Coworker Gift Ideas

Secret Santa Ideas for Your Friend at Work

Getting the right gift for a coworker can help you make friends at work.
Getting the right gift for a coworker can help you make friends at work. Fotosearch/Getty Images

Buying just the right gift for a coworker can be a challenge because you might not know them as well as you do a close friend. And if you're trying to become friends with people in the office you want to make sure you give them something really great that will encourage your budding friendship to grow. Gifts can give a subtle message, so you want to make sure yours says the right thing. 

Make Your Gift As Personal As Possible

How much do you know about your coworker? This will help you get just the right present. Find out about their hobbies, what types of things they like to do on a weekend, and what they would consider their favorite way to spend a day. Check out their office space so you don't duplicate some of the things they already have in it. Ask your friend:

  • If they collect anything
  • If they like to read (Here's some great gift ideas for book lovers.)
  • Which restaurant is their favorite
  • Which hobby would they like to learn if they had time
  • Favorite magazines
  • Which stores they like to shop

If you're trying to have your gift be a surprise, work these questions in several weeks in advance so you don't come off as obviously digging for information. Or, get someone else in the office to help. You could also say you're looking for information for a present for your cousin or brother, and then ask for suggestions that way.

Also, pay attention to the things they say. If they can't stop raving about a new restaurant, that's a good hint that they would enjoy a gift certificate there. If they just picked up a new e-reader, a gift card from Amazon or Barnes and Noble would be appropriate. 

Homemade Gifts

Who doesn't appreciate something that another person took the time to create from scratch? The key with homemade is to be sure it is something the person will like. If you know that your office mate doesn't like crocheted items, for example, don't bother making something like that for them.

If you are up for a homemade present, here are a few ideas.

  • Customizable Cross Stitch Picture: This item is easily personalized and would work out great as a small picture for the office or even a coaster for your pal's morning coffee.
  • Knitted Scarf: If you're handy with knitting needles, whip up a scarf or two to help with the cold winter months.
  • Scrapbook Calendar: I've done this for a couple different people and each time the person has kept the calendar even several years after. I like to include some of those "odd days" that people name like ice cream day or fountain pen month (I'm making those up, but there are just as many silly days), and also things like the person's birthday, any momentous days, or fun celebrity items. Decorate the calendar using a kit, or just find a blank calendar and add photos and special papers.

Generic Gifts

If you want to give something personal but still generic, choose a gift that most people like, such as high-quality chocolates, cookies, or even gloves or a scarf for winter. If your friend is really into a specific cause, a donation to a favorite charity might be appreciated. Treat baskets are always a nice gift, and you can mix them up with a variety food and office items, or personalize it with a theme your friend will enjoy.

Funny gifts can either go well or be totally misunderstood, so use caution if you're giving something meant as a joke. I prefer to give something cute and humorous, but useful. (That way, if they don't think it's funny at least they can still use it.) One thing that fits the bill is a mini refrigerator that you plug into a USB port. Your pal can keep their soft drink cold and think of you fondly as they do.

Office Supplies

If you've been unsuccessful at trying to figure out what your office friend might like, office supplies are always a safe bet. A gift made up of office supplies doesn't have to be boring. In fact, it can be a nice present, especially when you're just getting to know someone. The key to giving an office-related item as a gift is to make it as personal and as high-quality as possible.

Personalizing any gift makes it better. This cute mouse pad will help spruce up your friend's office space.

Any of these items that have your friend's name or initials on it would work also:

  • Leather notepad cover
  • Desktop calendar
  • Business cards holder
  • Nice quality pens
  • Picture frames
  • Clock
  • Paperweight

Get creative when giving office supplies. If you have a coworker with a green thumb who worries about what will happen to their plants when they’re on vacation, a terracotta stake set would definitely make them smile. The set releases just the right amount of water into the soil. They can use recycled glass or plastic bottles to fill the water and just turn upside down and place in the stake. The terracotta stakes do the rest of the work. 

You can also give them something that will help personalize their cubical or office space, like removal-able wall decals, floor mats, or magnets for file cabinets. I especially like the book Cube Chic, which gives fun ideas on how to really change up the look of your cubical.

Related: When You're Stumped on What to Give a Friend | Giving a Gift Card | Friendship Gift Books