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Have you ever struggled to find the perfect gift for someone at work or in your professional circle?

With birthdays, holidays, and new jobs abounding throughout every year, getting gifts for your coworkers, team, and even for your friends can be challenging. There are different rules when you’re giving gifts at or for work, and it can be really daunting to find the right things that convey the right message or that don’t come off as weird to the people you work with.

And while it can be challenging, giving gifts at the right moments is a great way to show your peers and employees that you are invested in them.

After all, gifts are a tangible way to show someone you want to add value to them, help them be happier or more successful, and that you care about their presence in your life.

So how can you knock it out of the park and give a good gift for someone you work with?

We are all about making the confusing-but-important parts of work life a little bit less confusing and a little bit more rewarding, so we decided to make a list of 19 great gifts to help you shine and give the perfect present to a coworker, peer, employee, or professional friend.

Obviously we believe that the best gift you can give your colleague is a Safari membership (did you know you can also set up your team?), but if you have already made the commitment to lifelong learning, here are some other gifts we love.

Brain tickling gifts: give the gift of learning

1. A Lumosity subscription

You work out your body, so why not work out your mind as well? Lumosity is a collection of brain ticklers and teasers designed by top neuroscientists that’s personalized for your own learning needs. We love the focus on gamification as a path to effective learning!

2. A book you love

My go-to recommendation in this category is always So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport. But it could be just about any book that you really love and want to share with someone. There is something really personal and meaningful about sharing a book you love with someone, and it’s a great way to convey lots of meaning to a peer, employee, mentee, or friend without spending a lot of money.

Office life brighteners: liven or lovely up their work life

3. Personalized notecards or notepads

Personalizing note cards or note paper for a coworker is a nice, simple way to add some beauty to their daily work life. Everybody writes things down, sends thank you notes, and sends messages to other people throughout the day, so personalized stationery is an easy way to make those normally mundane processes a little bit fancier. Plus, since it is unique to the person (it has their name on it, after all), it gives the gift a really special and personal touch from you, since it is something that you specifically had created just for them.

4. Nice pens

There is something magical about writing with a great pen. When writing feels effortless, smooth, and beautiful, it adds a little bit of bounce to every little note you take. So giving the gift of a great pen is a perfect way to make someone’s work life a little bit nicer every time they take a note.

KateM’s favorite pens are Le Pen, and you can get a lot of them to share without spending much money while still improving every sticky note and to-do list your coworker writes from now on.

5. Pandora subscription

I got a Pandora subscription for my birthday last year and it was a game-changer. I don’t usually listen to a lot of music at work, but since I got unlimited music streaming for free as a gift, I found myself using it more and more often, and having a way better time powering through my daily tasks.

6. Nice hand lotion

At work, most people are washing their hands all the time. You’re in a public place, spending many hours there, and you are bound to make a trip to the kitchen or bathroom a couple of times a day. To keep your hands soft and comfortable, it’s nice to have hand lotion at your desk to refresh your skin after lots of washes.

I love Kiehl’s lotion for this, though you could also give Jack Black for a more masculine touch.

7. A great mug

Most of us have a favorite mug that we tote around the office with us every single day. Giving someone a special vessel to enjoy their morning coffee or tea in is a lovely way to boost their life in the office every single day. Make sure to invest in something you think they’ll really like, whether that means the mug is beautifully designed, made from a super durable material, or has a fun image or joke on the side.

8. A day off

Okay, so not everyone has the power to send their coworker home for the day just because it’s their birthday or you’re celebrating something special. But if you’re the boss and a day off is just what this person needs, by all means, let them know you are happy to send them home to enjoy their day exactly as they’d wish, or give them a future vacation day for them to use as they please.

Food gifts: the fastest way to your coworker’s heart is through their stomach

9. A Starbucks card

If you’re truly stumped on what to get someone, a Starbucks card is a great standby. Everyone has a Starbucks somewhere near them, and everyone can find something to eat, drink, or enjoy there at some point. Make sure to load it up with enough money to actually cover at least one drink, but from there, you are good to go. Nice and simple.

10. Gift certificate to a favorite lunch place

Everyone has their favorite lunch spot near the office. Treat your coworker or employee to a free lunch, on you, anytime they want.

If it’s their birthday or another special day, it can be even more meaningful if you simply take them out to lunch yourself. Let them know in advance that you’d like to do that, so they don’t make other plans, and then treat them to a delicious meal at their favorite place to celebrate.

Productivity gifts: help them do amazing things

11. An Esington glass timer

Designed to help you focus for short bursts of time (and ideally build up to effectively time-blocking and being productive for long stretches) these beautiful timers are a favorite of our CEO, Kate Matsudaira. Not only will an Esington timer help the recipient become more productive and efficient, but you’ll give them something beautiful for their desk too.

12. An Evernote Subscription

I keep a running to-do list in Evernote every single week, plus it helps me save blog post ideas, strategy ideas, and big picture questions until just when I need to access them. And with a paid Evernote subscription, you can do lots more. If you have a coworker or peer who loves to stay on top of everything digitally, this subscription can supercharge their planning, writing, and organization.

Travel gifts: brighten up their commute or business travel

13. A nice pair of in-ear headphones for commuting

Know someone who rides their bike, the train, or the bus into work every day? Give them the gift of lovely listening with some in-ear headphones to liven up their commute. (This goes along well with an Audible subscription, by the way!) We love these Bose headphones, though they may be out of the price range of your average office birthday — but they would make a great gift for a friend or someone you want to treat.

14. A nice messenger bag

For a special occasion, a really nice messenger bag is a perfect option. Most of us lug a fair amount of stuff with us into the office every day, and a messenger bag can keep all that clutter in order and easy to carry — while looking good too. We have gotten tons of recommendations that Jack Spade bags are amazing and stylish, though there are plenty of options out there depending on your gift recipient’s personal style.

15. A sleek travel thermos or water bottle

For the well-caffeinated or well-hydrated coworker, a really high quality travel vessel can be a much appreciated way to improve their travel time between home and work. A nice thermos or water bottle can take their beverage game to the next level, and make you the superstar who helped them get there.

16. A beautiful laptop bag

If your friend, coworker, or employee has to bring their computer into the office every day (or if they just travel a lot with their computer) a laptop bag is a perfect gift to help improve their lives. Get them something that represents their style, and that is well made too, so that your gift actually makes traveling around with their computer a little bit more luxurious. 

New job gifts: help them shine & get in good with their new team

17. Food treats to share

Help your friend make a big impact on their first day of work by giving them a basket of treats to bring in for their whole new team. A box of Sees candy, a basket of cookies, or a goodie box of salty treats is a fun way to help your friend make a splash and get on everyone’s good side (since who doesn’t love the person who brings treats to the office?).

18. A cute candy dish

Everyone loves the person who brings treats to the office, but everyone especially loves the person who has candy on their desk every single day. Help them get in good with their new coworkers — and inspire some new conversations with people swinging by their desk for a treat — by offering them a cute, sleek candy dish and a bag of candy that they can offer.

19. A RocksBox subscription

The first days on a new job can be daunting. But looking good and feeling confident on your first day of work can help ease the nerves of being in a new place. Give a RocksBox subscription to a friend starting a new role, and she can have fresh jewelry to make her feel pulled together and looking great on her first day. This monthly subscription lets you rent and return jewelry as often as you want, which means you can help your friend feel fresh and pulled together every week at work too.


Still stumped on a good gift to give at work? Let us know in the comments and we’ll crowdsource a great solution for you. And if you’ve given or received an awesome gift at work or with a professional contact, please let us know! The more helpful ideas here, the better. :)

For more tips on surviving the workplace:

           HBR Guide to Office Politics Tackle Office Nightmares

Tags: birthdays, coworkers, culture, gifts, holidays, office, relationships, team,

One Response to “Giving presents to coworkers: 19 great gift ideas for people at work”

  1. Xombie Rainbow

    You can never go wrong with rainbows and unicorns. Google “sweet sticky rainbows” to get all the rainbow gifts you could ever want. For unicorns Google “unicorn meat” or “unicorn noms.”