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Free Gift Ideas for Co-workers

· How To Guides,relationships,Wellbeing

‘Tis the season for giving and spreading joy – but just remember that not all gifts come wrapped and not all joy comes with a price tag. Showing people that you are thinking of them and that you care can be free and in some ways more significant than another Christmas jumper or box of choccies.

Express your gratitude

Hopefully we show our gratitude to people on a daily basis. But sometimes in amongst the rush of a working day there are little things that can go un-noticed or taken for granted; making hot drinks, organising the work area, offering a listening ear, energising you with a joke or nice story. Making the time to tell someone how much they are appreciated, either verbally, via email or a card can really brighten up their day and show how much they mean to you. 

In a more professional capacity, expressing gratitude in the form of testimonials and reviews can also be very beneficial to someone's career or service too.

Offer your time

It’s absolutely true that time is our greatest commodity. Offering to spend that time on or with someone can show a great deal of care, especially if it is done in a thoughtful way. A great way to do this is by doing someone a favour – perhaps even gifting them hand made coupons:

A night watching a film of your choice, shoulder massage, one evening’s babysitting, car cleaning service, a home cooked meal, offering to clean out the stock cupboard.

favour coupons, spending time with people, gratitude

Offer your expertise

If you want to step up the ‘time’ gift then you can offer to teach / coach / demonstrate something that is an area of expertise. Learning a new skill can be difficult on your own so tuition is very valuable and can also help people feel more confident about themselves – especially if they have been putting something off for a while. Teaching sessions can range from the very simple to the complex depending on how much time you have to give and how much the recipient will want to learn.

How to play an instrument, to use a program on the computer, to draw flowers, to make a winter soup, to write a speech.

Give supportive feedback

This one is a year-rounder, but we can pay special attention to it during the festive season. Getting feedback can be a mixed bag at times. We don’t want to have our ego’s unnecessarily massaged, nor do we want to be criticised in all we do. Being able to give someone meaningful and supportive feedback in their work is an essential part of helping them grow.

Always start by focusing on positives. Make a point of telling someone what they have done well and things you are grateful for. This helps them continue to do those things in future. Do not ‘criticise’ – say what they did wrong. Instead think about ‘stretches’ or ‘targets’ – things that they can improve on for next time. Always frame these positively by saying what to aim for. E.g. 'Do not read from the script' may be better phrased as 'Look at the audience when you speak.'

Try to balance out your feedback so that there are more positives than targets. This makes people come away from the experience feeling appreciated, motivated and much more likely to want to improve than if they have had a pile of issues put upon them.

giving constructive feedback, successes, positives, targets, stretches

Trust, Responsibility and Autonomy

People feel valued when they are trusted to do their job and conversely when they are micromanaged or can only make token decisions then they start to disengage. Actively find opportunities to show your colleagues, students or employees that you value their abilities, decision making and perspective. Allowing someone to run a project, team or task force shows that they are trusted. Consulting others on decisions AND acting on their opinions gives them autonomy.

This is not about giving people an increased workload. You must be sensitive to their other duties and commitments. Nor is it a good idea to promote someone for Christmas… that’s just weird. But showing people that you value what they bring to workplace is a gift that makes them feel valued and in turn is good for the workplace.


Obvious and completely non seasonal, but still worth stating. Take time to greet people during the day, smile and hug (if appropriate). Humans are naturally social creatures and we respond well to connections, with many chemicals being released during social interactions that make us feel good.

smile, hug, greetings, christmas

Of course, if you are looking for physical gifts then there are many other free gift ideas such as crafts, food, photo montages, quote posters, poems and more. But remember that the way you behave with those around you can always be a gift in itself if you show people how much you value them.

Have a great festive season, everyone.

Image credits:

Laura Bittner, Presents, Dec 2008

Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken, Gonzales, Feb 2015

Kevin Dooley, Peanuts Christmas Panorama, Dec 2012

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