Creative Ways to Say Thanks to Your Staff This Christmas

shutterstock_155834777Over the last decade, there has been a lot of talk about employee incentives. Employee incentives are designed to increase output and retention, support employee engagement, award those working hard and highlight company values. But with all this hype, do they actually work?

Research shows that 78% of people would work harder if they felt they were being recognised and appreciated for their work more. The bottom line is that thanking staff is not just an aspect of polite social behaviour. It engages staff better than any other company policy and there's no better time to say thank you than at Christmas. Christmas marks the end of another year and is often a time of reflection. Can you afford for your employees to reflect only to realise they're not happy in their workplace?

No? Then perhaps a Christmas gift is in order.

The key to a good Christmas gift is to find one that shows your appreciation, shows you put in thought, engages your staff, motivates productivity and fosters loyalty without sending you broke. In other words, one of these fantastic gift ideas …

Gift ideas

Edible arrangements

A food hamper or food arrangement is a practical gift that any employee would love. Most people visit family or have visitors at some point over the holidays, so a selection of gourmet cheeses or festive foods will never go astray.


A beautiful bouquet of flowers always goes down a treat and if you choose long lasting blooms, your staff will be reminded of your appreciation all through the holidays.


Similar to a food hamper or fruit basket, wine is a great thing to share at Christmas. Cracking open a bottle of wine courtesy of your boss is a great conversation starter. Just be careful with this gift – some people don't drink alcohol so giving them a bottle of red may turn out to be a bit of a faux pas.

Membership to the nearest gym

Fitness is big news these days and more and more people are trying to fit the gym in around working and family life. Strike up a deal with the nearest gym and offer staff an incentive to go by offering "early mark" gym days for those who pack their workout gear. 15 minutes at the end of the day won't harm your productivity levels, and will keep your staff feeling healthy, active and appreciated.


Offer company-owned smartphones or tablets and not only will staff love the extra perk, they'll become more efficient too.

The Office Gift

Instead of purchasing individual gifts, try buying a joint gift the whole office can share. For example, a great coffee machine in the staffroom or quality coffee program will keep employees in the office and help them stay alert!


Good quality pens, leather notebooks and luxury briefcases are practical items that can be used all year round. Go one step further by engraving a message, like 'Thank you for all your hard work'.

An Experience Gift Card

The great thing about gift cards is that they are flexible. The receiver can use at a time which is convenient to them, and often something they might not usually buy. If the gift card is for an experience, like dining out a restaurant or visiting a theme park, your present is likely to be more memorable. People remember a great experience, so make your gift something that'll stick with staff for years to come.

The Gift of Choice

Not everyone is the same, and not every staff member will appreciate the same gift – so don't try and find the perfect present for everyone. Instead have a few options and let staff choose. People will appreciate the fact that you are taking the time and effort to reward them in a way they'll love, rather than trying to find a one-size-fits-all solution.

Other ways to show appreciation

Giving at Christmas doesn't have to be the handing over of a gift. There are plenty of other ways to show your appreciation, with the only limitations being your imagination and budget:

Paid time off

Work out a system where every staff member gets some time to duck off to the shops to do their Christmas shopping. You could also close up a day or two before Christmas or extend the holiday period a little.

Send the 'big boss' in

If the big boss is rarely seen, Christmas is a great time to send the boss in to have a chat with staff and learn about their goals, opinions and holiday plans. Make it casual and relaxed and encourage lots of thank yous.

Arrange a party

An office party doesn't have to mean a wild (and expensive) night out, and can be as simple as an "ugly Christmas sweater day" or holiday lunch where everyone brings a plate.

Play 'Secret Santa'

Write the names of everyone participating and put them in a box. (If staff don't know each other that well, then get people to jot a couple of their interests down too). Set a budget and ask every staff member to purchase a gift based on that budget. Draw names from the box and set a giving date.

Organise a 'bake and share' day


People love food at Christmas, so why not ask everyone to bake something at home to bring in on the last day. Individually wrapped foods are ideal, such as fudge, macarons, truffles, gingerbread, jams, granolas, quiches and dips. All you have to do is provide some hamper baskets and the opportunity to swap and share.

Include the kids

For workers with children, it's a great feeling when they are recognised for having a family. Arrange an activity the whole family can enjoy, such as a day at a theme park or bowling alley, a drive-in family movie or an adventure such as rock climbing or sailing.  Or, close the office early and inform your staff to bring the kids in for an afternoon Christmas party. Surprise the kids with Santa Claus, some candy canes and a token gift and start a tradition families want to be a part of every year.

A handwritten note

If you don't have money to spend on gifts, don't panic. A handwritten thank you note can go a long way, especially when it's been personalised with a particular task that was performed well or a certain trait that you have grown to appreciate.

Office comforts

New plants, better lighting and ergonomic chairs all go towards building a more enjoyable office environment. You could also try creating a lovely patio area or more luxurious staffroom.

Hire a photographer

Hiring a photographer is a great way to capture all the staff and an employee-featured Christmas card is a professional, yet personal token to send to clients. To make it even more fun for staff, try hiring a photobooth and giving them a range of costumes to try on. You can then frame the photos to hang throughout the year.

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Mireille Kilgour

Mireille Kilgour

Mireille Kilgour has been an entrepreneur for 35 years in the hospitality sector. French born, she has been an accomplished business owner and operator for a number of Sydney venues. Leading the industry with high profile institutions such as Lamrock Café Bondi, she has endless passion for the industry, and now has the pleasure of supporting restaurants to fill their tables with the new Good Food Gift Card program.