’Tis the season for gifting – with a difference

The COVID grinch may already have stolen the end of year party for many businesses due to restrictions on gatherings, but traditional staff gifts may also require a radical re-think.

For most, 2020 will go down in history as the year we can’t wait to see the back of. Before slamming that door though, it is worth reflecting that there are a great many businesses whose staff have rallied behind their workplace to ensure that customers get served in the best way possible, and clients continue to get the service they need to keep operating. Often, these hard-working staff have gone the extra mile even knowing that their own job future may be uncertain. On the flip side, other businesses have capitalised on the fortunes of opportunity and reinvention, where success has depended on the goodwill and flexibility of their people to adapt to changing business models and novel ways of working.

An alternative working year calls for an alternative approach to letting staff know their efforts are appreciated. Just as much as COVID-19 has impacted businesses and discretionary spend, it has also has changed perspectives on people’s priorities.   

Here are half a dozen alternative gifts to consider:

1. The Gift of Time

Time is a precious commodity and underused as a reward for staff. If there is an upside to 2020, it is that it has helped us realise the importance of getting our priorities straight. So, how about providing an extra day of leave to do whatever makes staff happy. If it’s not convenient for everyone to take this at the same time, why not make the gift the introduction of a new policy that allows staff to take the day off on their birthday.

2. The Gift of Health

Facilitating the reversal of those COVID calories or encouraging a focus on mental wellbeing may be the way to go. This could take the form of a spa day, massage appointment, yoga retreat, or subsidy for a gym membership.  A more tangible alternative on the same theme could be a fruit and veggie box or plants and seeds to grow their own. 

3. The Gift of Giving Back

If there was ever a year to spread festive cheer, this is it. Rather than receiving a gift for themselves, staff may prefer the option of a company donation to a charity of their choice, or a day off to undertake some volunteering to help those less fortunate.

4. The Gift of Learning

There is nothing like learning a new skill or taking up a new hobby to keep the brain sharp and creativity bouncing. Why not ignite some learning passion by investing in a learning program. Whilst restrictions might mean face to face programs are off the agenda, there are plenty of livestreamed workshops to inspire, from photography and wine appreciation to making candles and mixing cocktails.

5. The Gift of Community

Rather than line the pockets of big corporates, consider supporting local businesses, partially those within hospitality and tourism, who may have experienced extreme hardship. Providing vouchers for staff to use in the local restaurants or buying produce from farmers’ markets are great ways to give back to the local community as well as a great reward.    

6. The Gift of Feedback

Often the most appreciated gifts of all, and one that won’t cost you a penny, is a personalised and sincere hand-written card thanking staff for their specific contribution and why you consider them a valuable member of the team.

COVID-19 may well have changed business budgets and people’s priorities, but symbols to express gratitude and appreciation have never been more important. 

When it comes to staff gift-giving this year, the traditional leg of ham or bottle of wine, or cheap promotional branded merchandise, just might not cut it!

Mhairi Holway, The HR Dept Northern Beaches

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