throw a party


Want to go above and beyond? Consider throwing a Labor Day party to celebrate all the employees at your small business. You can keep costs low by grilling out or arranging a potluck, suggested Stubbs.


“This keeps morale high. A little fun goes a long [way] and can make employees feel like they’re celebrating at work,” she said.


Hand out little gifts


“It doesn’t need to be big. All that’s needed is a token of appreciation showing how much you value your employees working during a holiday.” -Nicole Reyhle (Photo: Nicole Reyhle)


Giving staff a small token of appreciation when they work on a holiday is another great way to recognize workers, such as a gift certificate or handwritten thank-you note.


“It doesn’t need to be big,” said Stubbs. “All that’s needed is a token of appreciation showing how much you value your employees working during a holiday.”


Reyhle suggested exchanging gift cards with another local business owner who plans on doing the same for his or her employees. The shared expense will benefit both businesses by attracting new customers from the other shop’s staff.


Provide flexibility


Many employees value recognition over pizza or financial perks, so find creative ways to reward their hard work with more flexibility.


“Show your appreciation by surprising your staff with coupons that may offer an extended lunch break to be used on a future day or another incentive you know they may like,” said Reyhle.


Stubbs echoed this idea: “If scheduling allows, you can let employees leave work a couple of hours early either before, during the day or after the holiday. Or allow them to accrue extra hours that they can apply towards a partial day off. Giving employees some say in scheduling makes them feel appreciated and valued.”


However you choose to celebrate Labor Day with your staff this year, just make sure to remember your workers. It is, after all, their day.