There are few questions more fraught in the workplace than, “So, do you have Valentine’s Day plans?” It can lead to some awkward moments. The answer could be, “No, for I have yet to find love,” or, “We’re going skydiving with heart-shaped parachutes,” and then everyone else feels like scrambling to improve their plans. And many people just say, “I don’t really do Valentine’s Day.”
Work relationships are an interesting middle ground in our lives. You spend a ton of time at work, and really get to know people, but being too gushy is sometimes frowned upon. It makes Valentine’s Day delicate.
That’s why you should just have fun with it—and where the idea of a gift exchange can come in. Having a no-pressure, slightly goofy gift exchange on Valentine’s Day means everyone gets something, everyone gives something. After all, there’s nothing worse than being the one kid who didn’t get a card in their little cardboard box. Help your coworkers avoid heartbreak with these Valentine’s Day gift ideas for the office.
The Sweet Tooth Swap
I know, I know: Valentine’s Day comes right after you’ve finally worked through all the candy and sweets at your house from the holidays, but, on the other hand: more candy.
Having a “Sweet Tooth Swap” can be a fun and low-cost office gift exchange. Everyone just brings their favorite candy, whether it’s a tube of Toblerone’s, a bag of assorted Hershey’s Nuggets, or those cool “passport chocolates.” It’s a nice idea because everyone will get some sweet treats, regardless of their relationship status.
That’s the thing with Valentine’s Day: it’s a centuries-old tradition, but many people think it’s a “made-up” and commercialized holiday and that the various pressures are absurd. But the pressures often still feel real. So a candy exchange is a “sweet” way to lighten the office mood, especially if the gifting includes festive decor and some party activities, like:
- Decorate desks with candy centerpieces (especially if you can pay for it with company money).
- Have a goofy toy bow-and-arrow, like Cupid’s, that the person picking a candy gift holds. Tell them not to shoot it at any coworkers—they aren’t actually cupid, after all.
- Play games. I know I said not to shoot the arrows at each other, but if you have room in the office, set up a paper heart on the wall and have a competition to see who can hit the center of it with the arrows. Make sure, though, that the arrows are foam.
- Have a “Worst Valentine’s Day Ever” story competition. Everyone tells a quick, funny story. We all have them. Mine, for instance, involves a very unfortunately spilled bowl of soup. That way, everyone can laugh at how silly the whole thing can be.
Office Inspired Gift Exchange Ideas
Maybe your office has decided against candy; after all, a lot of workplaces are very concerned with health and wellness these days. But a “granola exchange” rarely sets hearts fluttering. Remember, though, that Valentine’s Day doesn’t just mean hearts: it encompasses affection, kindness, and thoughtfulness for everyone in our life.
And, it can be really helpful to set up a gift exchange online to make sure that everyone gets something, and that people stay within their spending limits. No need to put more pressure on the occasion.
Here are some simple and fun office gift exchange ideas:
Decorative pen holders. Something desk-related is always appreciated, whether it’s a cool and crafty pen holder, a fun decoration for the cubicle, a stress-reliever, or anything else small and work-appropriate. It’s nice because the recipient will think about the giver multiple times during the day, which helps create possibly unexpected connections in the workplace.
Personalized mugs. Most people you work with drink either coffee or tea. Instead of having a random hodgepodge of mugs around the office, encourage cupid to bring personalized mugs with funny sayings that will be meaningful to the recipient. Maybe they have a catchphrase, or an inside joke, or a funny quote from a client, like “I didn’t know ‘this Thursday” meant this Thursday!” It shows you know something about them, and that you pay attention to them as a human being. That matters, and they’ll think about it with every sip.
Homemade baked goods. OK, this isn’t totally healthy, but who doesn’t like baked goods. Exchanging these leads to more exchanges, as people swap a few of their mini-cupcakes for cookies or homemade heart-shaped macaroons. And, it may even lead to an intra-office recipe swap!
The classic coupon: Here’s an easy way to make someone’s day a lot better. We know that couples often exchange these, but downloadable Valentine’s coupons can also be great at work. Giving someone a coupon that says, “I’ll take the lead on a client call of your choice,” or “I’ll stay late to teach you Excel,” or “Good for one lunch on me” can make a demonstrable difference in someone’s day. You can also do a White Elephant-type swap on these—someone who needs to learn Excel might really appreciate it.
Valentine’s Day in the workplace should be about bonding, and having fun, and poking a hole in the pressure-filled romance of the day. The point here is to laugh and have a good time. You can turn this sometimes-difficult holiday on its head, and make it great for everyone.
By setting the right mood, and making sure that everyone’s involved, you can craft a Valentine’s Day remembered not for awkwardness and oversharing, but for genuine laughter and camaraderie. And isn’t that what the office should really be about?