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employee gift ideas

Employee Appreciation Gift Guide: 35 Creative Gift Ideas

Written by
Vanessa Kahn
Vanessa Kahn

Employees are the gifts that keep on giving. They show up every day and contribute excitement, ingenuity, and profitability to your organization.

This time of year, HR teams have gifting on their minds and are focused on how to show appreciation. Of course, a once-a-year gift doesn't replace compensating employees fairly, offering great benefits and perks packages, and recognizing them each day. After all, effective recognition is timely, specific, frequent, visible, inclusive, and values-based. 💚

Interested in recognizing employees all year long? Check out a tour of Bonusly

We rounded up 35 of the best employee appreciation gift ideas and organized them by low, mid, and high price points. We added a 🌱 for sustainable ideas.

Without further ado, here are 35 employee gift ideas that aren’t Starbucks gift cards.

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$ Lower price employee gift ideas 

1. An extra day off 🌱

Giving your employees a bonus day off is one of the easiest, universally appreciated gifts you can bestow upon your team. Besides the opportunity cost of employees missing a day of work, this gift is virtually free for you to give. Did we mention that paid time off is the second-highest priority to workers?! This gift will end up paying you back in employee engagement anyway. 

2. Grocery gift cards 🌱

Give the gift of an extra run to the grocery store, a big holiday meal, or a homemade pizza night. 🍕The nice thing about this gift is that it can cost as much (or as little) as you’d like! Bonus points: Whole Foods’ gift cards are made from recycled paper from responsibly managed forests.

3. Fan their fandom

Here’s a simple exercise: go on Etsy and type in any TV show, book, comic, movie—you name it! Your search will yield custom portraits, mugs, candles, signs, games, and much much more! Not only is this a fun activity (ehem rabbit hole), but it’s a great way to find meaningful gifts for your employees. We love this Great British Bake Off inspired apron for any star bakers on your team! 

4. Handwritten notes

This idea is almost free, but the time spent to communicate your appreciation is a great way to show you value your team’s contributions. Remember to be specific and values-based in your praise. 

5. Piñata

Let your employees reconnect with their inner-child! We love the idea of receiving a piñata in the mail chock-full of candy and appreciation for a job well done. Check out Piñatagrams for unicorns, reindeers, and zombies, oh my! 

6. Fidget toys

To borrow from a tween trend, everyone can use a fidget toy to get through a long Zoom meeting. The options are endless

7. Desk accessories

Can you say foot hammock? For just $15 your employees can be more comfortable than ever working from wherever they work. For your work from home heroes, we also recommend this cable organizer for a sense of cordless calm. 

8. State candles

Gift a state candle representing your corporate headquarters. Bonusly’s Colorado headquarter candle has a delicious description: “Spruce and cedar encapsulate the snow-covered Rockies. Sandalwood and hints of cinnamon warm up the fragrance of the scenic state.” We can almost smell it now! 🕯

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$$ Mid-price employee gift ideas 

9. Cold hard cash 🌱

First on our mid-price list is the classic, but always appreciated, gift of cold hard cash. Everyone appreciates some extra bills in their wallet and this is a great option if you work at a larger organization and want a gift that’s equitable and easy to execute. 

10. Subscription box

Bonus points if it's catered to employee personality! There is a subscription box for everything nowadays. Meat? There’s a box for that! Foods from around the world? Box for that! Bulb of the month club? Yep, that exists too. Our point is you can choose a subscription box that matches the personality of each employee. Gift a multi-month subscription for a gift that keeps on giving. 🎁

11. Something green that’s not cash 🌱

For the office green thumb or aspirational home gardener, brands like Bloomscape and Amazon offer great ways to appreciate employees by gifting them house plants. Amazon has some punny planters perfect for cultivating appreciation. Some studies have even found that having plants around the house and the workplace can offer reduced stress and boosted productivity. 

12. Fuji polaroid camera

Help employees memorialize the big moments in their life with a Fujifilm Instax Mini. At around $80, employees can capture the big moments and you can share big appreciation. 

13. At-home crafts

For DIY enthusiasts, consider sending a kit to knit, embroider, crochet, and more. The internet is your limit, therefore the limit does not exist! Throw your own pottery planter with this make-at-home pottery kit. Needlepoint the night away with this needle felting kit. 

14. Cookbook

Chefs, gourmet hopefuls, and dough punchers alike can rally around a good cookbook. We love the New World Sourdough cookbook for the pandemic baker. For the chef who is just starting out, Samin Nosrat covers the fundamentals in Salt Fat Acid Heat. For the classic cook, we recommend a return to the basics with Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking

15. Wine, whiskey, chocolate, or coffee tasting kit

For the fill in the blank aficionado, there are all kinds of kits that will provide a sampling of the best of the best. Voluptuary wine tasting kits let your employees channel their inner-sommelier for just $29. For those with a love for all things barrel-aged, check out The Spirit Co’s whiskey tasting kits. Maybe the sweetest option on this list is this chocolate tasting kit with cocoa from around the world. 

16. Puzzles and games

There’s nothing cozier than a puzzle on a winter day with a mug of hot chocolate in hand. Of course, you can get puzzles from anywhere, but we’re partial to a local Boulder puzzle brand, Liberty Puzzles. We think you’ll love the 65 hand-crafted wooden puzzles to choose from. In the games category, we enjoy Cover Your Assets, Codenames, or Taco Goat Cheese Pizza. And, if you’d like to gift hot chocolate along with your game offerings, we love Lake Champlain Drinking Chocolates from Burlington, Vermont. Does it get cozier than that? We think not! 

17. Self care kit

We’re guessing your employees could use some relaxation after 2021. You can build your own self care kits for small teams or buy pre-packaged versions. Check out Lush’s relax gift set, this WFH care kit, or this luxurious bath box. 

18. Headspace subscription 🌱

Practicing and promoting mindfulness in the workplace is a great way to boost morale and increase employee motivation. It’s also a great way to say “thank you” to hardworking employees. Check out Headspace for Work. 

19. National Parks annual pass 🌱

Encourage your employees to get outside with a National Parks pass for the upcoming year. If you want to make this gift sing, consider offering a day off for employees to encourage them to take the time to visit a National Park of their choice. For $80 you’re giving them the gift of crisp mountain air, wildlife sightings, and crystal clear alpine lakes. Is there anything better? 

20. Picnic basket

A picnic basket defines the perfect gift in our humble opinion: something your employees might not buy for themselves, but they’d use it if they had it! The basket itself is a great gift, but make it lawn-ready with all the (shelf-stable) goodies for a bonus gift! 

21. Movie in a box kit

Gather all the fixings for a home movie night for the books! We’re talking popcorn, candy, and maybe even a cozy pair of slippers. If you don’t feel like making your own, there are plenty of pre-made options. 

22. Sled

We love the word toboggan, and we love the idea of gifting employees with this winter staple (climate permitting, of course!). Prices vary wildly so you can customize your purchase to your gifting budget accordingly. We love this classic, yet spendy, sled from L.L. Bean.

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$$$ High-price employee gift ideas 

23. Food boxes, but make them unique

Everyone’s received a bucket of popcorn so big that it goes stale before a fourth of the kernels are consumed. Luckily, food gifts have become a little more sophisticated than oversized vats of popcorn. Sites like Goldbelly, Zingerman’s, and Snacknation offer everything from full-on meal kits to Zingerman’s corned beef reuben kit. P.S. Oprah said this about Zingerman’s Reubens, so we know they’re good: “Zingerman's sandwiches are an 11 on a scale of 1 to 5."

24. Airbnb Experiences 🌱

Give your employees the gift of a meaningful experience. From Alpaca encounters to glassblowing and food tours, there’s something for everyone, and we mean everyone. Who wants to join us for this pasta-making class in Nonna’s kitchen? 🙋‍♀️ 🙋‍♂️ 

25. Massage 🌱

Purchase a gift card for your employees to schedule their own R&R with a service like SpaFinder or Groupon. 

26. Classes 🌱

Mixology class, anyone? Sign us up! This gift option is about as broad as could be, depending on employee interest and headquarter location. Consider looking into craft, mixology, or cooking classes in your area for a fun experiential gift. 

27. Espresso machine

What’s better than a coffee gift card? An espresso machine! Yes, this is a big ticket item and yes it also requires your employees like coffee. 

28. Pasta maker

Imagine all the homemade fun your employees could have with this pasta maker. Alfredo, bolognese, lasagna, the pastabilities are endless!

29. Masterclass subscription 🌱

With a Masterclass subscription, you can promote employee interests outside of work. Your team can learn from iconic instructors like Malcolm Gladwell, Shonda Rhimes, and Judy Blume. 

30. Subscription to a book club

Give your employees the gift of cracking open a new adventure. There are plenty to choose from, but we like this one from Crate Joy that celebrates black literature. 

31. Cameo 🌱

Send your employees the gift of a celebrity shout out with Cameo. Surprise and delight your team with a virtual appearance from celebrities like Oscar Nunez and Taye Diggs. 

32. Headshots 🌱

Offer your team a fresh professional look by gifting them vouchers to get new headshots. If you’re in the Austin, Denver, or Minneapolis area we recommend checking out soona, for a “fast casual” content experience.

33. Cleaning services

We’ve all been in our houses a LOT lately. Dogs, kids, babysitters, and beyond! It’s likely our houses aren’t as clean as they once were, so consider giving your employees the gift of a clean house with a local cleaning service gift card. 

34. Digital photo frame

For the team member whose desk is littered with cute photos of their families, pets, and friends, this gift is perfect. We love this digital photo frame so your team can load up all their favorite memories and enjoy looking at them each day as they settle into work. 

35. A bottle of nice champagne

When we say a nice bottle of champagne, we mean the kind that collects dust until a worthy occasion arises. Of course, we recommend offering a non-alcoholic beverage to those who don’t drink alcohol.

The takeaway 

So there you have it: our 2021 gift recommendations that we truly think will delight your employees. 

Since you made it to the end of this blog post, we can tell you are truly invested in appreciating your employees—good for you! A comprehensive peer-to-peer recognition program is the gift that keeps on giving and is sure to improve employee motivation, retention, and morale year round. With Bonusly, you can set up company-to-employee recognition to make gift giving easy and automated.

Schedule time to speak with a peer recognition expert to learn more, or check out this resource below! 

Employee Appreciation White Paper

Originally published on November 29, 2021 → Last updated April 5, 2022

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Vanessa Kahn

Vanessa is on the Marketing team at Bonusly and is excited to continue the conversation about employee engagement online. When she's not crafting the next email campaign, she can usually be found lacing up her hiking boots with a coffee in hand.

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