’Tis the season. Christmas music is playing through the stores full of people shopping for gifts and calendars are quickly filling up with holiday parties. And just as Santa has to figure out who was naughty and nice, most of us have to figure out who should make it on to our list — family, friends and, yes, even co-workers. Turns out, about 58 percent of workers plan to give gifts to people at their office, according to a recent survey of 2,800 senior managers by OfficeTeam, a national staffing company. And while the majority of them don’t feel obligated to do so, there is a small portion (about 16 percent) who do.
“For many the anxiety starts when figuring out who is on your shopping list. And deciding to leave co-workers on or off can certainly be a stressful decision,” said Adrian Garcia, data reporter at Bankrate. According to his research, 48 percent of employed adults felt pressured to overspend on gifts. “The last thing an employer would want to do is add to the stress by creating expectations for workers to reach deep into their paychecks to cover gifts for co-workers or their bosses. Companies can take the same advice most of us should with our family and loved ones: make expectations clear, set spending limits and don’t lose sight of the fact the holidays are about spending time together.”
Office games like Secret Santa can help keep the costs down
There are a few ways that companies can ensure that their employees stress less. One option is to select a gift-giving game like Secret Santa or Yankee Swap, which means employees have to buy just one gift for their co-workers that year. This also allows companies to set a dollar limit on how much their employees should spend, said Garcia.
“Companies can also get creative and help take away the pressure to spend by moving their holiday parties back and allowing employees to exchange White Elephant gifts from items they received but don’t need or want,” he added. “The goal is for co-workers to celebrate and build camaraderie, not feel more giving guilt.”
Companies should talk to their employees and figure out what type of gift-giving game would work for them.
"Get feedback as well about what the maximum amount should be,” said Brandi Britton, OfficeTeam district president. “We typically see around $25 for a secret Christmas gift or secret holiday gift.” She suggests buying items like office accessories, a business card holder or a coffee mug that captures your co-worker’s personality. Homemade gifts like baked cookies can also be a good way to save money.
And if all else fails, give money! A survey of 500 consumers by Zelle, a money transfer app, found that 58 percent of them would prefer to receive money as a gift. Money gifts can take the form of gift cards, money transfers or even donations to a favorite charity.
You probably should attend your holiday office party
Oftentimes the office gift giving takes place at the office holiday party. Ninety-three percent of senior managers surveyed by OfficeTeam said that their company was planning some sort of year-end activity — half on-site and half off-site. And while these parties are usually not mandatory, about 66 percent of managers indicated that there’s an unwritten rule that employees should attend the party, Britton said.
“If you have strong feelings about it then certainly it's OK to not attend, but if you're just on the fence, it's better to participate than not,” she said. “It does make an impression on managers, [it] might say, you know, how collaborative you are and how social you might be. And if it's important to you that you don't attend, then certainly don't attend. Maybe pull your manager aside and explain to them why. But when in doubt, have a little fun. Everybody's worked hard this year they deserve to enjoy themselves.”
If you do attend, Britton advises that you behave yourself. “You don’t want to be the one that everyone talks about for the next year from the current year’s holiday party,” she said.
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