Use a Delivery Service for a Gift Exchange
Office gift exchanges have been a long-time tradition during the holidays. Two main styles of organizing gift-giving extravaganzas are Secret Santa and White Elephant.
Secret Santa works like this: Each team member chooses a person randomly (for example, everyone is assigned a name from a random generator) for whom they purchase a gift. The gift-giver remains anonymous, presenting the gift to their person in a secret manner (e.g., having the gift delivered to their home), and each person tries to guess who their gift came from after all gifts have been received.
On the other hand, the White Elephant game is played a little differently. Everyone brings a wrapped White Elephant gift and chooses a number. The person who chose No. 1 chooses a gift from the pile and unwraps it. The person who chose No. 2 then has the option to steal that gift to keep for themselves or open a new one. Then, whoever has No. 3 can choose to take gift No. 1 or 2 or open a new one, and so forth. There are various twists on these fun holiday office gift exchanges, but ultimately, the idea is always some blind gift-giving.
Although it won’t be possible to replicate the exact concept of a White Elephant gift exchange with a remote workforce, you can still organize a remote Secret Santa activity and keep the gift giver’s identity a secret. That’s the main difference between an in-office Secret Santa and one that’s completely remote.
Since the gifts are being shipped and delivered, a return address will ruin the secret part of Secret Santa! What’s the fix? To make sure that the gift-giver remains anonymous, you can ask that everyone participating use a different return address, like the game organizer’s address. This will keep the mystery alive and well between the gift-giver and the gift-receiver.
Some helpful websites are available that pair people up for the gift exchange, such as Elfster, which simplifies the organization process by letting you add all the details for the gift exchange, matches everyone up, and sends them all the necessary information. There is also DrawNames, a handy site that will save your list year after year so that you never get matched with the same person twice. Meanwhile, Giftster acts very much like a registry where participants can add items to a wish list and things can be marked as they’re purchased. This Secret Santa generator is another option, as well.
You can take the remote gift exchange one step further and arrange for a virtual conference call where everyone can join together to open their gifts and guess who their Santa was among the whole group. Play holiday songs in the background while everyone opens their gifts, encourage people to dress up in festive colors, and keep the holiday cheer loud and proud.
But what happens if you pick a person you don’t know very well? In this situation, you might not be sure what kind of gift to purchase for this particular co-worker because you don’t know much about their hobbies and interests outside the workplace. The trick here is to think about practical gifts, like a wireless mouse, an insulated water bottle, or a planner. Other ideas could be a variety pack of K-Cup® pods, a colorful desktop calendar, a desk lamp, or a set of pens.
Remember that no one is expected to spend a lot of money on these friendly gift exchanges, so don’t get too stressed about it if you end up picking a person you don’t know all that well. In most cases, there’s a mutually agreed-on cap on the dollar amount that each participant can spend on the gift. It’s just supposed to be a fun, light-hearted way to engage with your co-workers during a time when you don’t see each other in the office.