15 Gift Ideas for Your Employees This Holiday Season

September 20, 2023
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At the crossroads of holidays and corporate culture sits gifting. If you manage a team or are sitting at the top of your company, you’ve probably faced a few sleepless nights wondering if you should give your employees a gift for the holidays. And if yeah, what is the best gift fit for the whole team?

If you don’t give a gift, does that come off like you don’t care? If you do give a gift, do you look genuine in the gesture or will people perceive it as a thoughtless transaction? If you put a lot of thought into a gift, will it appeal to everyone or end up in the trash? If your gift isn’t as good as the one you gave last year, will your employee’s cousin accost you in your home and hold you hostage?

A GIF replaying National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation where Clark gets the Jelly of the Month club as a gift instead of the $10k bonus he was expecting.the scene from
Is a Jelly of the Month membership not as good as a $10k bonus? Debatable.

These are fair questions, and they can be enough to cause anyone to really phone it in or skip the gifts entirely.

As tempting as doing nothing may be, the truth is that 94% of people want a gift from their employer to help them feel valued. But despite this desire for a tangible token of appreciation, more than half of employees don’t like what their company doles out.

Zest’s mission is to make gifting as great as possible for everyone involved. In a dream world, gifters aren’t stewing in stress and recipients aren’t sad about a gift that doesn’t resonate.

To help you out this holiday season, we put together our own favorite employee gift ideas so everyone can have a holiday season that’s more merry and bright (and less depressing and resentful).

The Rules of Holiday Corporate Gifting

If you’re looking for the all the answers to your employee gifting questions, you’re not going to find them at the bottom of another glass of eggnog. You‘ll find them here, so keep readin’.

In any type of gifting, there are unwritten rules, and if you don’t follow them, your gift might just strike the wrong chord with your recipient. Much like your other interpersonal gift exchanges, rules like “don’t tell someone you’re regifting something you didn’t like” or “don’t overcompensate with an overpriced gift” apply just as much in your cubicle as they do by your own Christmas tree.

However, when it comes to employee gifting, you have some extra rules of thumb to abide by or you could be staring down a stack of two-week notices before the new year. So, what rules exist when gifting your team?

1. Gift quality goods (not cheap tchotchkes).

Seventy-seven percent of employees “believe a gift expresses how special someone is, and it makes employees feel appreciated.” In other words, a low-value gift is a message to the recipient that they’re not very special. In fact, in one study, it was found that $5 gifts given to the whole team actually lowered engagement and was perceived as insincere.

When giving employees gifts for the holidays — or for any other reason throughout the year — the most effective gifts have a price tag of at least $50. Budgeting for this helps ensure the gifts you give aren’t low-quality and will convey a higher level of thought and appreciation to the recipient. It also has lower odds of going right to the garbage. 

2. Align gifts with your company’s values or mission.

If you run an eco-conscious clothing recycling business, handing everyone a plastic bag with a branded fast fashion t-shirt might rub your squad the wrong way. If your company is built on a core set of values and if your team is working hard toward an admirable mission, be mindful of what you gift. Double check that it’s a gift that aligns with what your brand is all about. 

Remember, this also applies to where your gifts are coming from and how they’re delivered. Even if the gift passes the vibe check, your employees will know if the brand that made the gift does not. 

3. Gifts should flow to the side or down, never upstream.

If you’re wondering who should be on your gift list, a good rule of thumb is that your gifting should always flow down the ladder or laterally — never up. Because of the corporate ladder, power dynamics exist by default (unless you work at a cool co-op and no one ranks above or below anyone else). Employees should feel free to hand their boss a thoughtful card with a personal message at most, but they should never feel expected to give a gift to their managers.

4. Personalize whenever possible!

If you’re overseeing a smaller team, getting something that aligns to each person’s specific interests or tastes is a feasible to-do. But if you’re tasked with gifting 100s or 1000s of people, deep personalization goes out the window (unless you have a few full-time people dedicated to gifting). 

One way to gift thoughtfully and personalize the experience is with the gift card. Your message should always strive to at least use everyone’s first name and should always convey appreciation. Skipping the card is a definite no-go.

5. Save branded gifts for literally any other occasion.

Nearly 75% of employees would rather not get a gift with a company logo slapped on it. Don’t get us wrong — there is a time and place for branded swag. Celebrating milestones like a company rebrand or going public, or welcoming new hires and building up instant camaraderie are occasions where a branded shirt, coffee mug, backpack, or bucket hat fit the bill.

When it comes to the holidays, though, handing out gifts where the brand is the focus may leave people feeling like little advertising pawns in an uncomfortable corporate game. Before handing out holiday gifts, remember that your employees are the heroes, not your logo. 

6. Don’t make employees jump through hoops to enjoy their gift.

If a gift is hard, nigh impossible, to redeem, the sour memory of the experience will surely outlast the recipient’s time with your company. Overly complicated e-gifting redemption, sending gifts to incorrect addresses, giving gifts in the wrong size or color — all of these chip away at the joy of gifting and leave you and your recipient feeling drained by the end of the ordeal. 

Before you even shop for company gifts, make sure you have your gift delivery strategy locked in. By opting for a corporate gifting tool like Zest, you have the freedom to pick the best gift delivery method for your employees (be it snail mail or e-gifting via link, text, email, Slack message, QR code at the company party — you get the picture) while being able to keep an eye on gift tracking and receipts. 

Zest is also the fastest, freest gifting platform on the market, so if you choose another platform, you’ll have to ensure you’re adding any platform or SaaS fees, minimum order quantities, and more to your gifting budget (read: you’ll have less money to spend on gifts if you’re spending that budget just to use a tool).

15 Gift Ideas for the Best Employees Ever

Sure, sure — maybe all managers, founders, and CEOs think their squad is the best assembly of people ever to run a business. We’re sure your employees are wonderful, but the takeaway here is that if they’re getting gifts like these, they’ll feel wonderful. These thoughtful, intentional, personalized employee gifts will get your team grinning ear to ear while whispering, “I really am the best, huh?”


Some argue that food is fleeting and not a great gift, while our own data argues that food is the most popular gift to give and receive. However, it is smart to offer an alternative gift to teammates who might not indulge in your gift of cookies or meat, but for the most part, these gifts are crowd-pleasing goodies.


Cookies are America's third-favorite dessert. Share a little or a lot (and they can even swap flavors when available).

6 chocolate chip cookies on a seafom green plate.
Shop Grove Cookie Company Cookies


Porter Road is one of the finest butcher shops in the nation. if you have a crew who appreciates a fine cut, this meat will make their whole year.

A variety of meat n a white surface, including bacon, ground beef, and steaks.
Shop Porter Road Classics

Unique Treats

Sometimes you want to surprise recipients with something unexpected. These are our picks for wowing people and expanding their taste buds.

An Italian assortment of snacks, including pasta, olive oil, pesto, and pasta sauce.
Shop Tasty Ribbon's Pasta 101 Gift Box
Three jars of TRUFF hot sauces in a black gift box.
Shop this TRUFF Variety Pack
A gold-colored gift box sits behind a bottle of olive oil, a bottle of balsamic vinegar, and a jar of dried spices.
Shop this Aperitivo Gift Set


Chocolate is a holiday staple and these artisanal varieties are sure to leave your employees speechless (because they have a mouth full of chocolate and can't talk ATM).

Three large chocolate bars sit on a marble surface. Two are dark chocolate and one is topped with dried ed berries.
Shop Wildwood Chocolates Top Sellers
Sixteen brightly colored chocolate truffles sit by a purple Vosges gift box lid.
Shop Vosges Chocolate Exotic Truffles
A gold box is opened to reveal a variety of chocolate candies and truffles.
Shop Bissinger's Handcrafted Chocolates

Alcohol and Alcohol-adjacent Gifts

Alcohol is another fan-favorite, but it's also not a bad idea to dip into the world of sober and sober-curious options. Check out our favorites from wine to N/A sparklers.

A gift box with kraft-colored packaging holds two bottles of wine, a bag of crackers, a jar of jam, and two bags of nuts.
Shop Clif Family Winery
Two bottles of nonalcoholic spritzers sit side-by-side. One is pale yellow and the other is rosy pink.
Shop Kally's Non-alcoholic Sparkling Duo
A bag of caramel corn, dried orange slices, a fancy candy bar, two types of alcohol bitters, and a silicone ice cube tray mold are in a gift box.
Shop Giften Market's Old Fashioned Gift Crate


Set the stage for your employees to enjoy an experience like a family movie night, a cleansing meditative session, or beautifying their space with something green and alive. These are gifts that makes memories to last well past the holiday season.

This popcorn-themed gift box includes a reusable silicone popcorn popper, three large candy bars, two types of popcorn seasoning, three types of popcorn kernels, and two alcoholic beverage mixes.
Shop this Movie Night Gift Box
A green circular cushion made of canvas rests on the floor.
Shop Walden's Meditation Cushion
A green spiky plant in a white ceramic planter.
Shop BloomsyBox's Calathea Wavestar

Gift Cards

While gift cards defy the rules laid out earlier (personalized, thoughtful, etc.), there are undeniably times when a gift card is the best bet. When you send a digital gift card with Zest, you get to personalize your message and your recipient gets to swap for whatever card they'd like — happiness all around!

A GIF showcasing the Zest e-gift card experience. A cursor clicks on a Starbucks gift card to send to someone.
Shop gift cards and let recipients pick!

Be the Boss of Holiday Gifting

The holidays are the perfect time to give your team a gift. Whether your staff is spread across the globe or grazing elbows at the office snack table, these are gifts for remote and in-office crews. Getting a big group of gifts for all your employees doesn't have to be an all-consuming (anxiety-inducing) task.

With the right tools and the right inspiration, you're on your way to giving your hard-working team genuine, thoughtful gifts that show them exactly how much they're valued.

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Liz Lorge
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