In theory, it should be fun.
It should be a deeply wonderful tradition of gifting your colleagues extremely thoughtful and utterly delightful things they weren’t expecting and will always remember.
In reality, Secret Santa is far from fun.
It’s become the slightly awkward tradition of gifting your colleagues deeply impersonal and panic-bought stuff they won’t be surprised by (another hilarious mug, anyone?) and will almost certainly throw away.
But help is at hand. Welcome to the world’s most enjoyable – and least wasteful – Secret Santa gift list.
It features 22 great gifts that your colleagues won’t throw away, in part because they can’t throw them away. Because they’re not physical gifts, but memorable surprises. Not made in carbon-belching factories and summoned with an Amazon one-click, but made possible by a little effort and a little love from their colleague – yes, you.
So this year, why not treat your colleague to…
Unprompted applause in their next meeting
They’ve contributed relentlessly and it’s been overlooked remorselessly – but it’s time for that to change. So when they make a great point in an upcoming meeting, surprise them with the applause they utterly deserve.
A weekly office dog walk
Your colleague has an office dog, and its all-round furriness, neediness and cuteness make your work feel a lot less like work. Thank your colleague (and get to spend time with a pooch) by walking that dog weekly.
Pencils sharpened on demand
Your colleague has lots of pencils on their desk and little time to sharpen them. Gift them a world of perma-sharpened pencils, in which bluntness is but a distant memory. Become their secret sharpener.
A month of funny memes
It’s a skateboarding dog, or a grumpy cat (RIP). It’s Boromir from Lord of the Rings or Willy Wonka from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It’s a month of funny memes sent straight to your colleague’s inbox. LOL.
Dull, dark and disappointing, January is a never-ending Christmas come-down. Be the light your colleague’s January so desperately needs by sending them inspirational texts for a week. Come on champ, you can do it!
A keyboard shortcut tutorial
As you know all too well, time is money, and your colleague spends too much of it using slow, difficult-to-find menus. Help them save valuable milliseconds by teaching them the way of the ALT, the beauty of the CMD and art of the SHIFT. Be their shortcut sensei.
An A4 origami tutorial
It’s an unwanted letter from the recruitment specialist. It’s an unread sheet of job numbers from accounts. But it could be a swan, a dog or a dinosaur. Learn origami on YouTube, then teach your colleague.
A Spotify playlist
It’s Monday morning. There are 480 minutes until the end of the day. How do you want your colleague to spend them? Being irritated by the hum of the printer or tormented by inane office chatter? No. You’re not a monster. In fact, you’re an aspiring DJ, and you want them to be listening to your expertly crafted Spotify playlist.
A surprise burrito
Mince pies may be a traditional Christmas treat, but sometimes the best things in life are those we expect the… Hark! What was that? It’s the thud of you dropping a seasonally-inappropriate surprise burrito onto your colleague’s desk.
Great job! Looking good! Nice glasses! These are just some of the flattering remarks that your colleague could be reading on the day you stick a cacophony of post-it compliments around their desk.
Their office plant watered for a month
Office plants are so ‘in’ right now. Some of us are drawn to their clean-air qualities, others are seduced by their curvy leaves and others still are just here for the pottery. Whatever it is, make your colleague’s office plant flourish by diligently watering it for a month.
Meet my most famous mate
That famous friend you’re always banging on about? It’s time to pass on the bragging rights. Take them out for a drink with your colleague – now you’ve both got a ‘famous friend’.
A cheeky tipple
Frogmarch your colleague to the closest bar or pub and treat them – and yourself – to a cheeky lunchtime drink. Savour a glass, shoot the breeze and mark it down as an off-site.
Be a PA for a day
Coffee run? Meeting to be scheduled? Directions to dinner? Take the weight off your colleague’s shoulders by offering your PA services for a day. Basically, it’s The Devil Wears Prada, and you’re Anne Hathaway.
Coffee refills for a week
Coffee is great, isn’t it? You know it, we know it, and your colleague knows it too. Honour the power of the bean by refilling your colleague’s coffee cup whenever they need. And give them the good stuff – come on, don’t be a drip.
A home-baked cake
Channel Mary Berry, Nigella or Remy, the rat from Ratatouille, by baking a cake for your colleague. Not only will you heroically save the day with a sweet treat, but it’s also very likely that you’ll get a slice. Now that’s a win-win.
January timesheets sorted
Ah, timesheets! That pernickety and boring practice of remembering exactly what you were doing at 5pm on Wednesday a week, or a couple of months ago. Doing your colleague’s timesheets would be astonishingly selfless. So do it.
A desk swap
Life’s not fair. Your desk is next to a window, close to the coffee machine and nowhere near that of the ever-coughing Roshan. Your colleague’s desk is next to a wall, miles from the coffee machine and right next to Roshan. Be kind, and swap desks.
A monthly screen clean
Screens are amazing. They show us our documents, our calendar, random Internet listicles like this one, and so much more. But you’ve noticed that your colleague’s screen is woefully dirty. You can make it gleam again once a month, by cleaning it.
Beat me in an arm wrestle
There’s no greater gift than an ego boost in front of the whole office. Set your pride aside and get in the festive spirit by letting your colleague publicly beat you in an arm wrestle.
The gift of literature
Maybe it’s Catcher in the Rye, because you were a misunderstood intellectual teen, like Holden. Or maybe it’s that joke book you secretly read on the loo. Either way, it doesn’t get much more personal than lending a colleague your favourite book.
If you’re taken by these gifts and think your colleagues will be too, then sign your team up to Ungifted Secret Santa – the Secret Santa for colleagues who want to gift each other unforgettable surprises instead of unwanted stuff this holiday.