Gifts for Employees That Are Thoughtful and Useful
Exchanging gifts during the holidays can be really tricky—especially when it comes to the people you work with all the time. Given that co-workers and employees aren’t family members (who promise to love you unconditionally no matter what you purchase), you probably don’t know enough about your colleagues’ likes and dislikes for a personalized present, but a gift card seems too generic for people you see every single day. There’s also the question of cost—what is the appropriate amount to spend on a hard-working employee or assistant? According to our holiday etiquette expert, you might consider a gift of at least $50 for an assistant (since he or she works very closely with you), but if you’re shopping for other employees as well, $50 might seem a bit over-the-top. No need to worry—you have enough to stress about this holiday season. Shop through our gift guide, where you’ll find a variety of thoughtful options to make everyone in the office feel appreciated during the holidays. From whimsical desk accessories (like a cactus bulletin board), to chic journals for note-taking, to desk planters that liven up a workspace, to relaxing and revitalizing at-home spa kits, there’s something here for every price range and personality. But the inspiration doesn’t stop here. If you’re shopping for Secret Santa exchanges, which often have a lower price range, browse our favorite picks for low-cost, fun gift ideas. Need to find something special for your supervisor as well? Check out our curated gift guide for bosses.
This European-inspired notebook mimics the nautical Breton stripe that has become a staple of French street style (making this journal timeless as well). The bottom of the cover is “dipped” in gold foil to give it a gilded look, and the lines on each page fade for an ombré effect (from barely-there to dark blue), making it a chic, Parisian addition to any workspace. Whether she needs a place to jot down reminders and lists, or is an obsessive journal-keeper who records daily activities and plans, this 160-page notebook will help her organize all of her thoughts.
To buy: $13, domino.com.
Anthropologie Daventon Desk Collection
This file organizer is a guaranteed conversation starter—it will update any workspace, and it’s a stylish and original way to keep papers organized. Made from rose gold-colored iron, it’s sturdy and practical, and can hold multiple different papers—from large PowerPoint presentations, to a stack of “to be mailed” letters (hence the fun envelope accent on the front of the organizer). The organizer is available as part of a set, so you can also purchase a coiled iron pencil holder or minimalist magazine rack to complete her desk dÃ©cor, or simply purchase a few brightly colored file folders to get her started.
To buy: $44, anthropologie.com.
Cork Cactus Organizer
If he can’t keep a plant alive, no problem—this particular succulent can survive without water, light, or attention (a novice gardener’s dream). All he has to do is use the cork surface to pin notes and reminders—the pushpins will mimic the desert plant’s flowers and spikes. The three-dimensional bulletin board also lifts out of its terracotta pot, which can then be used to store paper clips, erasers, extra pins, or any small desk accessory. The cactus then fits back on top of the pot, acting as a lid, to camouflage clutter and streamline his workspace.
To buy: $15, uncommongoods.com.
Grovemade Modern Desk Planter
Science says that a little greenery at work can improve your focus and mood—in fact, a UK study found that office plants were linked to a 15 percent increase in productivity. To encourage wellness at his desk, give this modern wooden planter, and add your favorite low-maintenance office plant to complete the present—here are seven that anyone can take care of. The planter’s cork base helps absorb water and prevent leaking, and the vegetable oil-based finish offers a sleek, classic shine. No two are exactly alike, as they are handmade in Portland, Oregon by Grovemade, a small company that specializes in unique, hand-carved accessories and décor. Available in two sizes.
To buy: $39, rejuvenation.com.
Anthropologie Landstead Tray
For the coworker or employee who loves Anthropologie’s bohemian clothing, pick up a desk accent that will complement her vintage style. This rustic, wooden catchall (an online exclusive) can organize writing utensils, picture frames, souvenirs, notebooks, or small desk plants. She can even take it home and use it to corral her favorite accessories. The imperfect wood grain gives the items a raw, authentic look. Reviewers love it, but warn it is slightly narrower than expected. To keep it looking like new, avoid putting food on the tray and only wipe clean with a dry cloth.
To buy: $38, anthropologie.com.
Crate and Barrel Zuma Trays
These bright, sturdy, and practical wooden trays have so many different uses. Purchase a set that can be mixed and matched on a desktop or in a cabinet, or buy one in her favorite color so she can use it as an office organizer, drink tray, or catchall on her bedside table. It’s also an ideal office organizer for keeping track of files—if she’s always making presentations, then this is a great place to store her papers. They add a lovely pop of color to any room, but for those that prefer to keep it neutral, pair the black and white trays for a sleek, classic set.
To buy: $30, crateandbarrel.com.
Anthropologie Solena Vase
Available in deep purple, bright turquoise, or slate gray, these geometric stoneware vases are a thoughtful way to thank an employee for a year of hard work. Paired with a succulent or other small, easy-to-care-for plant, these five-inch tall containers will bring life and dimension to any surface in her home—which everyone needs in the dark winter months. If she’s not a plant person, the vases make vibrant shelf accessories, or she can simply use them to store small objects in her home. The rose gold and silver bases add a modern touch to each vessel—they’re definitely an eye-catching accent.
To buy: $28, anthropologie.com.
Anthropologie Luster Trio Pencil Holder
For the ultra-organized employee—you know, the one who has a tidy to-do list, Post-It notes sorted by color, and a neat cup of pens—take her system to the next level with this set of metallic pencil holders. She can house her highlighters in one, pens in the other, and miscellaneous supplies (like scissors and permanent markers) in the third. Or, if she’s more of a minimalist, they would make sleek, elegant bud vases to liven up her workspace. Or, she can split them up, and use one or two for her at-home desk.
To buy: $24 for three, anthropologie.com.
Pop Up Note Camera Dispenser
Despite the popularity of smartphones and selfies, the instant camera is back in style, which is why she will love this fun, mint green note dispenser for her office (it also comes in black). With a fake shutter and flash, it dispenses Post-Its instead of Polaroids and livens up a boring desk full of office supplies. Included with the camera are 45 sheets of Super Sticky Post-Its (but you can buy her a few refills to make sure she’s good to go for the rest of the year). Plus, it’s weighted, so the object stays in place as she grabs sticky notes before running to meetings.
To buy: $12, staples.com.
Waxing Kara Spa Tower
This five-piece spa kit has all of the necessary ingredients for a relaxing weekend at home. These all-natural products come from the Chesterhaven Beach Farm on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and include a bath soak, body butter, body scrub, mask, and soy candle. To further her zen, each glass bottle in the tower is marked with a word that embodies the ingredients inside the product, including Peace, Strength, Clarity, Good Fortune, and Tradition. From a bath soak formulated with Dead Sea salts to a mask made from pink and red clays, she’ll be grateful for the R&R after a long week at work.
To buy: $48, uncommongoods.com.
Anthropologie Sweetly Stated Mug
A personal, decorative coffee mug is always a good gift, but we especially love it for an employee because it’s affordable, practical, and you can’t have too many, which is why we picked out almost 20 fun cups for the coffee-addicts in your life. This stoneware mug comes in three colors—red, navy, and turquoise—so choose the color and saying that best matches your recipient. Not sure if they prefer coffee or tea? Make your life easier and choose the “Rise and Shine” message—however they choose to wake up, they now have a new mug to look forward to.
To buy: $14, anthropologie.com.
Dwell Studio Vessel
This sleek, minimalistic pitcher can be utilized in so many different ways: It’s a classic accent and accessory for a holiday brunch, a sleek watering can for indoor plants (but it’s not recommended for outdoor use), a unique vase for seasonal buds, or even a container for miscellaneous tools—it sits pretty on any surface while disguising the clutter. Made from classic white ceramic, it’s a bit heavier and more precious, making it a special token for an employee who loves to entertain, or is known to always have a bunch of fresh flowers on hand.
To buy: $49, dwellstudio.com.
Colorfield Ear Bud and Charger Holder
This is for the employee who’s always glued to their phones or tablets. If they’re always on the go, these handy leather holders will protect their gadget accessories. There’s nothing more annoying than tangled wires or cords. One side will hold a phone charger (so they’re never stuck with a dead device), while the other stores earphones. Each case comes with a hook so they can attach it to a bag or backpack. Choose from five different colors, including gray, navy, orange, red, and white, and don’t forget to take advantage of the free monogram option in different font styles.
To buy: $35, markandgraham.com.
Contrast Enamel Tie Clip
This guy always shows up at the office dressed to impress: a suit, tie, fancy leather loafers, and a briefcase. He would never be caught in a tee-shirt and jeans, so why not offer him this stylish tie clip? The classic accessory will quickly become a wardrobe staple. Made of silver-plated brass, the clip goes with any tie and button-down shirt. Plus, it will keep his four-in-hand or Windsor knots in place so his outfit always looks crisp and put-together. With this one, he is guaranteed to keep his spot on the office’s best-dressed list.
To buy: $30, jcrew.com.
Spa in a Bag
Thank her for those long nights spent in the office working on big presentations and quarterly reports with this luxe kit. Your hardest-working employee needs a little pampering, so give her this kit of honey-infused body products made in Pennsylvania and assembled in Maryland. It comes with four-ounce jars of honey body butter, honey body scrub, and dead sea salts, which are made with lavender oil. There’s also a honey lip balm included that she can keep in her everyday bag. The small organic tote it’s packaged in can be reused to hold other toiletries or makeup, too, since it’s machine-washable.
To buy: $60, uncommongoods.com.
Classic Rose Hardcover Journal
Every employee needs something for jotting down notes, ideas, and to-do lists. And if she’s drowning in Post-its and notepads, get her one of these pretty floral notebooks to spruce up her workspace. It can withstand wear and tear (and maybe an accidental coffee spill) with its hardcover exterior. Plus, the cloth spine makes it feel more special than your average spiral notebook or yellow legal pad—it looks more like a book or personal journal than a boring office supply. She might even feel inspired to dream up the next big idea with this special notebook.
To buy: $13, shop.people.com.
Not all office supplies need to come from the boring stash that the office manager ordered in bulk. Something unique can have the power to inspire your employees, or at least make the workplace a little more cheerful. Replace their boring No. 2s with these witty, stylish pencils. Each one comes with a fun phrase in different bright colors, like “What’s the word,” “The dotted line,” or “In a manner of speaking,” to motivate them. When it comes time for gifting, package it with a fun pencil holder, some colorful pens, and an equally stylish notebook and you’re all set.
To buy: $16, katespade.com.
No matter your office’s particular dress code, a pair of cufflinks is still a wardrobe essential—even if it isn’t for everyday wear. He’ll probably need it some day for a black tie event or special work party. Chances are the employee who’s fresh out of college doesn’t have a pair in his wardrobe just yet. For a thoughtful and elegant gift, personalize a pair with your employee’s first or last initial. The stainless steel design comes in three color options: onyx, redwood, or silver, and different shapes, so you can choose based on his personal style.
To buy: $44, nordstrom.com.
‘What If?’ Tote Bag
Sometimes your employee needs a little nudge to feel inspired. This tote bag will do the trick with its thought-provoking question. With this one, she will feel encouraged to work hard, be imaginative, and dream big every day with the two simple words emblazoned on the front. The canvas bag is 14 inches by 14 inches, so it holds a fair amount of stuff, without being too large to bring on the morning commute on the train or bus. The simple black tote will be her go-to for groceries, books, laptop or even gym gear.
To buy: $14, shop.people.com.
Champagne Pop Candle
A bottle of champagne or wine isn’t always appropriate for a colleague, so instead, offer this delicious-smelling (and festive!) candle. It’s a similar idea, but it won’t send the wrong message or cross the line. The fragrance includes pink grapefruit, raspberry, French cassis, violet leaves, rose petal, and grape leaf to make any space smell fresh and inviting. It will last a total of about 40 hours, but you shouldn’t burn it for more than two or three hours at a time. Plus, the metallic vessel is so chic, it can be reused as dÃ©cor when the candle is long gone.
To buy: $42, jonathanadler.com.
Aspiring chefs and food enthusiasts will love this gift. If they’re always talking about the coolest restaurant in town, or whipping up a new gourmet dinner at home for their roommates, this fun cooking game will make both weekday and weekend meals fun. Each wooden die gives an idea for a protein option, cooking method, a grain and a carb course, herbs, and bonus ingredients. Plus, four additional dice are included to account for seasonal vegetables. There are more than 186,000 meal possibilities in this kit, so they’ll always be able to try a new dish.
To buy: $24, uncommongoods.com.
Colorblock Mobile Charger
To her, there’s nothing worse than a phone with a dead battery. Her iPhone will never run out of battery again with this portable charger, which is compatible with the 5, 6, and 7 models. Now, she can post Instagrams, Snapchats, and send texts to her heart’s content without fear of a dead battery. The bright pink and metallic design ensures that she’ll never lose it. The compact device will charge her phone with up to 80 percent power (depending on the device) and comes with a USB connection so she can recharge it after use so it’s ready for the next day.
To buy: $30, shop.people.com.
Foil Letterpress Desk Calendar
This calendar is a thoughtful way to start the new year off right. It will brighten up any desk space, and help your employees keep track of certain dates at the same time. It comes with a clear case so they can easily prop the calendar up on their desks. Each month has a different unique drawing with gold foil accents, including a grouping of cacti for January, elephants for March, and evergreen trees for December. After each month, crop the illustration and use it as a postcard or frame it as a piece of artwork for the cubicle.
To buy: $23, papersource.com.
‘But First, Coffee’ Thermal Travel Mug
If a cup of coffee is always in one hand while her phone is in the other, this gift will get plenty of use every day, both in the office and outside. This mug is great for her commute to work, whether it’s by car, train, or bus—it will keep her precious cup of joe warm on the trip from coffee pot to office. It comes with a matching spill-proof top, too. The witty phrase emblazoned in eye-catching gold will make it clear to all her colleagues that she’ll need some caffeine before she starts writing reports, putting together presentations, and making phone calls.
To buy: $18, nordstrom.com.