The do’s and don’t’s of the office secret Santa

December 06, 2018

Paris Stevens

The office tinsel has migrated to your desk, the Christmas songs are hitting the radio and it’s time to start planning your December party schedule.  Whether you love it or hate it, the festive season can easily end up becoming more stressful than you intended. With all the pressure to have fun, buy the right gifts and avoid a political row with Great Auntie Doreen at the family do, it’s no surprise that some people end up having a mini-meltdown before the holidays arrive. For anxious shoppers the office secret Santa can be especially daunting, so we’ve brought you a handy guide for getting it right.

Consider doing a roulette

Rather than buying for a specific person, some teams find it better to buy a selection of gifts and do a lucky dip. At the end of the party, people can swap presents between themselves if they wish, or share out any food or drinks. This is a great option if people feel under pressure to buy personal gifts, and it adds another element of surprise. You can keep it anonymous if you like, or play a guessing game of who bought what.

Keep it clean

Your stag party probably found those risque novelty straws hilarious, but Carol from accounts might not appreciate them as much. When you’re choosing gifts for colleagues it’s fine to select silly presents, but be mindful of anything that might upset, offend, or get you reported to the HR department. Christmas is a time to have some fun, but unless you want to spend the holidays looking for a new job, it’s not an excuse to be unprofessional.

Have a price limit

It goes without saying, but a budget is essential. Most offices stick to a gift of £5 or £10, though you could opt for more if your employees are all on higher salaries and want to push the boat out. The goal of secret Santa is to make your colleagues laugh, not buy them a gift they’ll treasure for the rest of their life, so there’s no need to stress out if you can’t find something amazing on limited funds.

Get to know the person

If you’re buying with a specific colleague in mind, have a think about what makes them laugh or what they’d appreciate. If you don’t know them very well, you can always ask their close friends in the office. It’s also really important to be culturally sensitive and steer away from gifts people can’t enjoy. There’s no point buying a mini bottle of Champagne for a colleague who doesn’t drink alcohol or chocolate for the office health food fanatic.

A bottle of wine or a box of chocolates is the easiest choice (and it’s a great fallback for those who are struggling to find an idea.) But if you want to set your team a challenge, why not suggest a theme for the secret Santa gifts? You can even add an extra twist, by turning the experience into a treasure hunt where gifts are hidden around the office and your team has to use clues to look for them.

If Secret Santa really isn’t right for your team, don’t be afraid to offer an alternative. Consider asking your employees to spend their usual secret Santa budget on toiletries, toys and canned goods to give to the homeless. You can even turn it into a teambuilding activity, getting your colleagues to pack each other’s gifts into festive boxes. The idea began with Operation Christmas Child, but now there’s a huge variety of charities and beauty banks accepting donations.

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