Remote Workplace? Rethink Your Approach to Holiday Gifts - Senior Executive
Remote Workforces 6 min

Remote Workplace? Rethink Your Approach to Holiday Gifts

Holiday gift-giving at work might look a little different when your team is remote, but that doesn't mean it has to be impersonal.

by Scott Poniewaz on November 22, 2022

Gifting has long been a celebrated part of corporate culture during the holiday season. It’s a great way for employers to show their employees how valued and appreciated they are, as well as clients. However, as the holidays approach, it might be challenging to address gifting in the climate of remote work.

Since the pandemic, remote work has become the new norm for many companies. It’s changed the way employees view their relationship with work, socialize with colleagues, and navigate virtual challenges around workplace etiquette. The holidays are no exception. Traditionally, you might expect festive office parties or a White Elephant gift exchange—circumstances that require a physical presence. But as the number of people who work remotely tripled in the last two years, these might seem outdated, especially if employees are scattered across the country. 

Change isn’t always a bad thing. With the rise of remote work comes new opportunities around holiday gifting, a chance to adapt to our evolving wants and needs as consumers. In my work for EXEC, a travel and lifestyle benefits program, I’ve noticed people are hungrier for things that bring them personal value. This doesn’t necessarily mean products; in fact, it’s more about unique and enriching experiences. 

Holiday gifting during the work-from-home era may not look the same as it did pre-pandemic, but it might actually be more personalized in a lot of ways. Here’s how you can do it. 

Adapt to Changing Times

The pandemic has shifted our expectations and outlooks on life, as well as our desires and preferences. There’s a term for this: the experience economy. More and more people are starting to crave experiences over commodities. While this phenomenon has roots in the 90s, it’s grown even more post-Covid as people realize the value of experiences over owning possessions.

Experiences don’t have to be adrenaline-filled like bungee jumping or racing Lamborghinis around a track. It can also look like a luxury hotel upgrade. Gifting someone an experience provides them access to a higher level of treatment, or an opportunity to try something they’ve never done before. Experiences are more memorable because they provide you with a feeling to remember it by. They empower us to connect with ourselves and with others, and play a bigger role in how we view the world than material things usually do.

Gifting an experience also plays out well in the virtual space. When it comes to holiday gifting in remote work, it’s important to adapt to the changing times. If you are thinking about gifting a physical item, walking three feet over to someone’s cubicle is no longer feasible. But without an office address, asking for and giving out home addresses can potentially feel invasive and uncomfortable from a professional standpoint. However, you can easily send a gift card or discount to an employee or client over email.

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Be Intentional

You don’t want to give just any experience to someone—you should be intentional about it. Get to know the person you’re planning to gift to, whether that be your employees or your clients. What are their basic likes and interests? Are they outdoorsy or do they prefer the city? Do they like to travel? These are important considerations to think about. Identify traits that are unique to someone’s personality, so it shows that you share a deeper understanding of them. 

Holiday gifting is a great way to be a part of your employees’ or clients’ lives, even if you’re not physically present. Going the extra mile to ensure they have a meaningful experience can go a long way. It shows your willingness to still take care of them, wherever they are in the world. Consider how the gift of experience would make them feel. Maybe it can be a business class upgrade that reduces their stress with travel. Or it can be a sporting activity somewhere unforgettable. Gift-giving is more than just being kind during the holiday season, it’s also about caring for who you work with.

“With the rise of remote work comes new opportunities around holiday gifting, a chance to adapt to our evolving wants and needs as consumers. In my work for EXEC, a travel and lifestyle benefits program, I’ve noticed people are hungrier for things that bring them personal value.”

Scott Poniewaz

– Scott Poniewaz


Build Relationships

As a global entrepreneur who has spent years partnering with and developing companies, I understand that gifting is a huge part of relationship management at the workplace. Holiday gifting is integral to building and managing workplace relationships in a way that’s simple, personable, and sincere. It can also manifest long-term effects in building morale and culture, long after the holidays are over. As a result, employees are more likely to report higher job satisfaction, which can last up to a year or more. 

When employees have more job satisfaction, they’re more likely to have higher engagement. Clients are more likely to want to continue doing business with you. Holiday gifting can bring joy and beyond. The more you can contribute something fulfilling to their lives, the more valued they will feel.

There are a few things to keep in mind about gift-giving etiquette, however. 

  1. While gifts are a great opportunity to show employee recognition, note that holiday gifts are not performance bonuses and they should not be given near performance review time. They should be sent separately.
  2. Keep it practical and safe. Avoid overly personal gifts. It’s smart to be personal, but to a reasonable limit. Remember the relationship is still professional. 
  3. Think clearly about how others may interpret the gift. The wrong gift might feel worse than receiving no gift at all.
  4. Make sure the gift reflects your brand and the value of the client or employee. No matter what you give, it must be a quality representation of your company. 

Bottom line: Expressing your gratitude to your work relationships through holiday gifting is an understated way to give back. It demonstrates that you are listening and understanding, and most importantly, acknowledging. When you dedicate a little extra effort to make the holidays that much better for the people you work with, everyone benefits.

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