If you’re the boss, finding the right gifts for your employees can be fraught with questions: How much do you spend? Should you spend the same amount of money on each person? And if you don’t know someone well, how do you make sure they like the gift while still keeping it professional?
And then there’s the question of how COVID-19 changes things. If your team is working remotely, it may be harder to get gifts to people; you’ll have to get everyone’s home addresses and have their presents shipped (not a huge obstacle, generally, but something to consider). And many of the gifts that worked in past years may not seem as suitable this year — movie passes, spa gift cards, and other experience-based gifts aren’t very practical in a pandemic, for example.
To be clear, managers don’t have to give their staff members gifts, but it’s a nice gesture if you want to do it — and in some offices it’s very much expected. (Although keep in mind that managers should never expect or encourage gifts from employees. Because of the power dynamics involved, gifts at work should flow down, not up.)
If you decide to buy gifts for your staff, the question of how much to spend will vary by office. If you’re a partner at a big law firm, you’ll be spending more than a manager at a nonprofit. So know your office (and if you’re unsure, ask other managers what they’re doing), but whatever you spend, keep it roughly equivalent for each person on your team. Don’t play favorites; people will notice if one person gets an iPad and another gets a scented candle.
So what should you actually gift? Below, we’ve culled 35 ideas for everyone on your team.
For the employee who’s always cold
These fingerless gloves plug into a USB port to heat up and keep hands toasty warm — and they’re fingerless, so they won’t impede typing.
For the employee who’s always hot
Give your overheated employee the gift of personal climate control with this 12-inch fan, which can sit atop a desk. (It might give your other employees the gift of a break from battles over the thermostat.)
For the employee who’s always late to work
This smart alarm clock will wake you up gently but effectively with gradually increasing light, mimicking a sunrise in your bedroom — and without the jarring sound of a traditional beeping alarm.
For the employee whose prefers things to be neat and tidy
For the intern
If your intern is still lugs a backpack around, help her feel more professional with a really nice padfolio, like this zippered one made from vegan leather. It’s got 12 pockets, two penholders, a tablet sleeve, a phone sleeve, and more.
For the employee who likes to be right
For the employee who has an aromatherapy mister at her desk
Pink Himalayan salt is supposed to be known for its therapeutic, stress-relieving, and air-purifying properties. Plus they’re really cool-looking and would look nice on your wellness-loving employee’s desk.
For the remote employee who misses the office coffee
With no communal office coffee pot around, this single-serve coffee maker will keep your remote employee stocked with coffee, without requiring them to brew up an entire pot.
For the employee who runs the office book club
This account of the massive fraud perpetrated by Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos is riveting — and the ultimate tale of office dysfunction.
For the employee who always wishes for snow
This faux-fur throw is crazy soft and cozy, and feels like being wrapped in luxury. I have my own, and everyone who comes to my house goes straight to it and then wants to buy one themselves.
For the employee who’s bummed out that bars still aren’t open
Bring the party inside with a disco ball that fits on a desk and will make Zoom meetings way more interesting
For the employee whose phone is always dying
This bamboo charging station can charge multiple phones and tablets all at once.
For the employee who went to every Marvel movie on opening night
This six-inch-high Groot can be used to store pens or other supplies — it can even function as a desk planter, so that flora sprouts from his head.
For the employee who spent quarantine learning how to bake
Not only is this rolling pin beautiful, but because it’s made from solid marble, it helps keep dough cool, and won’t absorb odors from food.
For the employee who does yoga on lunch breaks
This stylish and durable bag fits two small yoga mats, or it can be used to carry towels and other yoga accessories.
For the employee who drinks the strongest coffee of anyone
This is strong coffee. One reviewer calls it “1300’s Europe in a cup,” and another says it’s “darker than the night before the coming of Ragnarok.”
For the employee with a green(ish) thumb
This kit contains everything you need to grow four different types of bonsai trees (one is flaming red!), including biodegradable growing pots, soil discs, organic seeds, markers, and step-by-step instructions.
For the employee who organizes your office’s March Madness
This is a basketball hoop in mug form! Toss marshmallows or other toppings through the net like a champion.
For the employee who was chastised by IT for streaming too much music on the office Wi-Fi
These lightweight headphones with a closed-eye design and generous padding were engineered to be comfortable to wear for long periods, and they’re high-quality enough to be used by professional broadcasters.
For the employee who travels for work
This Bluetooth tracker tag will ensure your employee knows where her luggage is at all times — and it will even send an alert to her phone if the luggage is outside of a safe distance. The tag can double as a phone tracker or keys tracker too.
For the employee who’s always cracking everyone up
This oral history of Saturday Night Live is a fascinating, detailed account of the show from the beginning, including fights with censors, rivalries among its stars, gossip about celebrity hosts, and how the writing happens.
For the employee who just did Toastmasters
This compilation of 292 great speeches in history goes back to ancient Greece and all the way up to 1997.
For the employee who’s always on her phone.
These cozy, stylish gloves are designed so that you can text with them on — meaning your employee won’t freeze when she’s texting outside this winter.
For the employee whose cat has its own Instagram account
As someone with too many cats myself, the key to a good gift for a cat lover is to give something to the kitties rather than to their owner. This kit will grow a bundle of grass that cats are weirdly drawn to.
For the employee who’s always drinking tea
This flask functions as a tea infuser, hot beverage thermos, fruit water infuser, and more. It’s got a stainless steel filter to brew both hot and cold tea, with a removable sleeve for insulation.
For the employee who has everything else
Everyone needs a portable charger. This high-speed, pocket-sized one holds a charge for seven days, so your employee can easily recharge her devices while she’s on the go. It can charge an iPhone almost seven times before it needs to be recharged.
For the employee who just got promoted
Give your employee the pleasure of writing with a really nice fountain pen. This one is a classic, writes beautifully, looks luxurious, and reviewers agree it’s a joy to use.
For the employee with the crazy long commute
A long commute (when we have those again) can seem much shorter when you’ve got something interesting to listen to. An Audible membership gives your employees a free audio book each month (she chooses the title) — and if it turns out she already has an account, it’ll add those credits to her existing membership.
For the employee who just moved into a new place
A Roku makes it easy to stream video content to a TV from the internet so that you can watch movies from Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and other video providers. Your employee may never leave her house again.
For the employee with a beautifully decorated workspace
This elegant five-in-one rose gold desk organizer set includes a hanging file organizer, file tray, letter sorter, pencil holder, and sticky note holder.
For the employee who sings at her desk
This pretty, lightweight scarf is covered in musical notes and comes in black, red, or white. Plus, it’ll make anyone look more put-together on Zoom.
For the employee who’s always got good gossip
This memoir about the author’s time undercover in the CIA is full of fascinating details about how she was trained, how she created her cover, and the risks she took to do her job.
For the employee who thinks making popcorn is high-level cookery
This popcorn seasoning variety pack lets you top your popcorn with the flavors of white cheddar, caramel, kettle corn, sriracha, cracked pepper asiago, and even dill pickle.
For the employee who bikes to work
This is the Swiss army knife of bike repair! It includes 19 tools for common roadside bike repairs, including multiple hex wrench sizes, open wrenches, and screwdrivers, a Torx driver for disc breaks, and a universal chain tool, all made of high-tensile steel and enclosed in a lightweight aluminum case.
For the new employee you don’t know yet
When you really don’t know an employee yet, and don’t have a sense of what kind of gift they’d truly appreciate, a gift card with a wide range of applications is a good choice. (“Wide range of applications” means: don’t get the person a gift card to, say, a wine store, since it might turn out they don’t drink. Online shopping meccas like Amazon are a safer choice.)
Order Alison Green’s book, Ask a Manager: Clueless Colleagues, Lunch-Stealing Bosses, and the Rest of Your Life at Work, here. Got a question for her? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Her advice column appears here every Tuesday.
If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.