Remote gift exchanges: Sharing holidays outside of the screen

When you have a remote team, it’s important to be intentional about how you celebrate holidays. If there aren’t group events or decorations in your office, it can be hard to share the holiday spirit. We’ve written about this before, but this year we did something new – remote gift exchanges!

Now, we’re not talking only about Christmas, Channukah, and the other winter holidays. In fact, our first gift exchange was for Halloween – what we called Boo Buddies (or “Secret Satan” to some). We found that many team members enjoyed the Halloween Boo Buddies exchange, especially because it didn’t come with the external stress of actual holiday gift-giving and shopping at the same time. While we did continue with a more traditional exchange later (see below), this was still an easy way to start getting people involved.

We used the process you’ve probably used before for “Secret Santa” or other similar things. Here’s how it worked. Team members signed up early in October, and we created secret matches via Elfster. We had a $15 limit for the gifts, and we could share wish lists, but the general guidance was spookiness and fun. We felt the limit we gave was perfect to be meaningful and exciting but still accessible. But you should calibrate this for your team.

Every week, we have an all-team optional “learn stuff” session, which can be about anything from development tips and tricks to personal hobbies. The week of Halloween, the culture committee took over and we had a live unboxing of all the Halloween gifts. Many team members who didn’t take part in the gift exchange even showed up to watch and see what gifts people received. 

The gifts ranged from candy corn cat toys to pins, legos, and more! Some people went all out with their wrapping as well.

When we revealed our gifts on the company-wide learn stuff, everyone seemed to have a great time! So, we created another one for the winter holiday season, which ended up in another great success. The “Happy Alleydays” unboxing session also included holiday movie charades and a holiday baby photo guessing game. Even though we weren’t all in the same place, we all felt like a family celebrating together.

These moments can be rare, so it’s important to actively create them for your co-workers. Remote gift exchanges are a perfect way to bring people together and help people get to know each other. Ask each other about their wish lists and presents – what do they want and why? And, of course, they’re fun!

How do you get into the holiday spirit (any holiday) in your workplace? Let us know – we’re always looking for traditions we can add to our repertoire!