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Businesses Can Increase Employee Happiness and Retention with Custom Gear

If you looked around your office, what would you see? Does your team look like they’re invested in their work? Do they look happy? Are they staying with your company long-term? According to a 2018 Gallup Poll, employee engagement* is at an all-time high of 34%. That’s it. 34%. And 53% are “not engaged” which means they are basically punching a clock and would leave your company for not much more than what you’re giving them.

So, what can you do to increase engagement with your people? According to the Belongingness Hypothesis (which sounds made up but is absolutely real), “human be­ings have a pervasive drive to form and maintain at least a min­imum quantity of lasting, positive, and significant interpersonal relationships. Satisfying this drive involves two criteria: First, there is a need for frequent, affectively pleasant interactions with a few other people, and, second, these interactions must take place in the context of a temporally stable and enduring framework of affective concern for each other’s welfare.”

A great way for companies to show that they are actively invested in, and care about, their people is through custom t-shirts and other custom gear. It’s easy to feel like a team when you look like a team and it fosters company pride. Using custom gear to recognize and reward employees for actions like joining the company, staying long-term, reaching personal goals, and exhibiting other positive behavior not only shows that a company sees the effort they’re making, but it encourages other employees to do the same.

Whether it’s using progressive colors that recognize incremental achievement (like karate belts) or rewarding employees with increasingly better gear like jackets and tech, there are so many ways to use this idea that there’s bound to be at least one that works for you.

Read on for ideas for how to use custom gear with employees at your company.


Some companies like Twitter, Nurse Next Door, and yes, Custom Ink give team members custom gear when they join. It’s a great way to make new hires feel welcome and instantly part of the team. Twitter makes sure employees are covered with all the work essentials: a custom shirt, a bag, a laptop sleeve, a notebook, and a bottle of wine. Nurse Next Door gives a nametag and free shirt to new employees. At Custom Ink, team members have the opportunity to choose their favorite color t-shirt bearing our logo along with a custom hat, travel mug, water cup, and reusable snack container perfect for holding all the free snacks offered throughout the building.

Rewarding service

two custom ink employees celebrate inker milestones

Within the past year, Custom Ink began a new initiative to recognize team tenure through celebrating “Inkerversaries.” Team members, internally called Inkers, get shirts for every five years of service and the length of their tenure is shown by the color of the shirt and printed on the sleeve. The company also has periodic Inker Milestone Days where Inkers who have had a recent Inkerversary can come and spin a wheel for a chance to win prizes.

Success and personal bests

After one especially successful year, Apple awarded employees with custom hoodies and extra time off around Thanksgiving as a thank you for their hard work. Some department heads even reportedly wrote personal notes to individuals on their teams.

And over at Salesforce, employees have the opportunity to earn a rare gold hoodie by being a “Trailblazer” and transforming their career via personal development as well as helping the community. It’s so hard to get (and such a flashy way to show that you earned such a special achievement) it’s become a coveted item throughout the company.

Feeling inspired? We’ve put together some templates in our Design Lab to get you started. Our trend experts recommend you try designing on these products: Next Level Tri‑Blend Long Sleeve T‑shirtAmerican Apparel Flex Fleece Zip HoodieBella + Canvas Ultra Soft Crewneck Sweatshirt, and of course we can’t leave out a great t-shirt, so you should try the Hanes Nano-T if you’re looking for something classic. And note that these are just a few ideas. There are so many more ways to recognize and reward employees and so many more products in our catalog. If you have other suggestions, please share them!


*Gallup defines engagement as “involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace.”

Miellyn is the Director of Marketing Content at Custom Ink. Her work has spanned marketing for television networks like TLC and Travel, educational content for Smithsonian and National Geographic, marketing and story for indie video games, essays for publishers including Random House, The Telegraph, and Smart Pop Books, and stories for press outlets like VICE and VH1.

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