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Thanks to email and a plethora of platforms that allow us to collaborate digitally, most of us have staffers, clients, and colleagues who live far and wide these days. While there are major benefits to working with people scattered all around the country, it can pose a particular challenge when it comes time to give holiday gifts. Maybe you have an endless list of people to thank? Maybe you don’t have hours to spend packing and mailing out gifts? Maybe you don’t even have everyone’s physical address? Maybe all three of these are true? That’s where these creative ideas come in.
We spoke with thoughtful managers from companies across the country to see how they’re planning on thanking their virtual employees and contacts this year. A few particularly great ideas came up again and again. (Dozens of managers suggested Starbucks Cards, for example.) Take a look at these easy, high-impact ideas to inform your own holiday gifting strategy.
1. Send gift cards everyone will love
Gift cards, especially Starbucks Cards, were, by far, the most popular suggestion. “I’ve been giving out Starbucks Cards at the holidays for over 17 years. I give $20 per person so that folks can get a few beverages with a treat,” says Susie Penner, senior director of corporate communications at GoDaddy. “I initially chose Starbucks because there are Starbucks locations everywhere.”
A Starbucks Card is sure to be well received, too: “I know everyone appreciates using them,” Penner adds. And they’re incredibly easy to order, even at scale. In fact, Starbucks has a site where you can easily buy gift cards in bulk, for groups of 15 or more people. To ensure a fast and safe delivery, managers can order and schedule eGift cards to be sent virtually to employees and colleagues working all around the country. Looking to make them extra special? Co-branded cards are available, allowing you to include your own company logo on physical and digital card orders.
Order Starbucks Cards now and use the special code StarbucksJoy5 to receive 5% off your total order value when you order $1,000 or more in Starbucks Cards. Offer is valid 11/8–11/21, conditions apply.
2. Throw a virtual party
Many managers are fans of getting the whole gang together — for a virtual party. What to do once everyone is on the line? Gerald Lombardo, the cofounder of a dynamic online grammar tool, highly recommends raffling off prizes (ideally so everyone can win something). Other managers mentioned speeches, special awards, and even scavenger hunts that help far-flung teams get to know each other better (go find a mug that means a lot to you!).
Depending on the size of your team, you can steal this idea from Alex Wan, the cofounder of VinPit, an online database of registered vehicles. “I’m planning to have each team member speak frankly of what they’re proud of and what they’re looking forward to,” he says. “This will not only strengthen the relationship between the company and the team but also give me an idea of what my team likes most and what they expect of me.”
You could also send a bottle of wine, a nonalcoholic cocktail, or food for people to enjoy during the call.
3. Give the gift of restorative time
Mental health matters — and good managers are putting extra thought into the well-being of their staffers, clients, and vendors. “To help our workforce replenish their mental health, we are planning to offer them a virtual meditation retreat,” says a manager at an information-based blogging platform. An agent and acquisition manager at a real estate solutions and investment company points out that nature is great for mental health and suggests giving out weekend passes to national parks or other nearby attractions.
If it’s your own staff you’re trying to thank, here’s another idea that’s always appreciated: Give employees extra time off. Suggestions ranged from one day, which people can use whenever they’d like, all the way up to a “dark week” between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, so folks can recharge and enjoy time with their families. “The time off is something people look forward to,” says Michael Alexis, the CEO of TeamBuilding, which runs virtual retreats for top tech companies. “Another effect of the extra time off is that staff have more flexibility to use their PTO and vacation days throughout the year, which supports mental health.”
4. Arrange for a special dinner
There are lots of ways to treat staffers and clients to a holiday dinner, even from hundreds of miles away. Some managers suggested sending ingredient boxes like fish samplers, steaks, or a bounty of vegetables. Or, as one tech blogger suggested, you could even send everyone a one-time subscription for a meal kit and, with a bit of careful coordination, cook through the box together as a virtual group. Don’t forget to take a moment to say cheers to working as a team this year.
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