It can be challenging to find the right gift for a coworker even when you’re sharing an office. Now that many offices have gone virtual, it may feel even more difficult to pick out that perfect coworker gift. It’s still important to make the effort, though, and especially if you’re in a position to do so, said Hani Goldstein, CEO of Snappy Gifts, which helps employers and coworkers send gifts digitally.
“The regular way we connect is so much harder these days. We can’t give a cake in the office. We can’t have a holiday party. So we have to look for alternatives,” Goldstein told Shopping. “Sending something shows how much you care and value someone.”
Best gifts for coworkers
The best gifts for coworkers might make it easier to work from home or help them forget, even for just a minute, the fact that they are working from home.
1. Rain mStand Laptop Stand
This low-profile laptop stand from Rain was recommended by an NBC News Shopping contributor earlier this year. It’s slim with storage space for a keyboard and a spot to organize your cables in back. It’s light enough to travel from room to room but it doesn’t fold up if you were looking to store it when it’s not in use.
2. Speks’ Flex Magnetic Silicone Building Set
Speks might be just the distraction your coworker needs right now. The flexible, silicone desk toy, previously featured as one of Shopping’s New & Notable picks, keeps hands busy stacking different creations during a full slate of video conferencing calls. It comes in blue, green, grey and red.
3. TP-Link RE200 AC750 Wi-Fi Range Extender
A Wi-Fi range extender from TP-Link helps make sure you have a strong Wi-Fi signal wherever you are in the house. It was tapped as one of the best Wi-Fi range extenders by Shopping contributor Whitson Gordon as a low-cost option that slightly helps reduce troublesome internet dead spots.
4. Kasa Smart (HS100) Plug
Adding a bit of technology to your home setup can be as simple as putting the Kasa Smart Plug in a socket. This smart home tech, tapped as one of the top-rated smart plugs, lets you control a plugged-in device with a smartphone app. The Kasa Smart Plug is compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana.
5. NEST New York Holiday Reed Diffuser
Bring your coworker a little merry and bright with the NEST New York Holiday Reed Diffuser. Pomegranate, cinnamon, pine and clove fragrances are released over three months from the glass container. The diffuser reeds, just one of the ways you can bring warmth into your coworker’s home this winter, come in a glass overlaid with a gold pattern.
6. Opard Fruit Infuser Water Bottle
Staying hydrated can feel like work but this fruit infuser water bottle from Opard can make drinking water a lot more interesting. The 30-ounce, BPA-free plastic bottle comes with a basket for holding fruits or herbs, and a small cleaning brush. A rubber grip and flip top help prevent spills, while an ounce-marker on the side lets you track how much water you’ve drank.
7. Funderdome 10×10 Felt Letter Board
Pick an inspirational quote or craft a silly message to brighten up someone’s day with the Funderdome felt letter board. The 10-inch square board has 340 removable letters, numbers, icons and emojis so everyone can know how a coworker feels before they even say anything out loud. The oak-framed board can be hung on the wall or placed on the included stand.
8. TaoTronics SoundLiberty 53
Help someone get out of their office chair with these TaoTronics wireless earbuds. Gordon noted the earbuds’ “AirPods-esque ‘stick’” shape in a piece about the best wireless earbuds and headphones. The earbuds have Hi-Fi stereo sound and last up to seven hours on a full charge.
9. Field Notes National Park Series
A notebook nod to National Parks from Field Notes that lets you feel like you’re traveling across America could be a welcome respite right now. This trio of memo books have 48 pages of graph paper and can fit in a pocket. Each 3 ½ x 5 ½-inch notebook comes with a brief history of the National Park on the cover and a spot for you to get a stamp when you can visit it in person.
Where to find gifts for coworkers
Goldstein acknowledged it’s easy to opt for a gift card but encourages people to take the time to get an actual gift this year. “Gift cards take the effort away from the gift giver,” Goldstein explained. “But it makes a gift really transactional and you lose the magic of opening a gift.”
Elaine Swann, founder of the Swann School of Protocol, treasures a small desktop tea set she was gifted by a coworker. “It meant something to me because a coworker put in the effort to know what I like,” Swann says. She recommended you try to personalize a gift, too, but avoid lotions or perfume or anything that may likewise send the wrong message.
“Your coworker doesn’t know the reason behind something,” Swann explained. “You don’t want to make someone uncomfortable.”
You may be able to find insight online about a coworker’s interests, too. They may post about hobbies on social media — Swann suggests looking for clues on your next Zoom call. “Spend a couple extra minutes on a video conference call so you can make sure there’s some meaning behind your gift,” Swann advised.
You can find gifts tailored for coworkers at a number of major retailers. Here are some of the spots carrying troves of coworker-appropriate gifts:
If you’re looking at sending gifts to multiple coworkers or are in charge of holiday gifts for your office, there are a series of companies, in addition to Snappy Gifts, that specialize in broader coworker gifts, among them:
Catch up on the latest from NBC News Shopping guides and recommendations and download the NBC News app for full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Looking for the perfect gift? Check out the Shop TODAY Holiday Plaza.