There’s no better time than the present to show appreciation for your employees. While traditional gifts like gift cards and bonuses are always appreciated, opting for something a bit more unique can make your employees feel truly valued. When thinking of ideas for holiday gifts for employees, consider that every day is a reason to celebrate, with various holidays happening around the world. Every team has its own special occasions that are often celebrated with just as much enthusiasm as public holidays, if not more. Here are 20 unusual gift ideas that are sure to surprise and delight your team.

Today, I want to chat about something that seems simple but is always a hot topic — ideas for holiday gifts for employees. You’d think it’s easy, right? Just pop into any online store, type in what you’re looking for, and bam, you’re done. But it’s never that straightforward for me. I don’t know about you, but I always freeze up when it comes to choosing. Maybe it’s just my nature or a quirk — I can’t make a decision without reviewing all the options. I’m envious of those who can make quick decisions; honestly, sometimes their choices turn out even better — they spend less time, have fewer expectations, and ultimately, they seem to enjoy the process more. Meanwhile, I’m left feeling drained and dissatisfied after my exhaustive deliberations, always spotting flaws and imperfections in my choices.

So, I spent a considerable amount of time curating a list of unique and interesting gifts for employees, both for myself and for you. Most of the gifts on the list are ones I have either given or received, so I have included my own advice with each item. I hope this will be useful to you.

Ideas For Holiday Gifts For Employees

1. Cooking Class Experience
Gift your employees a virtual or local cooking class where they can learn new recipes and cooking techniques.

Ideas For Holiday Gifts For Employees - Cooking Classes

I really like the idea of giving courses as gifts. At first, it might seem a bit burdensome, but think about it — we waste so much time on social media and other time-suckers, forgetting how rewarding it can be to engage in something tangible. Who knows, one of your employees might discover a new hobby after trying something new. That happened to me with a pottery course I received as a gift. Guess who has a small pottery wheel in their garage now?

I mentioned offering either a virtual or local cooking class, but I’d strongly recommend the local option. We already have enough virtual in our lives. Let’s save the virtual stuff for another pandemic — knock on wood, right?

2. Mystery Adventure Box
Send them a box filled with puzzles and clues that lead to an “adventure,” promoting teamwork and problem-solving.

 Mystery Adventure Box- Ideas For Holiday Gifts For Employees

The Mystery Adventure Box is definitely something you’d want to tailor to your team’s dynamic. It’s not for everyone, but since this is my list, I’m including things I personally like.

Also, the success of this gift heavily depends on the specific Mystery Adventure Box you choose. Don’t just buy the first one you see. Do some research, read reviews. It’s meant to be fun, and a little effort in selection can make a big difference. I would be thrilled to get such a gift, but I understand it’s very subjective. That’s the beauty of personalized gifts — they can create memorable experiences, provided they resonate with the recipient.

3. Subscription Box Service
Choose from a variety of interests such as gourmet snacks, books, or wellness items, and give a subscription for a monthly surprise.

Just like with the previous options, choosing a Subscription Box Service requires a bit of guesswork to figure out what might interest your employees. What I love most about this option is that it’s not just a one-off gift; it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Seriously, I’d be thrilled to receive, say, a book every month that I’m ‘supposed’ to read. Even though I love reading, I often simply don’t have the time to do it regularly (damn you, TikTok! 🤬), but a subscription box kind of makes you commit.

At first glance, a subscription box might not seem like the most exciting idea, but think about it — it’s the perfect gift. It’s something you probably wouldn’t buy for yourself, yet it’s neither useless nor impractical. It can bring many delightful moments — a perfect gift. No one has ever given me one…

4. Personalized Comic Book
Create custom comic books starring your employees as the heroes, a fun and creative way to celebrate your team.

Personalized Comic Book
Image from https://aicomicfactory.com

Here’s a great way to personally respond to colleagues or employees. A while back, I decided to congratulate the most active users of my other website community. To do this, I collected their photos under various pretexts and commissioned a professional artist to create funny caricatures. It wasn’t cheap back then, but the surprise and loyalty it generated were priceless.

Nowadays, this won’t cost you a fortune. With the advancement of AI, you can do some really interesting things. You could hire a freelancer to create a personalized comic, or you could make one yourself using various online tools. For instance, there’s comicsmaker.ai (this isn’t an advertisement, just an example — there are plenty of similar sites out there).

You’ll need to invest some time and attention, but isn’t that what makes a gift truly valuable?

5. Artisan Coffee Sampler
For the coffee enthusiasts, a selection of gourmet coffee beans from around the world can be a delightful treat.

Artisan Coffee Sampler

Once, I gave a similar gift to my father, so I can share some potential pitfalls to avoid. First and foremost, make sure the recipients actually drink coffee. Not everyone starts their day with a cup of joe. For various reasons, some people lead a healthier lifestyle, some might avoid coffee due to high blood pressure (hypertensive individuals tend to skip coffee in the morning), and others may have different preferences (for example, I drink Yerba Mate in the morning and prefer its effect).

Secondly, it’s a good idea to find out if the person enjoys coffee made from whole beans. As it turned out, my father, despite being a coffee lover, only drinks instant coffee. He finds dealing with coffee beans to be too much of a hassle.

6. Desk Aquarium
A mini aquarium for the office can provide a soothing atmosphere and a touch of nature.

mini aquarium for the office

I’ve never given this type of gift and only discovered it while preparing this article. I really like the idea, but you need to be very cautious. This type of gift requires a certain level of maintenance that not everyone will appreciate. In this case, it’s best to consider a very small aquarium with just one fish.

I used to have a relatively small home aquarium. Initially, it was very calming and pleasant to look at. However, you then need to clean it, remember to feed the fish, and change the water. It can quickly become more of an annoyance than a joy.

But don’t rush to the next point just yet. It turns out there are small, autonomous aquariums that require minimal effort. You can find them on Google or Amazon. They function as completely closed and self-sufficient systems that, once set up, need very little maintenance over a long period. Now that’s really cool.

Overall, this is a gift I definitely plan to give someday.

7. Custom Bobbleheads
Personalize bobbleheads to resemble your employees, adding a bit of humor and personality to their workspace.

Custom Bobbleheads

Bobbleheads are small ceramic or plastic figurines that look incredibly cool on office desks. They might not be necessary at home, but in an office or work cubicle, they are fantastic. Many companies make them, and they typically start at around 50 bucks. To order one, you need to provide a photo. The likeness is usually excellent.

I haven’t given one of these as a gift yet, but I saw one once and was really impressed. It’s definitely something I’d consider for the future.

8. VR Headset
For a tech-savvy team, virtual reality headsets can provide a fun escape and a glimpse into the future of technology.

VR Headset

If you’re advanced enough to have a PlayStation in your office, then you should definitely consider gifting a VR headset. These are currently very trendy and cool, and they’re reaching a level where there’s a lot of interesting content available for them. However, they aren’t cheap. More accurately, good ones aren’t cheap, and my recommendation is to avoid gifting the cheap ones altogether.

If you’ve never used a VR headset, trust me on this: don’t buy the cheap ones. Even high-end VR headsets might not appeal to everyone, but I don’t know anyone who enjoys the cheap ones. The difference between cheap and expensive VR headsets is even more pronounced than the difference between cheap and expensive smartphones.

9. Indoor Plant Kit
A kit with everything needed to grow an indoor plant or herb garden can brighten up their office space and improve air quality.

Indoor Plant Kit

An indoor plant kit is a relatively inexpensive and cool-looking gift. While it might be more popular with the ladies (sorry for the stereotype), I find it really appealing too. You can find some pretty unique kits with various types of plants.

Unlike a mini aquarium, I personally found it much more enjoyable to take care of a mini garden.

10. Interactive Cooking Gadgets
Innovative kitchen gadgets that make cooking fun and efficient, like a smart measuring cup or a digital spoon scale.

Interactive Cooking Gadgets

There are so many cool kitchen gadgets out there that you wouldn’t typically buy for yourself but would be thrilled to receive. I’d start with an electric pepper grinder. I was given one as a gift, and I use it every day, always remembering the person who gave it to me.

It’s best to choose genuinely practical items rather than novelty ones. Otherwise, they’ll just take up space in the cupboard until someone decides to toss them out.

11. Workshop or Seminar Enrollment
Pay for their enrollment in a workshop or seminar that aligns with their personal interests or professional goals.

If you know the person well, it won’t be difficult to pick something that will genuinely interest them. The key is to avoid generic workshops or seminars that won’t contribute to their personal growth. For example, if someone is passionate about astronomy, don’t give them an introductory stargazing tour — they probably already know the basics.

If you’re unsure, consult their family or close friends. For instance, my friend’s wife once asked for my advice on what new telescope to get him since we both enjoy amateur astronomy. She made the right choice by asking, because what she initially had in mind would have been more suitable for a child. With her budget and my input, she ended up gifting him a solar filter instead of a telescope, which he absolutely loved.

12. Cultural Experience Vouchers
Vouchers for local cultural experiences such as museum memberships, theater tickets, or concert passes.

Cultural Experience Vouchers

Do you know that joke, “How do I get to such-and-such place? I don’t know, I’m local”? Most residents of big cities have never been to the landmarks that attract tourists to their city. Museums, exhibitions, escape rooms, guided tours — these are all experiences that can be easily arranged even for lifelong residents. And, of course, they are perfect for those who have moved to the city for work or are temporarily living there.

13. Customized Puzzle
A puzzle made from a team photo or company logo can be both personal and entertaining.

Customized Puzzle

Probably the most controversial item on my list. If you’re a group of enthusiasts or startup team members who are truly passionate and proud of your product or company, then a puzzle might be an interesting idea. You could leave it out in a common area, like the kitchen, and work on it during coffee breaks. However, if you have a more traditional office environment, it might be a bit dull. Not to mention, puzzles aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.

Recently, I was gifted an interactive Lego picture where you can upload your photo, get step-by-step instructions, and create a pixelated image using Lego pieces. The concept sounded great and I loved the idea, but in practice, I found it quite boring to put together, so I abandoned it. I love puzzles, but I’m not a big fan of Lego — maybe that’s the issue.

14. Portable Hammock
A lightweight and portable hammock they can use for camping trips or just relaxing outdoors.

Portable Hammock

If you prefer outings to the park or nature over traditional corporate parties, then this could be a great gift for your colleagues or employees. Or if you have a place outside the office (or even in the office!) where you can set up a hammock, consider giving one as a gift. Modern technology allows for hammocks made from very light and thin material, which can easily fit in your pocket.

15. Antique Desk Accessories
Elegant antique accessories like a vintage stapler or an antique desk lamp can add character to their workspace.

Antique Desk Accessories

The key to success with this gift is ensuring that the antique is genuine, not a replica or a fake. Yes, it’s expensive and impractical, but if you’re out of ideas, this is always a reliable option. You can find one fairly quickly, and there’s no long wait for production. Plus, the bonus is that each gift is likely to be unique.

16. Smart Jump Rope
A jump rope that tracks the number of jumps and calories burned, perfect for fitness enthusiasts.

16. Smart Jump Rope

An original, inexpensive, yet useful gift for those with sedentary jobs is a jump rope. Nowadays, fitness trackers and smartwatches can serve a similar purpose, but a jump rope stands out as a more unique option. However, you need to be mindful of your colleagues’ preferences and health conditions. This type of exercise might not be suitable for everyone, and people with musculoskeletal issues might not appreciate such a gift.

17. Exotic Teas Collection
A collection of rare and exotic teas from around the world, beautifully packaged for the tea lover.

17. Exotic Teas Collection

I’m a big fan of teas. Unlike coffee, there are so many more possibilities here. There are countless types and flavors of tea. However, you need to have some knowledge to avoid mistakes like the one I made with my first pu-erh tea. My father brought me a compressed tea brick of elite pu-erh as a gift from China. At the time, I wasn’t very into teas, and after the first brew, the entire tea brick ended up in the trash. What now amazes me about shu pu-erh — the rich, earthy taste and aroma—back then smelled like an unwashed horse, excuse the vivid comparison.

So, my recommendation is to pair a set of elite teas with a guidebook on these teas or on tea ceremonies. This will help the recipient appreciate and understand the gift. Secondly, don’t buy sets of elite teas from non-specialty stores. Only specialized tea shops can offer authentic teas. Even a set of loose-leaf teas can be wonderful. Lastly, avoid sets of flavored teas, as they are often of the lowest quality. While I enjoy both elite and vividly flavored teas, the latter are unlikely to offer any health benefits. In contrast, high-quality teas are excellent antioxidants.

18. Digital Art Tablet
For the creative ones in your team, a digital art tablet can provide a new outlet for their creativity.

Digital Art Tablet

I would be thrilled to receive such a gift. I love drawing for fun, including on a tablet. However, since I already have an iPad Pro, I probably won’t be getting a dedicated graphics tablet anytime soon. But giving someone a graphics tablet could inspire them to try drawing, even if they’ve never done it before. Here’s a secret — anyone can draw! And I’m not talking about AI-generated images, which are cool, but nothing beats the satisfaction of completing a piece of artwork.

There are plenty of online courses (which you could also gift along with the tablet), free videos, and books that can teach you to enjoy drawing in a short time. Even if you don’t create masterpieces for exhibitions, you’ll at least have drawings you can proudly hang on your wall.

In summary, this is not a cheap gift and might initially seem like a “why would I need this” kind of present, but it could become the best gift of their life. Plus, there’s an additional aspect that makes it a great gift for employees. There is a whole field in personal growth psychology that focuses on enhancing creativity to improve performance in various areas, from work to personal life.

It’s a fantastic gift that might not have come to your mind without this list. Isn’t that right?

19. Personal Development Books
Curated books that align with each employee’s interests or career goals, focusing on personal and professional growth.

It would be ideal if you could gift a personal or professional growth guide that you are personally familiar with and that has helped you in some way. However, as a quick and inexpensive gift option, you can visit the nearest bookstore and select a book for each employee that could be useful in their specific field of work.

20. Escape Room Experience
Organize a team-building escape room experience, either virtually or locally, to foster collaboration and problem-solving skills.

Escape Room Experience

I already mentioned this type of gift briefly, but I decided to highlight escape rooms separately. This experience can really bring a team together. If it becomes a tradition, like celebrating the completion of a project, it can also serve as a great incentive. It’s important to understand that this is a collective gift, as people are unlikely to visit escape rooms frequently on their own.

One potential issue is if someone has already been to the escape room you choose. If you live in a small town, this can be a significant problem. In that case, you could combine the escape room visit with a trip to another city. This way, it becomes an adventure that offers new experiences for everyone involved.

I hope our list of unique gifts for your employees will be useful to you. Finding unique and memorable gifts for your staff can be a challenging task, I’m confident that our selection will help you find the perfect ones.

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