How to run a successful office Secret Santa 

It’s no surprise that Secret Santa is one of the most popular festive games played in the office.  

Attempting to work out who picked your name and bought your gift in secret while trying not to give away which gift you purchased is all part of the fun. As with all games, there is plenty of room for error in Secret Santa. We always recommend setting some guidelines for participants to follow. 

Here are a few tips to help you navigate this holiday tradition like you’re Santa Claus himself.  

Clearly set the rules and expectations for gifts 

If you’ve been nominated for the role of Secret Santa organiser, your first step is to establish some ground rules for those participating.  

Decide what gifts are appropriate for your workplace – this may differ from business to business. Novelty gifts are common in Secret Santa, but many come with sexual or intimate connotations.  

Employees should be given guidance on what is and isn’t appropriate for gift exchange and this should be clearly communicated to anyone involved.  

Generally, gifts relating to sex, gender, age, personal hygiene, or body image should be avoided. Many of these attributes are protected characteristics under discrimination laws and may result in discriminatory claims if the recipient is offended by such a gift. 

Some people may be unsure which category their proposed gift falls into. Creating an honesty box for Secret Santa questions will help avoid potential problems while maintaining the secrecy of the game. 

Decide on a gift value 

There’s nothing worse than the awkward moment when one person receives an elaborate and expensive gift, and the next person’s gift is significantly less expensive with far less effort put in. 

When establishing your guidelines, consider incorporating a reasonable budget for Secret Santa gifts. Setting a spending limit will not only help everyone know how much to spend, but also guide employees on the amount of thought and effort to put in.  

Having a budget can also work to include those who feel they can’t afford to join in, especially if previously unguided attempts at Secret Santa have resulted in over-the-top expenses. 

Some employees might have a limited holiday budget, particularly with the increasing cost of living. Ensure everyone knows participation is optional, so no one feels pressured into spending where they can’t afford to. 

Just because someone doesn’t want to join in with the gift exchange, doesn’t mean they should be excluded from the festivities.  

A large part of Secret Santa is the atmosphere and social aspect, so try to offer alternative ways to get involved like helping to host the game or decorating the office.  

How to pick the best gift 

If you know your Secret Santa recipient well, you probably won’t need much help deciding what to get them. But what if you don’t know them very well? 

You can try asking around the office to see what others may know about your recipient, but if either of you are a new team member this might be more difficult. 

Consider sending round a Secret Santa questionnaire to help anyone struggling for gift ideas come up with something their recipient is sure to like. Questions about hobbies, favourite foods, and dislikes are all great ideas to get you started. Working from a list of answers will greatly increase your chances of your Secret Santa gift being a success.  

A few gift ideas that are usually appreciated are:  

  • Chocolates or sweets 
  • Books 
  • Puzzles 
  • Subscriptions 

If you’re the opposite of Father Christmas and find coming up with gift ideas extremely hard, gift cards can also be a great option. If you have a colleague who’s got a green thumb, a garden centre voucher would show you’ve really paid attention to their personal tastes.  

Alternatively, you can use gift cards to make a gift even more personal. For example, if your recipient loves coffee, a small bag of coffee beans and a gift card to their favourite coffee shop would likely go a long way.  

Whatever you decide to gift, try to keep your Secret Santa identity a secret! 

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