Secret Santa Gift Guide: Rules and Ideas For Coworker Gift Exchanges

Christmas isn’t far away, and for plenty of workers, that means it’s time to start thinking about Secret Santa gift exchanges. Buying a Christmas gift for your coworker is tricky because the gift has to be thoughtful and appreciated by the recipient without being inappropriate for work. 


To help you find the perfect gift for your coworker this Christmas, we’ve created this gift guide that includes important guidelines for shopping for coworkers, as well as Secret Santa gift ideas that are sure to please.


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Rules to follow when Christmas shopping for a coworker

When you’re participating in workplace gift exchanges, it goes without saying that it’s important to follow the rules put in place by your employer. That means only buying for the recipient you’re assigned to and making sure to have your gift ready on the day of the exchange. On top of that, there are several other unwritten rules to keep in mind for this year’s Secret Santa gift exchange.


Stick to the budget

Chances are your employer has provided you with guidelines in terms of budget, and if they have, it’s important to stick to them. Shopping under budget can make you look inconsiderate, but going over is likely to make your coworkers uncomfortable. Sticking to the rules of the game makes Secret Santa more fun for everybody.


Shop with the recipient’s tastes in mind

In most cases, you’ll have some awareness of what your recipient likes, even if you’re not close. When you shop, consider their personality and any likes or dislikes they’ve disclosed during your time working together. If you haven’t worked together long or you don’t know them personally, make sure to keep it simple, and go for a considerate but inoffensive gift, such as chocolates or candles.


Don’t be afraid to get creative

If you’re a naturally creative person, consider something handmade. A creative gift is generally considered more thoughtful, provided you’ve put thought and care into making it. 


Avoid NSFW gifts

NSFW, or Not Safe For Work, gifts are a big no-no, regardless of how well you know your recipient. Gifts of a sexual or crude nature are definitely off-limits, and depending on your workplace, it might also be wise to avoid alcohol and politically or religiously-inspired gifts.


Make sure you have a solid understanding of your company’s workplace ethics and keep them in mind as a guideline for purchasing your gift. On the same note, don’t give passive-aggressive gifts. Christmas gift exchanges are about spreading joy, so don’t give a gift that could potentially hurt a coworker’s feelings or draw attention to their flaws.


Secret Santa gift ideas

If you’re looking for fun gifts for Secret Santa exchanges at work, the following list is full of work-friendly gift ideas that almost everyone can appreciate. 


1.  A fun ugly Christmas sweater

Ugly Christmas sweaters never go out of style, and the uglier you can find, the better. Look for something bright, bold and of course, inoffensive. If you know your recipient well, look for an ugly Christmas sweater that features their favorite music or movie, and if you don’t, go for funky patterns with silly details, such as lights, bells or ribbons. 


2. Assorted gourmet chocolates

A box of chocolates is the perfect gift when you don’t know your recipient well or you’re short on time. Visit your local chocolate shop and grab an assortment of flavors, so there’s sure to be something your recipient will enjoy. 


3. Self-care and beauty products

Depending on who your gift recipient is, you can find plenty of Secret Santa gift ideas at your local beauty store. Consider a beard care kit, a selection of body butter and bubble bath or even a fun eyeshadow palette. Just consider who you’re gifting, and be sure the item you choose is suitable.


4. Essential oils and a diffuser

Depending on your budget, a selection of essential oils and a diffuser, or essential oils on their own, make a great gift for coworkers. If you’ve been exceptionally busy at work, select oils that are meant to help manage stress, such as lavender and clary sage, or if you’re an avid essential oil user, purchase the ingredients for your favorite oil blend and include a handwritten recipe.


5. An adult coloring kit

Adult coloring books are a great way to unwind after a long day at the office. Help your coworker relax and get creative with an assortment of adult coloring books. Throw in a set of good-quality pencil crayons and a sharpener to make sure they have everything they need to start coloring right away. 


6. A coffee lover’s gift basket

It’s common knowledge that coffee is a big part of office life. Give your coworker the ultimate office-safe Christmas present with a basket full of gourmet coffees and a fun or elegant coffee mug for the office. If you want to up the ante, consider adding biscotti, flavored syrups or even a French press.


7. Teas or cocoa

If your gift recipient isn’t a coffee drinker, appease their tastes with loose leaf teas and a tea strainer or a collection of gourmet cocoas and marshmallows. Add a beautiful gift basket and a Christmas-themed coffee mug and you’ve got the ultimate Secret Santa gift. 


8. A personalized water bottle

Everyone loves a beautiful water bottle that they can keep at their desk. Find your gift recipient a simple stainless steel water bottle and take it to a local printing company or home-based crafting business to have them customize it with your recipient’s name or even a favorite quote. 


9. A selection of hot sauces

Visit your local market or a specialty shop and choose a few bottles of hot sauce for your coworker. Find unique bottles with amusing labels and be sure to choose a variety of spice levels and flavors, so they can try several different options. 


10. Matching winter gear

A scarf, a hat or a pair of gloves make a great gift for coworkers if you live somewhere with snowy winters. Depending on your budget, you can select a matching set or a simple scarf. If you live somewhere with extremely cold winters, look for something practical and warm. 


11. A winter-friendly plant

Cacti and other succulents make a great addition to the office at any time of year. Find a small plant in a simple pot that they can keep at their desk or use to decorate their home. 


12. Tablet or laptop accessories

There are plenty of ways to add flair to electronics, including laptop and tablet sleeves and cases, as well as peel-and-stick skins that can be placed on a laptop to completely transform its look. If you have a sense of your gift recipient’s style and you know what type of laptop or tablet they own, this Secret Santa gift idea might be the perfect way to give a unique gift to your coworker this Christmas.


13. Socks or slippers

Finding gift ideas for coworkers is never easy, but when it comes to simple, inoffensive Secret Santa exchanges, socks and slippers are always a great solution. Whether you opt for a silly and bold pair of socks or elegant slippers, your coworker is sure to appreciate this practical gift.


14. A decorative humidifier

Winter air is dry, and nothing helps with winter dryness like a cute humidifier. Find something small that can be placed on their desk or on a shelf in their office. Humidifiers come in all types of cute decorative designs, so if you plan to give this fun gift for Secret Santa, make sure to look for one that suits their style.


15. A relaxation-themed gift basket

It goes without saying, work can be stressful. Help your coworker take a load off by putting together a gift basket full of items to help them unwind. Depending on their tastes, you could include candles, bath bombs, a sleep mask, tea or even some sweet treats. 


16. A fancy candle

Candles come in all shapes, sizes and fragrances. Consider your coworker’s style and where they could display a candle and select a size and fragrance that you feel they’d like best. 


17. A new mousepad that suits their style

If your coworker has a desk job, there’s a good chance they have a mouse pad at their desk. Help them add some flair to their workstation with a new mousepad that suits their style. Consider luxurious or bold designs that feature leather/vegan leather, glitter and fun prints, and select something that suits their personality and tastes. 


18. A new day-timer

As soon as Christmas is over, it’s time to think about the year ahead, and at work, that means a new calendar to keep track of appointments, meetings and other important dates. While most rely on technology to track their schedules these days, a day-timer can still be a useful tool in the office for keeping this information at arm’s reach, and chances are, it’s a gift that your coworker will truly appreciate.


19. A desk organizer

Whether your coworker has a lot of papers to keep track of or a pile of pens that need a home, a desk organizer can help them find a place for everything—and keep everything in its place. If they’ve already got a pen holder or paper tray on their desk, consider helping them upgrade to something more stylish or more practical. 


20. Your favorite book (or a book you think they’ll love)

If your coworker is an avid reader, a new book to read is often the best gift you can give. If there’s a book you particularly love, give it to your recipient along with a note explaining why you love it and why you feel they’d love it, too. If you don’t have a particular book you’d like to share, do some digging to find out their interests, and head to your local bookstore to search for something suitable. 


21. A cozy throw blanket

One of the best things about winter is getting cozy on the couch with a good movie and a warm blanket, which is why this Secret Santa gift idea is so great. Go online or hit up your favorite boutique to find a cozy throw blanket that will keep your coworker warm during the chilly winter nights. If you don’t know what the inside of their home looks like, try to find something neutral that will mesh with any home decor style.


22. A charcuterie board

Charcuterie boards are a great way to provide snacks for guests without putting in too much effort. Help your gift recipient be a great host when they have guests by buying them a wooden charcuterie board, and if you’ve got the budget for it, consider adding a set of cheese knives or some spreads, crackers and olives. Just make sure that if you’re gifting food, you select items that don’t need refrigeration, so it doesn’t go bad before they take it home.


Don’t forget to have fun

Secret Santa gift exchanges are meant to be a fun part of your company’s culture. Whether you’re an entry-level employee or a long-time member of your company’s leadership team, it’s important to play by the rules to make sure the exchange is fun and comfortable for everyone involved. Above all, be creative and thoughtful and you’ll be sure to give a gift that spreads joy and makes a mark on your Secret Santa gift recipient.

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