Holiday Office Gifts and Gatherings: Simple Tips for a Successful Celebration

Reduce stress for everyone this holiday season by following these holiday party and gift exchange tips.


If you're an office manager at one of the nearly 65 percent of workplaces that the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports will hold a holiday celebration, you're probably already stressing out over the extra work that comes with planning festivities at your company. Follow these simple tips to ensure you know the etiquette and best practices regarding how to incorporate office gifts and themes into a successful celebration.

Make the Event About Employees

Holiday parties are often stressful for office managers because there are numerous decisions to be made and many parties to please. Distribute a survey to employees at least two months in advance of the celebration to seek input about possible party dates, activities and themes — and minimize the planning pressure you bear. Remind employees that the holiday party is a gift from leadership to employees; they're not expected to buy gifts for executives as a show of thanks for it.

Tie a Holiday Theme Into Your Celebrations

Seasonal themes like "Winter Wonderland" or "Holiday Lights" are a budget-friendly segue into creatively branded company giveaways that make employees feel appreciated during the festivities. A "Winter Wonderland" theme, for example, might feature decorated paths that extend from the party entrance into the main gathering space, where gifts are distributed. Employees can open their own personalized scarf, socks, hat, mittens or mug that serve a functional party purpose: Mittens, for example, can be worn at outdoor fire pits, while oversized mugs can be filled at hot chocolate stations. A "Holiday Lights" theme can transform a formal holiday mixer into a lighthearted gathering with branded novelty items like twinkling straws and neon glasses.

Make Office Gifts a Team Effort

Traditions like individual office gifts among co-workers and management can become costly for staff and management alike. Replace them with team-based exchanges among departments or similar working groups that take place during the week leading up to the office party.

Provide teams with a quick survey that each will distribute to their members to complete and return. Get creative and ask a variety of questions, ranging from favorite foods, movies and activities to office culture questions like: "Which office supply do you lose most often?" or "What three office jargon terms does your team use the most?" The questionnaires can help teams brainstorm appropriate but inexpensive gifts the other team can use and get a laugh out of, while helping staff learn more about each other. Display each team member's responses to the questionnaire in a common area at the holiday party to serve as a conversation piece.

Don't Be Generous at Your Employees' Expense

Door prizes, raffles and giveaways at your holiday office party can encourage attendance and keep the mood festive — but gift only those items that qualify as a fringe benefit, such as gifts of property (not cash) with a low fair-market value, occasional theater or sporting event tickets, or small food items like coffee and doughnuts. The SHRM explains that, though the IRS doesn't clearly define the exact amount that determines whether a gift could be considered taxable income, season tickets to sporting or theatrical events, use of a company-owned vehicle or vacation property and cash prizes are generally considered taxable income to the employee.

Regardless of how or when your company decides to celebrate this holiday season, try these simple tips to make the job you bear in the process a fun, creative endeavor that gets the whole office involved.