More Companies, Workers Plan To Spread Holiday Cheer In The Office This Year

holiday gifts at the officeBy Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources for CareerBuilder

This holiday season, hope for the job market comes from an unlikely place: More companies are giving employees seasonal perks this year, a new CareerBuilder survey reports.

While holiday parties and annual bonuses might not be the most precise measure of economic health, these perks were among the first items cut by many employers during the recession. That companies are bringing them back this year is a promising sign for the overall condition of the job market. If more employers are willing to spend money on their current employees than they have in recent years, they might also have the budget to hire new employees.

Specifically, the report found that employers plan to offer the following holiday extras:

  • Forty percent will be giving employees a holiday bonus this year, up from 33 percent who said the same in 2010.
  • Three-in-ten said they'd be giving holiday gifts, up slightly from 29 percent last year.
  • Fifty-eight percent are planning a holiday party for employees this year, up 6 percent from 2010.

The survey also found that workers plan to spread holiday cheer on their own this year: 22 percent of employees say they plan to buy presents for co-workers, and the same number plan to buy something for the boss.

Still, workers might be better off getting a gift from corporate. Although co-workers mean well, they often give unusual gifts that leave recipients scratching their heads rather than jumping for joy. When asked to name the strangest holiday gifts they've received from colleagues, survey respondents answered with these unusual items:

  • A zombie figurine
  • A keychain that shouts expletives
  • Bacon of the month club
  • A ceramic snake
  • A clock that meows three times on the hour
  • A hand-painted landscape on a toilet seat
  • A glass high-heel shoe filled with dish soap
  • Mustache scissors
  • A whip
  • A 12-pack of cola

The rules of workplace gift-giving

Want to give co-workers a gift that won't end up on the above list - or in the trash? Here are a few guidelines for the office gift exchange.

  • Discuss gifts beforehand. Not sure if you should buy gifts for your colleagues? Ask them about their present-plans or set up an office gift exchange. The latter is a great way to avoid those awkward "I'm sorry, I didn't get you anything" moments.

  • When in doubt, give something neutral. If you don't know someone that well, give a neutral present, like a gift card. You may think expletive-shouting keychains are hysterical, but they might not go over so well with your co-workers who have kids.

  • If you regift, do it wisely. We all have body lotion, candles and tchotchkes we've received over the years stashed in a closet somewhere, with the intention of giving them to someone else. If you do choose to regift, however, make sure it is something the person will like, and something that's still in good condition.

  • Be fair. You probably have co-workers you love and co-workers you hate. But with the exception of the boss (you can spend a little more here if you want), gift all of your co-workers equally. If you have a best friend at work and want to get him or her something more substantial, trade gifts outside of the office.

Rosemary Haefner is the vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. She is an expert in recruitment trends and tactics, job seeker behavior, workplace issues, employee attitudes and HR initiatives.

Next:This Year, Employees Don't Want A Holiday Party

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