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A Gift Guide for Your Employees

woman opening a christmas present in front of a christmas tree.

​It's been a trying year for so many people—both in their personal and professional lives. Comfort, caring and creativity are emerging as the gift-giving theme of 2020. 

Here's a look at holiday gifts employers are considering for their workers this year.

Gifting Goes Local

Gift selections can celebrate employees and support local businesses. New York City-based Health-E Commerce is partnering with Murray's Cheese to provide each employee with the ingredients for a charcuterie board. A Murray's instructor will guide employees through proper plating and cheese and meat varieties during a live, virtual event. 

"We are excited to help a local New York City business that has been hit hard by the current economic downturn, give employees an engaging activity to enjoy with their co-workers and learn a new skill they can share with their family and friends this holiday season," said Preston Farrington, CEO of Health-E Commerce.

A Seattle, Wash.-based tech startup is using a similar philosophy by purchasing personalized gift boxes from Knack Shops, another Seattle company. To keep the gift a surprise for staff, the HR representative asked to remain anonymous but shared some insight: 

"There are only 22 employees in our company, so we know them all well enough to feel confident in picking something that they would like. The budget we've set for the boxes is $100 per person. It's great because we can stick to our budget with the running box total, order things specific to each team member, and turns out they are based in Seattle as well, so we get to support local business." 

Personalized Gifting

Typically, LEO Pharma, Inc., a U.S. affiliate for the Danish dermatology pharmaceutical company LEO Pharma A/S, treats the office-based team in New Jersey to a nice meal at a nearby catering hall. The event features entertainment, raffles and giveaways to say thank you for a year of hard work. People look forward to the event each year. Since the event had to be canceled, John Tomasello, vice president and head of human resources, said it is essential to give a gift. 

"It shows intimacy and builds on trust. It's less about the actual gift and more the message that comes with it," he said.

The company revitalized its recognition catalog, which contains a broad range of gifts from grills and TVs to clothes, clocks, coffee makers and more. Each employee will receive reward points and choose the gift. They'll also each receive a jacket or sweater, he added.

In the past, Health-E Commerce offered a series of curated gifts to employees, such as iPads, Yeti coolers or AirPods. This year, they are giving $200 gift cards to a retailer of choice so employees can continue exploring what brought them happiness and stability during 2020, Farrington said. "With many of us discovering new activities and interests during the public health crisis, we wanted to give employees the means to treat themselves this holiday season and explore them even further."


St. Louis Park, Minn. company Wellbeats provides on-demand virtual fitness, nutrition and mindfulness classes. Chief Revenue Officer Jen Zygmunt gave all 50 employees an early gift, a "Fit Kit" themed around the company's mission and in recognition of the current health crisis. 

Each kit includes:

  • 2 face masks 
  • 2 hand sanitizers
  • 1 water bottle
  • 1 noncontact forehead thermometer 
  • 1 fanny pack 
  • 1 set of resistance bands 
  • 1 tote bag 

"The ability to maintain workouts and wellness routines became extremely difficult when COVID-19 hit earlier this year," she said. "We wanted to give our employees and their families the benefit of additional support to not only stay fit but to prevent the spread of COVID."

Many people have converted their basements or other spaces at home into makeshift offices that may not be the most comfortable or ergonomic. In addition to a themed virtual casino party, Carol Kraft, chief sales and marketing officer of Charter Solutions, Inc. in Minnesota, is gifting all 80 employees a box filled with comfort foods and items such as a fleece jacket, T-shirt and socks.

"Focused on the new realities of remote working, the items are designed to help employees stay warm in the months ahead and to fuel their bodies and minds during the workday," Kraft said.

A Global Perspective 

International business leaders are taking an unconventional approach to this year's holiday gift season. Ranging from personal and professional development to helping others, these are additional options to consider:

Audiobooks.  Professionals often feel they don't have time to read. Gargi Rajan, head of human resources at Mettl, a Gurugram, India-based company, is considering audiobook subscriptions.

"Gifting audio business books could turn out to be one of the best gifts you could give to any professional, which offers benefits long after it has been gifted," Rajan said. 

Charitable contributions. Rolf Bax, the chief human resources officer for, a global resume-builder and career prep company based in The Netherlands, is swapping out traditional gift cards for charity vouchers. Employees will be given a fixed amount of money in the form of credits for use on a vetted charity voucher site.

"Most people either know or are close to someone currently out of work and just feel grateful not to be, which I think makes it easy to feel good about forgoing a typical gift to do something selfless instead," Bax said.

Personalized continuing education. Evopure, a company in the United Kingdom, is substituting an opportunity for continuing education for its annual holiday party.

"We'll pay for everyone on our team to do evening classes for one semester, so they can learn whatever they want," said HR Officer Rhiannon Moore. "We've not set a price limit but won't include university [courses]. We're thinking along the lines of pottery making, beginner language classes, cookery courses or management skills courses."

Katie Navarra is a freelance writer in New York state.


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