Most people expect their friends and family to acknowledge their birthday. It’s not about receiving gifts or having a party, but the thoughtfulness that goes into being celebrated.
In the same way, gifts can make employees feel appreciated by their employers, even though gifts aren’t the motivation for their work. This guide will look at the basics of employee gifts and the ten best gift ideas for employees:
- Employee gift basics
- Employee gift prices
- When to give employee gifts
- Employee gift recipients
- Top 10 employee gift ideas
Regardless of if your organization is a business or a nonprofit, it’s important to recognize your employees regularly to cultivate a work environment in which they’re happy to work. Gifts can make a meaningful addition to any employee recognition program. Read on to find out why.
Employee gift basics
An effective employee engagement strategy incorporates gifts to help employees feel appreciated. Tangible rewards can help an employee feel valued for their contributions to your company, which, in turn, generates an enjoyable work environment.
There are numerous types of gifts to give employees, but choosing the right gift depends on your organization’s budget, employees’ preferences, and other factors. Let’s explore the basics of employee gift prices.
Employee gift prices
When it comes to budgeting for gifts, it’s essential to find affordable gifts of appropriate values. For example, a large organization might have a lot of employees, and consequently, many Christmas gifts to purchase. In this situation, the company might look for inexpensive gifts that every employee can receive.
Especially for company-wide gifts, it’s important that you spend the same amount on everyone. This ensures that each employee feels equally valued. Determine a gift budget for the year, then divide that amount by the number of employees at your organization. This will give you the amount you can spend on each employee.
However, this doesn’t mean you have to buy the same gift for every employee. By determining a price for each employee gift, you can buy something unique for everyone. This will make your gifts seem more thoughtful while still staying within a reasonable budget.
You might also set appropriate price ranges for different occasions. For example:
- $0 – $50: Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, or cakes for celebrations
- $50 – $100: Classes, tickets, or experiential gifts
- $100+: Party catering or end-of-the-year bonuses
While every budget will differ, it’s crucial to track these expenditures carefully no matter how much you plan to spend. Setting aside a specific budget for gifts prevents both overspending and underspending on your employee appreciation efforts.
When to give employee gifts
As you plan your gifts, it’s also important to decide when you’ll give them. Go beyond birthday and holiday celebrations to consistently make your employees feel appreciated and considered. For example, take a look at this eCard that Circa Logica Group created to show employee appreciation.
Frequent employee gifts, such as eCards, can show that they’re recognized for their day-to-day tasks. You might plan to give gifts for the following occasions to show your appreciation regularly:
- Work anniversaries
- Meeting quarterly goals
- Special achievements
- Finishing tasks early
- Going above and beyond with a project
Our recognition awards guide shares that you can even tie tangible rewards to employee awards like ‘Employee of the Month’ or ‘Innovation Pioneer.’
In any case, it’s wise to plan your gifts so you’ll know when a situation calls for one. However, you can also leave a positive impression on your employees by giving spontaneous gifts just to show that you’re thinking of them. Set aside a little extra money for unplanned celebrations and allow some flexibility for showing your appreciation.
Frequent gifts can also help you retain employees. When you routinely celebrate employees, they’re more likely to stick around because they’ll feel valuable and like their work is noticed. Plus, they’ll know they work for a company that cares about them and sees them as human beings.
Employee gift recipients
Every employee deserves to be appreciated, so make sure your gifting strategy includes every member of your team. Larger companies might delegate this responsibility to managers or team leaders.
You might plan gift recipients based on the occasion. For example:
- Holidays: Give everyone a small gift for the holidays.
- Birthdays: Create a communal calendar with everyone’s birthdays so that no birthday goes missed. At the very least, plan a birthday cake and lunch break party to celebrate each employee. For shared birthdays, make it an even bigger celebration!
- Work-related achievements: Celebrate each employee as they meet certain work-related goals. For example, you might reward an entire team for accomplishing a goal for the month or single out an employee for going above and beyond. This type of gift can be trickier, so make sure to give gifts fairly and apply the same standards to all team members.
- Work anniversaries: Spotlight employees who have reached significant milestones in their time with the company. For example, celebrate one-year, five-year, and ten-year anniversaries, making the gifts bigger and better for each celebration.
By establishing a strategy for these gifts before you give them, you’ll ensure you have a fair and well-budgeted plan for gift giving. This will make everyone feel equally appreciated, while creating a financially feasible way for your organization to boost the office environment.
Top 10 employee gift ideas
Once you’ve established how much you can spend on employee gifts and when you plan to give them, it’s time to choose your gifts! Although each gift should be thoughtful and unique to the recipient, here is a list of ten popular employee gift ideas to show your appreciation.
For an online gift that can be given regularly and easily, consider sending an eCard. These electronic cards can be created online and sent via email to encourage, thank, or uplift an employee, and make great gifts for remote workers. Employees can also send them, so the gifts can be given between peers, leadership members, or both.
With eCardWidget, employers can create eCard templates to send for different occasions. For example, you might create premade cards for:
- Birthdays: Create a customizable birthday card with your company’s logo to send for employees’ birthdays. Remembering their birthdays can make them feel especially noticed and valued beyond their work contributions.
- Holidays: Are your employees excited about St. Patrick’s Day or huge fans of Valentine’s Day? Create holiday cards to send around the office on special days of the year.
- Great work: Recognize your employees for their exceptional work through eCards. This is a fun way to show employee appreciation on a regular basis, and will be delivered straight to employees’ inboxes for a personal feel.
- Company values: Your company’s values should be reflected in everyone’s work, so it’s important to celebrate that when it happens! Create eCard templates for each company value and send them to employees when they demonstrate a standard.
As you create eCard templates, remember to get creative with the design! You can brand the eCards to your organization and also incorporate fun elements, like a funny office picture or inside joke.
To get started with employee appreciation eCards, all you need to do is register for eCardWidget. Then, you’ll be able to embed card templates on your employee portal or website so that everyone in the company can access it.
2. Branded merchandise
Whether you’re sending a digital card or a tangible gift, incorporating your organization’s branding into the gift can further emphasize that the gift is from your organization. Create merchandise for your organization that displays your logo and brand colors. Then, give these items as employee gifts. For example, you might create:
- Laptop cases
- Water bottles
- Coffee cups
These gifts are not only a nice way to show your appreciation, but they can also serve as brand awareness tools when your employees are outside of the office. Since your employees are doing your company a favor by promoting your brand, give merchandise as a casual gift rather than an earned reward.
Employees who are happy with their workplaces will be eager to represent their employer. Plus, brand representation can make employees feel like an important part of your company.
3. Lunch bags and containers
Office goods are practical gifts for your employees, who will likely have a good use for supplies that make their work days go smoother. Lunch bags and food containers, for example, can be used by any employee who brings their lunch to the office (which is likely most employees!).
You might include the following features to your lunch supply gifts:
- Organization branding: Order lunch bags with your organization’s branding to make the bag match other company merchandise.
- Employees’ names: Put each employee’s name on lunch bags to avoid mixing up lunches in the break room refrigerator.
- Microwaveable and dishwasher safe containers: Include dishes that employees can heat and wash to make them easy to use.
- Ice packs: Don’t forget to include ice packs to keep food cold, especially if not everyone keeps their food in a refrigerator.
Consider surprising your employees with a lunchbox on their desks when they arrive at the office on a Monday morning. A practical gift can make a thoughtful surprise and a useful contribution to employees’ work days.
4. Blue light glasses
A pair of blue light glasses is another practical gift that employees can use regularly, especially if they do most of their work at a computer. This could be a more complex purchase for two reasons:
- Employees will have different styles and likely prefer to choose their own glasses.
- Some employees might wear prescription glasses and be unable to wear glasses with only blue light lenses.
To avoid these complications, give each employee a gift card to pick the glasses themselves. This inexpensive gift can be great for the whole team or as a welcome gift for onboarding employees.
5. Tech gifts
For those employees who frequently work on a computer, consider giving gifts that make technology more convenient. Here are a few tech gifts that might boost productivity:
- Laptop cooling pad: This device will keep employees’ laptops from overheating as they use it for long hours every day.
- Wireless mouse: If they don’t already have one, employees might appreciate the free reign of a wireless mouse!
- Headphones: Provide headphones for employees to use when joining a virtual call or just listening to music during the work day.
- Extra monitor: Give employees more digital space with an extra monitor to extend their computer’s display.
Consider the work that your employees do daily and how they go about each task. When you walk a mile in their shoes by imagining eight hours in their office chairs, you’ll gain insight into the gifts that would improve their work experience. This will show your employees that you care about their comfort while they’re contributing to your company.
6. Gift cards
Your employees focus on work enough during the eight-hour work day, so celebrate them with a gift that isn’t work-related.
Gift cards can give your employees exciting plans for the weekend and give them some extra buying power. For example, a gift card to a local business encourages employees to go explore a local shop and allows them to choose what they’ll buy. Consider the following purchases employees could make with gift cards:
- Subscriptions: Give gift cards for a subscription to podcasts or streaming services. If an employee frequently talks about their favorite TV show, find what streaming service offers that TV show and purchase a one-month subscription for them.
- Experiences: Find exciting local experiences to purchase for your employees. For example, give an adventure-seeking employee a gift card to go ziplining. It will make for a great conversation at lunch on Monday!
- Classes: Give the gift of a cooking, baking, or language class. You could also pay for an employee to attend a workshop to hone their specific skills in particular interests.
- Local restaurants: Purchase gift cards to local restaurants based on employees’ preferences. For example, if one employee consistently brings in pizza for lunch, give them a gift card to the best pizza restaurant in town.
- Local businesses: Give gift cards to local businesses so employees can go shopping in unique shops.
Gift cards can be a thoughtful gift when an employer chooses a meaningful place for their employees to spend them. For example, an employee who loves to knit might appreciate a gift card to a yarn store more than a gift card for a local restaurant. Use this gift idea to show how well you know your employees and make them feel noticed.
7. Desktop organizer
As you think of gifts that will leave a lasting impression on employees, consider what will be the most useful to them. For example, a desktop organizer can keep an employee’s workspace clean. Look for the following features in a desktop organizer:
- Writing utensil holder
- Drawer for papers
- Wireless charger or phone charging port
- Extra slots for miscellaneous items
Especially for those employees who value an organized workspace, this gift would be a helpful addition to their desks. Employees will appreciate the thoughtfulness behind a practical gift and may even work more efficiently when their office supplies are organized.
Making a donation to a charity might not seem like a gift to an employee, but charitable contributions in honor of employees can actually be a meaningful way to recognize them. As you get to know your employees, ask them about any charities they support or volunteer work they do outside of work.
If your employees support a nonprofit, they likely feel passionately about that organization’s purpose and mission. Make a tribute gift, or a donation on behalf of someone else, to your employees’ preferred charities. Then, send a donation eCard that lets them know you donated in their honor.
There are other ways you might establish charitable giving as a gift to your employees. If they value an organization’s work, establish a corporate giving program to contribute to employees’ favorite charities. There are two types of giving your program might offer:
- Matching gifts: Match your employees’ monetary donations to an organization with a donation from the company.
- Volunteer grants: Donate to the charities with which your employees regularly volunteer.
Just like a Facebook birthday fundraiser or donation of supplies instead of Christmas gifts, charitable contributions can be extremely meaningful from your company when given in honor of your employees. Not only does this show that you notice your employees and the causes that are important to them, but it also makes them feel like your company holds similar values. Make sure to celebrate with them by sending them a donation eCard or email!
Freshen up the workspace with potted plants for your employees. They might choose to keep their plants at the office or take them home, but either way, plants are a great gift for several reasons:
- They’re customizable. Some employees might prefer vegetable plants while others prefer flowers, so you can give different plants to each employee.
- They create a fun goal. Encourage your employees to work together to care for their plants.
- They’re low maintenance responsibilities. Most plants will require sunlight and occasional watering to grow and blossom.
- They provide future opportunities. As plants produce fruits, vegetables, and flowers, employees can bring their products together to cook, bake, or decorate the office.
Be sure to consider employees’ preferences to make them a more thoughtful gift. For example, you could give a tomato plant to an employee with a great spaghetti recipe and sunflowers to an employee who likes flowers.
Calendars have the potential to be useful and exceptionally funny employee gifts. Consider customizing the calendars to highlight company holidays and anniversaries, employees’ birthdays, and humorous pictures for each month.
For example, if someone snapped a funny picture of an office manager at a Christmas party, use that picture on the calendar’s December page. There are numerous ways to customize calendars and make them enjoyable for the whole team.
As you consider ways to recognize your employees, think of the tokens of appreciation that will mean the most to them. Gifts can be a thoughtful way to thank your employees for all they do, especially when you give them regularly.
Check out these additional resources for more information about engaging your employees through different gift types:
- Customer Appreciation Gifts That Go Beyond Discounts: Explore meaningful customer appreciation gifts that also work well as employee gifts.
- Employee Coaching Guide: Learn how to collaborate with employees to enhance their performance through employee coaching.
- Corporate Matching Gift Programs: Understand the basics of corporate matching gift programs.