Tips for Holiday Office Gift-Giving During COVID-19

Even if you enjoy working from home, it's natural to miss your office family and want to share a little holiday cheer with your colleagues.

But the rules for office gift-giving can be a bit confusing, especially in a year that was anything but business as usual. Depending on what your company has planned, here are some tips to help ensure gift-giving for your coworkers brings joy rather than stress this holiday season.


Most workplaces will be having Zoom holiday parties this year, which means your annual Secret Santa gift exchange will be virtual, too (and there are apps that can help with that). If that’s the case, set a firm budget and date by which the gifts need to be sent — but don’t force participation, says Barbara Pachter, a business etiquette coach and author.

It’s possible some of your coworkers’ families have been impacted financially by the crisis. Others may prefer to forgo giving a gift this year in lieu of making a donation to a local charity. Still others may not want to accept a physical gift for safety reasons.

“Everyone needs to feel comfortable enough to speak honestly and voice their opinion,” Pachter says. “You don’t need to make a big deal out of it, but you should not make any assumptions. And if someone chooses not to participate, that’s fine, too.”


Consider the recipient. If you know that a coworker lives with an elderly family member or is considered at-risk themselves, keep in mind they may not want to receive a physical package, Pachter says. Before assuming, ask your coworkers what they are comfortable with.

Stick with third-party handlers. Big-name retailers are more likely to have safety protocol in place when they package and ship goods. So instead of wrapping and sending a gift yourself, or delivering it in person, order something online and have it sent directly to the recipient.

Consider digital options. Virtual concerts, Broadway readings, workshops and other kinds of digital events have all proliferated during the pandemic and can make excellent gifts.

Whatever you choose, try to tailor it to the recipient. “It doesn’t need to be expensive, but if you are going to give somebody a gift, try making it special for that person,” Pachter says.


Even during a pandemic, the usual rules of office gift-giving apply. Pachter says to keep these points in mind:

Stick to the spending limit. If your office takes part in a tradition like Secret Santa or Yankee Swap, then there’s likely a maximum spending limit. Stick as close to that limit as possible.

Don’t give anything too personal. Avoid any gift that is too personal or could cause the recipient embarrassment, such as grooming items or expensive jewelry.

Send a thank-you note. If you get a gift from someone, especially an employer or a manager, send a thank-you note. This year more than ever, it really is the thought that counts.

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