It rolls around every year, and when it does we’re just as stumped for what to pick as we were the Christmas before. We’re of course talking about the office secret Santa. It’s a nice idea in principle, everyone gets a lovely little token from a colleague, but frankly the stress of picking the perfect thing for someone in a professional context can be a little more than overwhelming. Thankfully help is at hand, because after being faced with the conundrum time after time, we like to think we’ve become 'expert-level' at buying work secret Santa gifts for our work pals.
As we’re sure you already know, come December the deal is that everyone’s assigned the name of a co-worker to buy a gift for. The price-point of the present is pre-determined too usually, so that everyone sticks to the same budget. Typically, the limit set is between £5-10, so it’s not an extravagant show you’re looking to put on, but just a nice gesture of appreciation for a year of hard work. While there are of course plenty of novelty items out there, the true novelty of a secret Santa exchange is getting something you might actually want or like.
We’ve cast aside the usual gimmicky gifts in exchange for a handful of secret Santa ideas that we think are pretty special while remaining affordable. Whether you’re buying for your office bestie or the big boss, these treats are sure to get you in the good books well into the New Year.
Once you’ve settled on the perfect gift for your recipient, don’t forget the wrapping. It’s the finishing touches that make gifts extra special, and a beautiful sheet of paper and a few ribbon curls are all it takes to make a big impact.
The best secret Santa presents for £5 and under
M&S Alphabet Tumbler
There’s nothing worse than going to the kitchen for a drink only to be met with empty shelves. Solving that problem is M&S’ alphabet tumbler which ensures nobody can pinch the recipient’s glass (without it being known!). These come in all letters, so you could get the recipient's real initial or the start of an office nickname, whatever floats your boat. The block letter is contemporary, while the silver design would appeal to most tastes we think – so this makes an ideal gift if you’ve been landed with someone you don’t know very well yet.
Buy it, £4.50, marksandspencer.com
Ginger Fox Amazing Facts True or False Game
Challenge your co-workers’ pub quiz credentials with some friendly competition via this trivia game. While a few rounds are sure to break the ice come Friday lunchtimes, it’s also just a fun game for your colleague to keep in their desk drawer for a quick five-minute distraction from work if they need a break to help them to refocus on a task. If you’re co-worker has older kids this would also make a handy addition to their car for road trips and long journeys to keep everyone entertained.
Buy it, £5, johnlewis.com
Hotel Chocolat Chocolate Table Cracker
We’ve met very few people in our lifetime that don’t like chocolate (and we never trust anyone who doesn’t anyway, frankly) so think this is a pretty safe secret Santa bet. Filled with three little chocolate shapes, this fun cracker from Hotel Chocolate is sure to get your co-worker in the festive spirit, and if you play your cards right you might even get one of the chocs yourself. As well as the chocolate the cracker also contains the obligatory snap, hat and joke – so be prepared to try to look like you find a bad gag funny when they inevitably read it out to you.
Buy it, £5, hotelchocolat.com
T2 Emergency Teabag Gift Pack
Does your secret Santa colleague love a cuppa? These sweet (and cheap) emergency giftpacks from T2 could be their perfect present. With 5 ‘emergency’ tea bags included, this makes a great gift for the recipient to stash away in a desk drawer for a rainy day. This isn’t just bog-standard brews either, you get a sachet of French Earl Grey, Gorgeous Geisha, Melbourne Breakfast tea, Sleep Tight tea and a packet of Tummy Tea too. You never know, you might have unknowingly just introduced them to their next favourite drink and that’s got to come with some good kudos.
Buy it, £3, t2tea.com
Smooth Operator Pens 5Pk
Is it just us that thinks a notebook and pens are seriously underrated? Yes, most of us have computers, tablets and phones now, but there’s nothing quite like putting pen to paper to get the creative juices going. With five pastel colours and a soft grip finish, these are perfect for the office creative who loves to plan things out in a visual way. While they might not be the most chic of work secret Santa gifts, we can nearly guarantee that they’ll be used time and time again.
Buy it, £4, cottonon.com
The best secret Santa presents for £10 and under
Aesop Resurrection Rinse-Free Hand Wash
Okay, we get it, this isn’t exactly what constitutes as a glamorous present but we’re willing to bet a lot of money on this being well used in the weeks over the festivities. Hand sanitiser has sadly become a part of our everyday lives, so why not make the experience of using it a slightly more enjoyable one with a ritzy bottle of gel? This rinse free hand wash by Aesop looks trendy for one, is small enough to stash away in a handbag or pocket for two, and smells incredibly fresh, with citrus, woody and herbaceous notes for three. A real all-rounder.
Buy it, £7, aesop.com
Perfect Night's Sleep Pillow Mist
If it’s been a bit of a rough year for one of your workmates, why not give them the gift of a good night’s sleep? We’re pretty sure that would be universally welcomed. This neat spray from Neom Organics is small enough to carry on the go and quickly transforms a space into a little spa-like haven with just a couple of pumps of the lavender scent. This would be great if you have a colleague who has to travel a lot for work and doesn’t love living out of a hotel. The calming fragrance makes anywhere seem more inviting and can help to induce a deep sleep in some cases too.
Buy it, £8, neomorganics.com
Tea Pigs Taster Box
Another one for tea lovers, this little treat box is packed with three different tea types to allow your colleague a taste of some delicious new beverages. We love Tea Pigs because they’re packaging is plastic free, including the tea bags themselves, and they use whole leaves and flowers rather than dust (which, spoiler alert, lots of other cheaper brands use). The result we’re hoping for with this one is every time your co-worker goes to make a cup of tea they offer you a hot drink too, so think of it as an investment in your future happiness.
Buy it, £8, teapigs.co.uk
Personalised Symbol Hobby Coaster
Not sure what to get your boss but know they love cycling? This could be the answer to your secret Santa prayers. These fun coasters are made to order with your preference of hobby symbol – with choices of everything from ice cream (a personal favourite hobby of ours) through to camping. They’re made from leather, so this isn’t one for vegans, but for meat-eaters we think these are pretty stylish additions to any desk or tabletop, either in the office or back at home.
Buy it, £8.50, notonthehighstreet.com
Cryo rubber™ with Moisturising Hyaluronic Acid Mask
The older we get the more the idea of a night in with a glass of wine and a face pack appeals to us. If you think your colleague might be in our over-the-hill camp then why not treat them to one of the best face packs on the market with this little Dr.Jart number? This two-step moisturising technique gives you visible results in lovely plump skin that feels smooth and hydrated. Weirdly, the cooling sensation of the rubber mask itself is also pretty dreamy, and we’ve been known to get a couple of uses out of these as you can rinse and re-use if you’re feeling thrifty.
Buy it, £10, drjart.co.uk
The best secret Santa presents for £20 and under
Not Another Bill Personalised Luggage Tags
With travel restrictions lifting and more freedom to move around, it’s likely that your colleague will have their eye on a trip on two in the next year. While a holiday might stretch things a little too far in terms of the secret Santa budget, you can give the the gift of a fancy bag by helping them to accessorise one they already have with this snazzy tag. With personalisation included, this will help make you look like you really went the extra mile this year, and there’s a whole range of colours to pick from to, to ensure you get the perfect tone for your workmate.
Buy it, £20, notanotherbill.com
Patch Plants Herboo Balcony Grow Box
Know someone with green fingered aspirations? Set them up for horticultural nirvana with this all-inclusive kit that would work as well to brighten up a large garden as it would a windowsill in a flat. With seeds for growing sweet peas, nasturtium, rudbeckia, cornflowers, Moroccan mint and cosmos, this will allow the recipient to enjoy herbs and flowers from late spring all the way through to early autumn – the gift that keeps on giving, if you will.
Buy it, £16, patchplants.com
Rowen and Wren Florence Scalloped Candle Holder
Beautifully made and pleasingly tactical, these pretty candle holders are ideal for bringing a bit of cosiness to your colleague’s home this Christmas. While you can treat them to a single one, a pair would be an extra special gift, and Rowen and Wren also sell candles that fit the slim holders – something to add if there’s the budget to do so. Each candlestick comes neatly wrapped in tissue so is easy to gift straight away.
Buy it, £12, rowenandwren.co.uk
Hawksmoor Ultimate Old Fashioned
We’re declaring 2021 the year of the bottled cocktail, so why not sum it all up with a dram of something special for your co-worker. Obviously this is only one for drinkers, so make sure they actually like alcohol before you hand over your hard earned pennies, but if they do enjoy a nice cocktail, we think Hawksmoor make some of the best in the business. They’re fuss-free, so can be poured straight from the bottle, are always deliciously complex with classic flavour profiles and have pretty bottles to boot. Consider your job of nailing secret Santa this year, done.
Buy it, £14, shop.thehawksmoor.com
Chilly’s Original Water Bottle
Let it never be said that you didn’t care for the hydration levels of your teammates. Buying plastic bottles of water is so 2020, so help keep your colleague’s water levels topped up while helping to minimise their environmental impact with a resusable bottle. What a stellar job you’re doing all round here? The Chilly's bottles come in all kinds of colourways, so can be completely tailored to your workmate’s tastes, and they come in a few sizes too – so you can vary the price point depending on how much you like them (no, we didn’t say that).
Buy it, from £17, chillys.com
Still looking for somewhere to spend Christmas with your colleagues this year? These are London's best private dining rooms