Here's How to Make Your Secret Santa at Work a Lot Better

Studies have shown that Secret Santa at work triggers anxiety in co-workers. Here's some fun, less stress inducing ways to do the holiday tradition.

Jacqueline Gualtieri - Author

Aug. 3 2020, Updated 3:54 p.m. ET

fun ways to do secret santa desk
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Here's a study you probably didn't need to see to know that it's true: nearly 1 in 3 millennials want workplace Secret Santa banned. The study shows that millennials are worried about dipping into their savings for the holiday tradition but they're also worried about appearing stingy, which ultimately triggers their anxiety. If you're stressing out over your Secret Santa, here's some fun ways to make the experience suck a lot less. 

Fun ways to do stress-free Secret Santa gifts at work:

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1. Always, always do a cap.

fun ways to do secret santa cap
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Here's one important way to make the exchange more fun: include a cap. Because no one is having fun when one guy buys his Secret Santa a new iPhone and you know you only got your person a T-shirt. While you may not want to stifle the holiday spirit, remember that some of your employees may be able to afford a lavish gift and others can't. 

2. Forget the cash. Go homemade!

fun ways to do secret santa homemade
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Encourage your employees and co-workers to try gifting something homemade instead. Most people can bake a plate of cookies. Plus, it's usually a less expensive alternative to a purchased gift. That being said, if someone comes in with store bought cookies, honestly who would know? And you'll learn more about your co-workers' skills. Who knew that Miranda in accounting was such an amazing knitter? 

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3. Go for musical chairs/musical gifts.

fun ways to do secret santa musical chairs
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With Secret Santa, there can be a lot of anxiety about who's giving and receiving. If someone gets the name of a co-worker that they don't know really well, there's some concern that they won't be able to give something that the person actually likes. Instead, have everyone bring in something and make a game out of how they get their presents. For instance, try doing a musical chairs gift exchange. Whatever gift is on the chair the person is standing next to after the music stops is what they get.

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4. Go for a White Elephant but, please, please, no swaps.

fun ways to do secret santa white elephant
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White Elephant is pretty common alternative so Secret Santa. Everyone brings in a wrapped gift and you pick the gift at random and get what's inside. However, white elephants aren't always stress free because, if you unwrap a gift you don't like, you can steal someone else's and give them the gift you're discarding. Which is a great way to make the person who donated the gift you don't like feel crummy. Just nix the swaps and have everyone keep the gift they picked up.

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5. Play hot potato with the gifts.

fun ways to do secret santa hot potato
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Okay, this one relies on you having told your coworkers that they can't bring fragile gifts. Have everyone sit in a circle and a wrapped gift is then passed around. Whoever has the gift when the music stops keeps it. It's another way to keep the gift giving more random and prevent anyone from feeling stressed over if their gift is going to get picked.

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6. Take a tip from another holiday and hide small presents for a present hunt.

fun ways to do secret santa small present hunt
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Like you would with an Easter egg hunt, each gift giver hides their small wrapped present somewhere in the office. Whatever gift you find first is the gift that you unwrap and keep for yourself. Because the gifts are meant to be small, it encourages everyone to stick within the budget. Plus, in this case, you're not opening gifts in front of the whole office so you're not comparing who got what. 

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