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7th Dec, 2023

Jack Ireland
Jack Ireland
Job Title
Content Marketing Executive

The holiday season is a time for joy, celebration, and sharing goodwill.

In the workplace, the tradition of giving gifts has long been a way to encourage camaraderie and express appreciation among colleagues. However, with the rising cost of living and concerns about employee financial strain, exchanging gifts at work may be less feasible this year.

According to finance network UK Money Bloggers and review website Smart Money People, employees will spend around £167 million on workplace Secret Santa gifts this year, but £60 million of this will be wasted on unwanted items. It’s also a tradition that many agree to reluctantly, as buying and receiving presents can make some staff feel awkward. This is especially the case in larger organisations where it’s impossible to know everyone well.

For those who still would like to give, here are some other suggestions:

Devise a Secondhand Santa

With Secret Santa gaining mixed reactions from the workforce, environmental charity Hubbub has suggested replacing the event with ‘Secondhand Santa’, an initiative that advocates the sourcing of gifts from charity shops or regifting pre-loved items to reduce the environmental impact.

This type of initiative not only reduces demand for new, novelty items which use resources to produce and transport, but also cuts down on waste, mindful that a good proportion of items received are unwanted.

Create a reverse advent calendar

Advent calendars are a much-loved tradition in the run up to the festive period, but the reverse advent calendar is becoming increasingly popular – especially in the workplace.

A reverse advent calendar turns the traditional idea on its head. Instead of opening the windows and taking out treats each day, items are donated.

By collectively contributing items each day to create a 'hamper’ for a local food bank or charity, employees actively participate in addressing community needs, reinforcing a sense of goodwill at a time when many people are struggling.

Give to charity

Instead of exchanging gifts among employees, promoting the idea of donating to charitable organisations can be just as impactful.

As an employer you could encourage your teams to set up donation drives for non-perishable food items, warm clothing, or toys for underprivileged children and adults – creating a shared responsibility among the workforce.

You may want to provide a list of suggested charities to donate to and allow your employees to choose a cause from the list that is close to their hearts. To further incentivise participation, your organisation may want to consider part-matching employees' donations, which increases the impact and reinforces the company's commitment to social responsibility.

From helping to save lives with medical research and medicine, to providing fresh water for villagers who struggle to access it, charitable donations can be the perfect way to give back. Even during tough financial times, the smallest of gifts can collectively make a big difference to the lives of others.

Raise money through Big Give

Big Give is the UK’s biggest match funding platform – created and financed by Reed’s founder Sir Alec Reed in 2007, with the vision of accelerating philanthropy and raising funds to tackle the world’s most challenging problems through the power of collaboration.

The match funding platform makes it easy for the public and funders by doubling donations to give to charities, by 2030 it aims to have raised £1bn for good causes.

Big Give runs match funding campaigns for charities and special causes at key moments across the year. Each Christmas it runs a ‘Christmas Challenge’ campaign – doubling donations for over 1,000 charities in just seven days. Even though the challenge has finished for 2023, it’s never too early to plan for next year. You could encourage your team members to donate to a charity close to their heart and make a direct donation on the platform, or raise funds collectively as a team and give your donation in one lump sum.

Offer volunteering opportunities

Many charities need a little extra help and rely heavily on seasonal volunteers – from assisting at a soup kitchen to simply visiting an elderly person who's facing the winter months alone.

Instead of encouraging your employees to give presents, allow them to spend a few hours volunteering with a local charity or community project. The impact of this is two-fold: volunteering benefits recipients, while also providing employees with a sense of fulfilment and shared purpose. To support this initiative, offer paid volunteer days or organise company-wide volunteer events to amplify the impact.

If certain members of the workforce feel passionately about a particular cause, consider letting them lead on a mini charitable initiative at work. This can have a ripple effect of instilling confidence and showcasing leadership qualities in those involved, as well as enhancing collaboration and internal communications.

Ultimately, it's the spirit of togetherness and shared experiences that make the holiday season special, and companies have a prime opportunity to cultivate a sense of community during this festive time.

Looking to grow your team heading into the new year? Get in touch with one of our specialist consultants today.