Holiday Gifts With Meaning

Between the pandemic’s tragic health toll, pay cuts, and layoffs, it’s been a sobering year.

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Employees at all levels have had to blur the lines between work and home, and those still at job sites often have had to work longer hours and risk their own health. To many, getting these anxious, stretched employees a chain-store gift card for the holidays could seem like an empty gesture.

Yes, times may be tight, but experts say this is a year for bosses to put some extra thought into the gifts they pick out for employees. “Do what you can to show compassion during these leaner times,” says Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Texas. “Pair a nice gift with a really thoughtful note that shows your appreciation for the employee.”

Here are a few ideas:

Asobu Cold-Brew Coffee Maker




With more employees working remotely, coffee runs often involve just a quick dash to the kitchen. This cold-brew coffee maker could be a welcome treat for employees looking for a refreshing and easy caffeine fix. Just make sure the gift recipient actually likes cups of joe. “A coffee-related gift for someone who doesn’t drink coffee can come off as cold,” Gottsman says.

In Good Taste Virtual Wine Tasting




This gift combines a small flight of wines delivered to an employee’s doorstep with an invitation to an expert-led Zoom session to learn about the wines’ origins. Created by the Los Angeles–based start-up In Good Taste, the gift can double as an end-of-the-year employee gathering or virtual happy hour. (Again, check if the employee drinks wine.)

Hubsan X4 Quadcopter



$65, available at

Tech-savvy employees may appreciate this drone, which has an HD camera built in. Practice aerial shots from the backyard or a nearby park; the controller displays the video that the drone is capturing in real time.

Jabra Evolve 65 Noise-Canceling Headset




Juggling work and family demands is often just?…?loud. This comfortable headset can shut out the rest of the world—or simply make it easier to hear someone on the other end of a work call. This pair can also come in handy on airplane flights, if travel ever gets back to normal.

Muse Illuminate



$35 per month,

This subscription service can help ambitious employees grow personally and professionally. Delivered monthly, each box includes a New York Times best-selling book, motivational items, and podcasts. You can add a note explaining that the gift was inspired by the employee’s own growth mindset.

Away Everywhere Bag




Recipients can pack this multifunctional bag by the trendy luggage company Away on their next business trip or weekend getaway. (Those will resume, we promise.) Pair it with an extra, unexpected vacation day, and it’ll surely go over well with your employees.

Extra Cash



Amount varies

Even as end-of-the-year bonuses are generally expected to be smaller this year, Gottsman encourages bosses to pair a cash gift with a note of appreciation. She suggests a simple but thoughtful note, such as “We’ve had struggles but we made it. I want to let you know how valuable you are to our team.”