Five tips for a successful Secret Santa

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Christmas present sat on sofa

Festivities are starting to take shape across the UK – the Christmas lights have been turned on across our highstreets and Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You is defrosting as we speak.

The festive season also means that the classic Secret Santa gift swap is upon us once again. A study from instantprint found that 35% of British workers are happy participating in the popular gifting trend [1]. It can contribute to positive morale in the office and add an extra bit of excitement alongside any workplace benefits you might already be offering employees at this time of year.

However, though there are many positives to the concept, there can also be some drawbacks. The same study quoting over a third of happy British workers, also indicates that the number of people who dislike Secret Santa rose from 19% in 2019 to 31% in 2021. With consumer pressures and the rising cost-of-living; it’s easy to understand why some employees are less than enthusiastic about the gift giving traditions at the office.

There is also some debate about how much employees would like to spend. Many employees will no doubt have different expectations of what the cost might be, and may feel anxious if the price point is more then expected. The average employee spends £12.50 on a Secret Santa gift for their colleagues, with the majority (34%) spending around £10.

So if you are going to kick off the festive season with a gift-giving initiative, it’s important to take the right approach.

Here are some tips to ensure your Secret Santa efforts are as successful as can be:

Don’t make it compulsory

Making activities like these compulsory can add unwanted stress to a colleague’s schedule and trigger office politics. While every employee should be invited to participate, making opting out easy and anonymous will mean there’s no pressure if individuals decide it’s not for them. It also means no-one ends up with a dud gift as everyone has voluntarily chosen to take part and isn’t left grasping at straws at the last minute.

Set a budget

As the previous statistics reveal, Brits have varying ideas on how much to spend on Secret Santa. Keep things streamlined with a budget ensures there’s not an imbalance in spending and employees don’t feel excluded. It’s worth ensuring the designated amount is achievable for all participants as well – setting the budget too high could make things awkward.

Consider a wish list or questionnaire

In larger organisations, knowing what to buy for a colleague can be daunting. Offering the option of filling out a short questionnaire or nominating a wish list can take the stress out of gifting and ensure the allocated budget isn’t wasted on a present that the receiver doesn’t like or use. It’s also worth reminding all employees that gifts could be opened publicly and as such, should be appropriately chosen.

Don’t leave it to the last minute

December is notoriously busy in workplaces, so it’s best to get in early. Consider sending out the initial invite in November, leaving plenty of time for withdrawals, the drawing of names and gift sourcing.

It’s also worth scheduling reminders as you inch closer to the exchange date to make sure no-one is left behind. Sending out an email or company-wide message two weeks, a week and then a few days before will hopefully reduce any frantic last-minute purchases.

Get some help

There are plenty of free programmes that can make a gift exchange easier., Secret Santa Organiser, Elfster and Sneaky Santa are all free online resources that can automatically arrange the distribution of names amongst offices. Just enter the email addresses of the participants and let the automated programmes work their magic. Some programmes also include the possibility of adding wish lists and gift suggestions, making the entire process even easier.

Need Christmas gift inspiration? Here’s where you can find something guaranteed to please:

Notonthehighstreet– this online emporium holds plenty of left-of-centre gifts for those looking for something off high street

Etsy – need something even more niche? Etsy is your go-to. With plenty of unique and home-made goods, it will have something for every colleague

IWOOT – standing for I Want One of Those, the gift website has every quirky gift you can think of – and those you can’t.

No time for Secret Santa? Need more help in the office? Get in touch with Tiger today to find out how we can help.



Author Tiger Contributor Tiger Recruitment Team

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