In short:

  • Show your employees gratitude this holiday season with fun gifts and thoughtful perks that honor their hard work from home.
  • From the parent-turned-homeschool-teacher to the ex-road warrior, we've got ideas to fit your (remote) team’s individual circumstances.
  • Our 2020 Holiday Gift Guide for Remote Employees has practical, unique and flat-out-fun gift ideas that won’t break your young business’s bank.

As the holiday season approaches, entrepreneurs may find themselves seeking gifts for a large, newly remote workforce that has stuck it out through one of the most challenging years on record. This shift to a work-from-home (WFH) economy is a substantial one, with 42% of the U.S. labor force now WFH full-time.

Sure, there are some benefits of working from home, but teams are also experiencing new challenges, including negative impacts on mental health, difficulty finding balance and increased burnout. One might say thanking your workers has never been more important.

Brainyard’s 2020 Holiday Gift Guide for Remote Employees is packed with unique perks and fun gift ideas sure to delight employees. Some will even make your business more productive. And, they’re easy on the business bank account.

Happy shopping, entrepreneurs.

Gifts for the Parent-Turned-Homeschool-Teacher

Here are ideas for parents juggling full-time work with the new role of substitute teacher in the experiment of virtual learning. If anyone needs some holiday love, it’s these unsung heroes. In lieu of typical holiday gifts, consider these perks:

Increased Holiday PTO

Since COVID-19 broke out in March, companies across the country have increased PTO for several legitimate needs.

Jay Scott, owner of publishing platform Pugsquest, is giving employees extra paid time off as a show of “gratitude, motivation, and support” because “COVID season has been very hectic and strenuous for everyone,” he said.

TeamStage founder Tina Nikilovska said she bumped up PTO when she realized employees were “reluctant to take a vacation” not only because of travel restrictions but also because “they were worried about job security.” She aims to “nudge” her team to take a “well-deserved vacation.”

Increased PTO this holiday season is a surefire way to show parents you understand the challenge of caring for dependents.

Flex Work Schedules

A cost-effective, no-nonsense gift, flexible work schedules allow parents to choose when and where they work (within reason), allowing them to handle kids and close deals on their own schedule.

In response to COVID-19, the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, presented options for its departments to implement flexible hours so long as it didn’t increase staffing costs or decrease productivity. Approaches including flexible daily hours, bulking hours (e.g., four 10-hour days per week) and alternative work sites can “facilitate employees’ ability to engage in wellness activities,” per the school’s website.

If you don’t already offer flex time to workers, the holidays present an opportunity to test it out. Just remember: Flex time doesn’t equal inefficient operations. On the contrary, a 2020 Gallup study suggests flex time actually engages remote workers, leading to lower absenteeism, better retention and more profitability.

fall 2020 survey

Survey Says: In our recent survey, business leaders said their No. 1 challenge right now is “juggling too many responsibilities.” For many, a flexible schedule could be a major gift. LEARN MORE.

Holiday Bonuses

Many of us typically stress about overspending during the holidays, but bonuses are particularly relevant this year, with some companies instituting pay cuts to avoid layoffs due to COVID-19.

“This holiday season will surely encourage [people] to go over their regular budget, and an extra allowance will help them big time,” said Tal Shelef, co-founder of Condo Wizard.

In the case of Shelef’s company, which sells pre-construction condos and townhomes in cities like New York and Toronto, the bonus is performance based. Employees will get an extra $1,000 for each of their accumulated sales over the past six months.

Childcare Stipends

Companies looking to relieve parents from the burden of childcare should take notes from PWC, the Big 4 accounting firm that offers employees a back-up care reimbursement of up to $2,000 per year for last-minute childcare arrangements.

This support can be a saving grace for 60% of parents who, according to a study conducted by Boston Consulting Group in May 2020, have no additional help caring for children.

If your company budget isn’t quite Big 4 in nature, consider upping salaries in 2021 to alleviate the burden of childcare or providing access to resources like SitterStream, an on-demand, virtual childcare service for working parents.

Gifts for the Ex-Road Warrior

Here’s a list of gifts for your employee who misses the rush of new time zones, cultures, culinary delights, red-eye flights and closing that deal in-person.

Home Office Upgrades

Like the $1,000 that Twitter employees received, a flat rate for office setup could do wonders to help that busybody get resettled.

Taking a practical approach, companies like Gadget Review provide new Internet routers with firmware for better network security, VPN subscriptions and reimbursements for other necessary items. CEO Rex Frieberger said the company’s holiday gifting strategy entails switching out all employees’ office equipment that isn’t “up to task.”

If health and wellness is top of mind, hook up those displaced road warriors with ergonomic keyboards, chairs or standing desks from brands like AnthroDesk.

anthrodesk image

The ErgoSpring Standing Desk, from AnthroDesk

Coffee From Around the World

Keep the spirit of travel alive by gifting solemn road warriors a java-saturated experience via Atlas Coffee Club. Each month brings a new, freshly-roasted bag of beans from distant locales like Tanzania, Colombia and Kenya alongside tasting notes, preparation instructions and a postcard.

Your employees may not be traveling for awhile, but at least they can stay caffeinated while learning about the far-off origins of their favorite coffee.

Healthy Meals at Home

Travel bugs usually don’t spend a lot of time cooking, so fuel their transition to home life with healthy meals. From services like Sun Basket that cover breakfast, lunch and dinner to all-vegan options like Purple Carrot, to ready-to-blend smoothies from Daily Harvest, the food subscription industry is full of options. Real Simple’s rundown of meal subscription boxes is a great place to start.

If snacks feel like a better choice, try options like Fit Snack for a wellness-inspired box or Graze for a curation tailored to your team’s tastes. You might also surprise colleagues with meal delivery from local vendors: Goop has a list of healthy meal delivery companies in major cities nationwide.

Tamarind Cauliflower meal kit, from Purple Carrot

Corkboard Travel Map

Inspire your temporarily-stagnant road warrior with a world map corkboard to relive previous travels and plot their next big sales run (socially-distanced, of course).

For a cost-effective option, go with the world map corkboard from World Market. However, If you’re the “spare no expense” kind of boss, check out Push Pin Travel Maps, which offers different map styles, framing options and personalization.

Gifts for the City-Dweller Confined to an Apartment

Here are gift options for city-dwellers that live for entertainment, nightlife and the hustle-and-bustle of city lights, but are stuck climbing the walls of their apartment.

Streaming Subscriptions and Devices

Help your city-dwelling employees enjoy their nights in with a subscription to a top streaming service. It’s a cost-effective option which, if used creatively, can bring the team together: Haro Helpers CEO Brett Downes bought three Netflix subscriptions to cover his 11-person team for less than $50, which they use to watch shows together while messaging in Whatsapp groups in real time.

“It keeps all the staff in touch with each other, and we muddle through this crisis together and keep up morale,” said Downes.

Streaming devices are another great option, especially The Roku Streaming Stick+, which goes for $50 and provides access to over 5,000 channels and most apps. Other top contenders are the similarly-priced Chromecast with Google TV, the Nvidia Shield TV for $149 and the voice-controlled Amazon Fire TV Cube at $120. For more, Tom’s Guide has a rundown of the best streaming devices in 2020.

Home Workouts

At-home workout options are crucial for physical health and mental wellbeing. There are many affordable fitness apps and subscription services to choose from: We especially enjoy strength-training classes from Booya Fitness and Tone It Up, yoga and meditation services like Find What Feels Good and bodyweight training from Freeletics. Each subscription is around $10 a month.

Want to play secret Santa without dropping a dime? Share Nike Training Club with your team. The free service offers on-demand classes, trainer-led programs and tips from Nike Master Trainers.

booyafitness screenshot

On-demand workout library, from Booya Fitness

Live Music at Home

While most live music venues remain closed, many artists are doing online shows. Billboard updates its list of livestream and virtual concerts regularly, with shows from A-list talent like Sam Smith, Avril Lavigne, Glass Animals and more. Some are free; others come with ticket costs lower than those you’d pay in an arena.

Surprise the music lover on your team with a ticket to one of their favorite shows. They may miss crowd-surfing their favorite artist down through an auditorium but still get a stellar view.

More Gifts for Your Virtual Team

Guided Meditation

First Cup’s Morning Series offers six minutes of “insight, information and inspiration to start your day with intention,” per its website. Each of the audio files, which arrive seven days a week, includes a breathing exercise, a piece of wisdom and a reminder, mantra or question to ponder during the rest of the day. Subscriptions are $68 a month.

LectroFan White Noise Machine

Take at-home concentration to new levels with LectroFan, a white noise machine with 10-plus sounds that increase focus and block out a disturbance in your home office. Gift rest and focus to your teams starting at $50 per device.

LectroFan Evo, from Sound of Sleep

Cupcake-Making Party

Satisfy your team’s sweet tooth with a cupcake kit from Sweetology that includes ingredients and step-by-step instructions mailed to their homes. Leave your squad to decorate on their own, or host a video call together for team building through frosting. Kits start at $40.

Goal Crazy Planner

Help employees achieve their dreams — at work and beyond — with the Goal Crazy Planner, which includes tools to help you “discover goals, overcome obstacles and get more accomplished.” Individual planners cost $25; snag a four-pack for $90.

goal crazy

Goal Crazy 90-Day Planner, from Goal Crazy

Stress-Relief Desk Toy

Worried that squeezing that old stress ball might not be enough to get your employees through the winter? Save the holidays with Speks, a magnetic desk toy they can bash in times of pure frustration and use to build intricate geometric shapes for Jedi focus. The toy starts at $25.

Thought-Provoking Reads

Next Big Idea Club sends subscribers two groundbreaking books filled with big ideas each month. Works are hand-selected by thinkers like Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Cain and Daniel Pink and come for $21 a month.

Hardcover Books subscription, from Next Big Idea Club

Branded Swag

Keep up company pride with team swag. Totally Promotional can emblazon your brand’s logo on a variety of private-labeled products from apparel to ceramic mugs.


Consider ways to give back while honoring your employees. Donate to a charity of their choice, allow them to volunteer on work hours, or donate your team’s skills to an organization that would benefit from your expertise.

Giving, they say, is the best gift of all.

Justin Biel is a contributing editor at Brainyard. He covers a wide range of business topics with an emphasis on entrepreneurship, marketing, branding and fundraising. Justin worked as a freelance journalist and copywriter and spent a decade as an entrepreneur.

Mark Bianco

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