10 employee gift ideas for the holiday season
By Kate Monica|6 min read|Updated Dec 19, 2023
Think hard before sending employee gifts this holiday season. The right gift significantly boosts job satisfaction and employee engagement, and the wrong gift deals a serious blow to morale.
In our recent survey of 1,500 employees across 10 industries, we found the right gift can boost job satisfaction and engagement for 3 months or more for 75% of employees. Even more noteworthy: for 46% of employees, this boost in job satisfaction lasts a year or more.
But a sizeable chunk of the workforce has received gifts so thoughtless that they reported feeling worse than they would have if they’d received nothing at all. Thirty percent have received holiday gifts that made them feel markedly unappreciated.
Given the gravity of the decision, it’s wise to browse for popular ideas on gifts employees really want. So we’ve compiled 10 employee gift ideas that will likely deliver sincere holiday cheer.
Gear for the office or at-home desk
Getting a novel gadget is always fun, particularly if you don’t have to splurge on it yourself. Consider giving employees a gift they can use every day while they work. The gifts listed range from $50-$250, so pick whatever aligns with your holiday gifting budget. And if you want help determining what that budget should be, we’ve got you covered.
Wireless noise-canceling headphones can be a game changer for anyone working in an open office. They’re also great for those working from home with young children (or inconsiderate roommates). The Sony WF-1000XM5 Truly Wireless Noise Cancelling Earbuds have an 8 hour battery life that extends to 24 hours with the charging case, and they’re pleasantly lightweight and comfortable. At $250, they’re a good option for businesses that have had a particularly good year.
This sleek, space-efficient travel pack stores cables, travel essentials, and delicate tech safely within a 200D recycled nylon canvas shell. Weatherproof, 6”x10”, and built to fit snugly in employees’ backpacks or suitcases. And at $60, it’s a luxurious gift that’ll suit most any budget.
File this gift under things your employees didn’t know they needed, and now can’t live without. This is $23 very well spent. This wireless charger is compatible with iPhone 15, 15 Pro, 15 Pro Max, 14, 13, and iPhone Mini. It supports Apple's fast charging technology, with a slim and lightweight design that makes it perfect for travel. If you’ve got a little extra room in your budget, pair this gift with the Tech Pack above for a stylish and utilitarian travel-themed gift.
Protip: avoid gifting a low-denomination gift card to a tech retailer
If you want to give employees the flexibility to buy their own gadgets, a Best Buy, Apple, or Nintendo gift card is a solid option. But bear in mind that you’ll have to load the cards with a reasonable denomination so employees can purchase something decent. Gifting employees a $20 Apple gift card, for example, will likely elicit eye rolls. Our survey results showed employees feel demotivated and even disrespected by gift cards worth meager amounts, particularly if they’re intended for retailers that largely only offer pricey products.
Self-care & wellness for a stress-free holiday season
A fair number of your employees are probably taking a week off around the end of December for some much-needed R&R. Kickstart their reset with a zen gift designed for comfort, or purpose-built to promote a sense of wellbeing. Pair this gift with a thank-you note encouraging employees to take it easy after a calendar year of hard work.
Weighted blankets are designed to reduce anxiety and stress by essentially enveloping the wearer in a never-ending hug. The queen-sized Bamboo & Jersey weighted blanket is 18 pounds (sounds heavier than it feels), and reasonably priced at $130.
This neck wrap applies gentle pressure and steady warmth to ease shoulder and neck tension. Perfect for employees who spend a third of their day bent over a laptop, or travel for company events like offsites or conferences. It’s a cozier, thinner, temperature-controlled version of the traditional neck pillow.
Wirecutter determined these are one of the best pairs of slippers of 2023 based on warmth, support, durability, and price. They come in 9 colors and boast over 50,000 five-star reviews. Great for indoor or outdoor wear. And they come in at just under $100.
Protip: avoid basic, utilitarian items
Sending employees a gift centered on a theme of wellness, comfort, or convenience is a nice thought. But avoid gifts that are too utilitarian, to the point that they’re common, everyday items most people already own. In our survey, a number of employees reported receiving household items like screwdrivers and umbrellas as holiday gifts. They didn’t go over well. If you’re buying gifts with wellness or comfort in mind, avoid bed sheets or pillowcases, artisan soaps, or candles. Most people own or can easily purchase these items on their own.
If you’re going to opt to gift employees a subscription box, tread carefully. In our survey, we found the vast majority of employees detest artisan food items, like assorted jellies or boxes of fancy nuts. If you’re going to go with a subscription box, it’s best to air on the side of luxury. Pick a crowd-pleasing essential, or choose a box with a high-end theme likely to impress and delight. Before clicking ‘purchase’, it’s best to survey employees and allow them to pick one of a couple different options.
As far as subscription boxes go, the Sorate Monthly Box is a solid choice. Especially if you’re going with a wellness or self-care theme for gifts this year. This $35 monthly gift gives recipients an assortment of hand-selected teas, including Gyokuro Superior and Genmaicha Matcha.
Obviously, it’s ideal for tea enthusiasts, but it’s also a fun experiment for those interested in expanding their palate.
Protip: Don’t send artisan jams and jellies
In our survey, many respondents specifically called out artisan jams and jellies as being among their least favorite gifts of all time.
“Our boss had recently let us know that we weren’t going to receive end-of-year bonuses, and then he gave everyone an impersonal package of three jams and jellies,” wrote one respondent. “This was literally what Chevy Chase’s character went through in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. I was embarrassed for my boss being so out of touch.”
Additional paid time off
Our survey found that the second-most popular holiday gift (behind money) is additional paid time off. This gift beat out wine tastings, team dinners, and other pre-selected recreational experiences. A consistent thread across survey responses was the freedom of choice. Employees want to decide for themselves how they spend their time and what they spend their money on.
There are two ways to gift a day off: you can pick a specific date to announce a company-wide holiday, or you can let employees know they have the option to take an extra day off whenever they want.
It’s a pleasant surprise that gives employees the flexibility to spend their free time on whatever makes them happiest. While scheduling a company event may seem like a more personal and festive reward, many employees in our survey reported this “gift” often feels like yet another obligation during an already jam-packed holiday season.
While the above gifts are all great options, our survey respondents made it abundantly clear they’d prefer to receive money as a holiday gift. A whopping 65% stated their ideal holiday gift is money, either in the form of a Visa prepaid card, money added to their paycheck, or a virtual reward they can redeem however they want.
You can pair a digital reward with a small, festive physical gift. A small box of chocolates or a holiday-themed card along with a $100 digital reward is both thoughtful and useful.
Sending employees a virtual reward through a payouts & rewards platform like Tremendous lets recipients redeem their gift as a Visa prepaid card, a direct deposit, Venmo or PayPal transfer, or a gift card to one of our 1,000+ retailers. And with Tremendous, you can customize your message and brand the reward with your company logo and colors for a personal touch.
There’s an undeniable advantage to sending employees a virtual gift card over a specific physical item: you don’t have to guess at what people want. Even if you’ve selected what seems like the perfect item, there will always be a few employees who aren’t thrilled with your choice. Giving employees the freedom to choose their own gift eliminates the anxiety and uncertainty of choosing a one-size-fits-all holiday gift yourself.
It’s also a lot easier to send gifts through Tremendous compared to mailing physical items to each of your employees. With bulk sending, you can fire off a dozen or a thousand rewards in minutes. All you need is an email address. If you want to take the guesswork out of holiday gifts this year, sign up now or chat with our team.
Published December 19, 2023
Updated December 21, 2023