As 2021 draws to a close and employees begin returning to the office or workplace, we are entering a time of holiday spirit and gift giving. We’re also entering a time of greater stress as employees adjust to all these changes. This creates anxiety on many levels that employees are dealing with. Left unchecked, this can advance to burnout, and we’re already seeing a rise in the number of employees who feel this way. Indeed’s Employee Burnout Report shows that more than 50% of workers say they feel burned out and more than two thirds say that feeling has worsened during the pandemic. 

Regardless of the holiday each employee celebrates, one thing remains true: the enjoyment of receiving a thoughtful gift. But traditional gift giving is fraught with obstacles. Giving gifts like clothing or accessories doesn’t work well because you may get sizing wrong. Giving perfume or other personal items requires a level of knowledge of personal taste that you may not have about the recipient. And now, with all the slowdowns in the supply chain due to, "Border controls and mobility restrictions, unavailability of a global vaccine pass, and pent-up demand from being stuck at home,” many of the holiday gifts for employees you would normally order may not be able to be delivered on time. 

But there is an approach to gift giving that will work for all your employees. Selecting holiday gifts for employees that give all year long and that appeal to the five senses are guaranteed to make every employee happy. According to Ashley Hamer, “When you see, hear, touch, or taste something, that sensory information first heads to the thalamus, which acts as your brain's relay station. The thalamus then sends that information to the relevant brain areas, including the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory, and the amygdala, which does the emotional processing.”

Not only that, but by giving gifts that extend throughout the year, you keep reminding employees how special they are. Think about gift subscriptions, subsidized meal programs, monthly gift boxes of goodies, or monthly experiences. These are all going to make a longer-term impact on your employee’s feelings of being valued and appreciated.

Here are a few of our favorites to try:


When it comes to tempting subscriptions, appealing to a person’s sense of taste is one that packs a punch. The gift of food is a way to show someone we care about them. It provides comfort, healthy eating options, and convenience for the people we care about. Depending on the food gift you select, it can also support health benefits for your employees. Best of all, recipients rarely re-gift food they receive as a gift. It’s a favorite to receive and consume!

1. DashPass for Work

When you’re thinking of a way to bring ease and flexibility to your food gifting plan, consider the DashPass for Work as an option. We know that 100% of employees eat. DoorDash DashPass for Work is a yearlong membership you can gift employees and it’s a wellness benefit your team will love! For less than a $100 gift card, your employees have the convenience of ordering from their favorite local restaurant, grocery store, convenience store, and more all year long. 

One of DoorDash for Work’s customers, Synopsys, loves the program. “We chose DashPass mainly because of our employees working from home,” Gloria Lee, Benefits Administrator explained. “Everybody knows it’s been a tough year. And it was just another way of helping our employees out. Whenever you order in, you get $0 delivery fees, saving a little bit of money and saving time on cooking. It just helps our employees out.”

2. Ongoing Free Meal Budget

If you’re like many leaders, you have a budget for holiday gifts for your employees. Well, this option is perfect for you. DoorDash offers their Expensed Meals program for leaders who want to offer an ongoing free meal budget for their teams. It’s simple to use and cost effective. Just choose your participants, assign a monthly budget for each person, then use the Work Portal to monitor their use. Employees love Expensed Meals because it makes their lives easier. They get nutritious food when they want it and don’t have to save receipts. All meals are charged directly to the company account. It’s a win-win for employees and leaders year-round. Set up specific days and times with specific budgets and plan a theme. Free lunch Friday anyone?

3. Cooking Class Each Month

What’s a gift that keeps on giving? A cooking class. Teaching employees a skill they can use not only for themselves, but for their families is a great gift. Allow employees the opportunity to sign up for a monthly cooking class. For a good in-person option, check with your local supermarkets. They often offer schools of cooking featuring a variety of recipe options at all skill levels. Some even offer options where the whole family can attend and learn a new recipe or two. For online options, you can easily find a variety of sources by searching for virtual cooking or local cooking classes. 

4. Wine Club Membership

While more specific and only appropriate for certain employees, a monthly wine club subscription is a good option to tempt the taste buds of the wine connoisseurs on your team. There are numerous options of types of wines that can be mixed into different case portions. Wines are also fun to pair with foods. Whichever plan or subscription you choose, you’re sure to find one that will appeal to a wide variety of employee taste. 

5. Coffee Subscriptions

For a coffee lover, a good cup can tempt all the senses, especially taste. Much like the wine clubs, there are a wide variety of coffee subscriptions available. You can support local brands, organic brands, or focus on global brands. Most come with information about the types of beans included, where they are from, how they are selected and roasted, and how to brew the perfect cup. Coffee is a gift that contributes to employee wellbeing by providing a sense of comfort. It can also energize you when you need an extra boost in your day.

6. Seasoning Subscriptions

A final, delicious way to engage your employee’s sense of taste is by choosing an employee holiday gift of olive oil, vinegar, or spice subscriptions directly from the producers. These holiday gifts for employees will engage even the most discerning taste buds and they come at various price points to fit your holiday gift budget. Look to support your local markets and farms or find a global provider online. 


Appealing to your employee’s sense of sight is not only good for your sighted employees, it is especially important for any deaf or hard of hearing employees. As of 2017 approximately 53% of deaf people were in the workforce, as compared to 75.8% of hearing people. Today, one of the biggest challenges for deaf and hard of hearing employees is feeling included in the workplace. By selecting holiday gifts for employees that are mindful of their challenges, you create a more inclusive work environment for every employee.

7. Jigsaw puzzle subscription

When I think of something pleasing to the sense of sight, the first thing that pops to mind is a colorful jigsaw puzzle. The fun of opening a new, brightly colored puzzle makes you feel like a child again. What better way to include the memories of childhood for your employee holiday gift giving than to give the gift of puzzles. And puzzling has numerous benefits including reinforcing hand-eye coordination, engaging both sides of your brain at the same time, and bringing family together in a shared activity. Jigsaw puzzles are also helpful in improving your employee’s spatial awareness and reasoning skills. With all these benefits, it’s the perfect gift for employees of all ages and skill levels.

8. Book of the Month Club

Reading takes good sight, so this is a natural suggestion for activating your employee’s sense of sight. Reading can help calm nerves; it can provide education and skill building. It can also provide a good monthly variety of reading material to employees that typically do not read. A quick online search serves up multiple book subscription providers. Many allow you to narrow down a type of book for your employee. These providers can also help you find the perfect book category when you’re gifting the subscription. 


The ability to hear, understand and enjoy experiences is important. For your hearing employees, selecting gifts that celebrate this sense is  a good way to help them enjoy the holiday season. However, when it comes to being mindful of your vision impaired or blind employees, sound becomes even more important.  Not only will your hearing employees love these holiday gift suggestions, but your visually impaired or blind employees will feel included in the enjoyment.

9. Music App Subscription

When it comes to engaging your sense of sound, a subscription to your employee’s favorite music provider is a win. No matter which music provider they like, tailored music options at no cost is always a good employee holiday gift. Because the services ask the employee to fill out or provide their favorite artists or music styles, it quickly becomes a highly personalized gift they will continue to enjoy all year long. 

10. Meditation

Studies show meditation can relax your mind, reduce stress, and ease anxiety. It is an excellent way to boost your employees’ immune systems, and improve attention and memory as it changes the physical structure of the brain. Although the benefits of meditation practice have been known for years, it is still not widely accepted and put into regular routines. In a 2018 study, only 14% of American adults said they meditated and only 15% of remote employees say they would consider group or individual meditation sessions or apps. If you plan to give the continuous gift of meditation to your team, ask questions first. If interested, it can be an amazing holiday gift for employees.


When it comes to having an inclusive workplace, we need to think about the impact touch has on all employees. Things like lighting, sound, and temperature adjustments  are things you can do to make everyone feel in control. For neurodiverse employees, or employees who really enjoy the sense of touch, here are a few suggestions for holiday gifts that will make them feel comfortable and happy this holiday season.

11. Needlework & Craft Subscription

When thinking of engaging touch, a craft employee holiday gift subscription is an excellent option. Like several others, you need to know if your employees like doing crafts. But once you do, there are so many options. You can give memberships to clubs for needlepoint, cross stitch, embroidery, quilting, crochet and knitting. Some involve online or in-person classes to go with them. Either way, you’ll be activating different parts of the employee brain. This activation can provide many benefits at work such as aiding in better concentration. 

12. Gym Membership

What can be more hands on than a good workout? Whether the employee is a weightlifter or wants to get involved in yoga or aerobics, it’s all about health and feeling good. 78% of employees believe physical and mental wellness is essential to work success, yet many employees are unable to find time to prioritize workout programs. There is something good about having hands-on exercise experience. Countless studies have shown the benefits of regular exercise. It can improve concentration, and enhance creativity, especially if done during work hours. By giving the employee a gym membership as a gift, you can approve the use during work hours. It’s also a good alternative for remote employees too. 


The sense of smell is a valuable sense. Employees use it to detect danger, like during a fire or gas leak. But smell can also evoke or create memories that last deep in the brain. In fact, they aren't processed in the thalamus, but instead go straight to the brain's smell center, known as the olfactory bulb. This allows our brain to immediately trigger memories and emotions.  

13. Flowers of the month club

When it comes to tapping into my sense of smell, I always think of two things. The first is fresh baked, homemade cookies. The second is fresh flowers. For employees, receiving fresh flowers is like receiving sunshine. It can lift spirits or make you feel valuable and appreciated. There are the tried-and-true national flower delivery companies. My recommendation is to look on the DoorDash app for florists near you. You’ll feel good supporting a local entrepreneur and your team members will feel good every month when a new floral arrangement arrives. And if you bundle this gift with a DoorDash DashPass for Work membership, delivery will be free, saving your business even more.

doordash for work product suite

Holiday Gifts for Employees that Last

When it comes to holiday gifts for employees, knowing you selected an affordable gift that will bring joy to the employee every month is a compelling reason to choose this option. Employees benefit from having a personalized gift that they can anticipate each month. For example, DoorDash’s DashPass is a gift that keeps on giving by freeing your employees’ schedules from needing to get groceries, prescriptions, diapers and more. On top of meals from their favorite restaurants, for under the cost of a $100 gift card, all of these eligible orders can be delivered year round for free. The benefits of giving a gift that lasts all year long are impactful to your organization in many ways too:

Retain Talent

Right now, during what is known as The Great Resignation, employers are doing all they can to retain top talent. We’ve covered several suggestions of how you can reward employees with retention in mind. Food as holiday gifts for employees remains one of the most effective ways to impact retention. In fact, 85% of employees said regular food delivery would increase their job satisfaction.

Improve Performance

In a recent study, 49% of those surveyed said they’ve had at least one work failure, including missing a deadline, a call, or other work matter, due to a need to prepare food for themselves or family. Taking this pressure off the employee will help them have greater focus at work. Increased ability to focus on the work at hand results in more engaged, more productive employees. 

Strengthen Company Culture

63% of companies with a robust food program in place have seen a positive impact on company culture. As you rebuild culture, I think there are two factors it really boils down to once you get people back to the workplace. The first is visibility. Visibility is the number one factor to me because we’ve lacked that in-person visibility over the past two years. Find ways to bring people together where they can see each other, where they can talk, laugh, and have those unstructured conversations. The second is to build in intentional mental health breaks. Do not expect everyone to be visible 100% day so normalize rest, moments of being alone, etc. 

Make Employees Happier

Happiness leads to a 12% spike in productivity. In a 2021 survey of DashPass users, 76% said food delivery increased their happiness. Organizations everywhere have been trying to tap into increasing happiness and positively impacting productivity. Food appears to have a favorable impact on this connection.

Give Employees Recharge Time

In a 2021 survey of DashPass users, 82% stated that food delivery saved them time. With DashPass for Work, employees can get free delivery of prescriptions, groceries, diapers and more, reducing the time it takes to do everyday errands. Whether employees are working in the office, in a hybrid situation, or fully remote, they are all appreciative of more time to recharge and be with their families.

Organizations are only strong when we have employees who are skilled, dedicated and inspired. While a one-time gift is appreciated, giving an employee more continuous validation throughout the year will improve their connection to the team. This connection will give employees more reasons to do all they can to be productive. Use year-round gift options to show employees how much they mean to you this holiday and every day. 

With COVID-19 still impacting all our lives, giving employees reasons to focus on their wellness, their health and overall comfort is the way to go this holiday season. As you prepare for 2021 gift giving and 2022 return to the office, use these resources from the DoorDash The Future of the Office report and other fun holiday gifts for employees.


Trish McFarlane
Trish McFarlane
CEO and Principal Analyst, H3 HR Advisors

Trish McFarlane is the CEO and Principal Analyst for H3 HR Advisors.  As a former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience in Big 4 public accounting, PR, healthcare, manufacturing, and IT, Trish brings that knowledge to her clients as an analyst and advisor.  She has been the author of the Trish McFarlane blog (formerly known as the HRRingleader blog) since 2009.  In addition, she began the HRevolution un-conference in 2009 and was a founding member of the Women of HR blog.