gifts they might actually want

A Gift Under $50 for Every Type of Co-worker

Photo-Illustration: retailers

Coming up with gift ideas for co-workers — whether they’ve been a longtime desk mate or you just see them onscreen every week — can be especially challenging. But the general principles of gifting remain the same: You’re looking for items that are thoughtful (and affordable) and that they’ll use and enjoy. We did the legwork for you and hunted down the best gifts under $50 for every type of co-worker from your department’s intern to the veteran employee who showed you the ropes when you first started. And if you’re looking for a present for your hard-to-please boss, we have a separate gift guide to shop from.

For the co-worker who always asks to borrow your charger

Comedian Jacqueline Novak’s boyfriend, a faithful Anker user, gifted her this now-essential charger: “It’s both the thing that plugs into the wall and the battery all in one … The wall charger is the battery. So all you need is this Anker and a USB cord.”

For the co-worker who wraps their sandwich in aluminum foil

We’ve heard many rave reviews of Stasher, the “It” bag of sustainable food storage, over the years, including from Strategist contributor Alison Freer, who swears by them and owns “every size, shape, and fun color they make.” Several ecofriendly experts gave them a thumbs-up, too. The bags have a super-tight seal to keep snacks from becoming stale or spilling over.

For the co-worker who makes gourmet office lunches

$25 for 12
Photo: Retailer

When we asked chefs and food writers to recommend their favorite instant noodles, New York Times food reporter and Indian-ish author Priya Krishna raved about these, calling them “spicy, salty, and equally delicious whether prepared really soupy or more like a loose sauce.” Krishna is a self-described “Maggi masala-noodles devotee” and adds soy sauce, black pepper, and sautéed ginger or garlic to her bowl.

For the co-worker who’s two coffees in by 9 a.m.

We’ve been Zojirushi fans since 2016 because, as Strategist contributor Laura Perciasepe put it, the Zojirushi “keeps things as they are.” Liquid “stays cold if you want it to be cold. It stays hot if you want it to be hot” — especially useful if your co-worker is commuting again.

For the co-worker who’s three teas in by 9 a.m.

Singer Brandy tipped us off to these tea crystals, which she discovered during her debut Broadway run. “It feels so good when it goes down,” she says. “I feel like my voice is being taken care of and coated. After I started drinking it for a while, I could hit notes that I normally wouldn’t have been able to hit without it.”

For the co-worker who has become a quasi-professional barista

Photo: retailer

They’ve probably already mastered their perfect cup of hot coffee — so help your co-worker take on cold brew with this combination cold-brew-maker and tea infuser that MochaBox Coffee co-owners Harlin Thomas II and Floyd Sartin call an “affordable, easy-to-use” device.

For the co-worker whose homemade bakes are Great British Baking Show worthy

You know the one who always comes to the office with a tray of brownies, cookies, or cupcakes. This Bundt pan — which cookbook author Vallery Lomas (who also happened to win The Great American Baking Show) uses for her pound-cake recipe — is sure to inspire your home-baker co-worker to bring in a cake for your afternoon fika sessions.

For the co-worker who’s serious about hydration

This gigantic water bottle beloved by contributor Caroline Goldfarb fits one gallon of H2O and features inspirational slogans to help them finish every last drop.

For the co-worker who’s obsessed with Scandinavian design

DII Swedish Dishcloths
$15 for 3
$15 for 3

These reusable Swedish cellulose-and-cotton dishcloths are “a game changer,” says writer Ashlea Halpern. “They are superabsorbent, able to soak up 20 times their own weight in liquid,” she writes, adding that these dry quickly in between uses. These have taken the place of paper towels in her kitchen, wiping away “granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances, and streak-prone cooktop.” We’re particularly partial to this lemon print.

For the co-worker who desperately needs a new work bag

Photo: Retailer

One of the Strategist’s favorite work bags we use ourselves, the Baggu duck bag is more durable than your standard tote and comes with a few extra features useful for transporting work necessities to the office: an inner pocket, snap closure, adjustable shoulder strap, and handles. It’s deep enough to fit a laptop and documents, too.

For the co-worker who travels light

​​Fila Fanny Pack
$16
$16

For only the essentials, this fanny pack is on trend, speaking to “the ’90s moment we’re still embracing,” stylist Lauren Messiah told us. It’s sporty enough for their after-hours athleisure looks, too.

For the co-worker who just moved

Areaware Table Tiles
$15
$15

At the vanguard of the design coaster trend, these tiles were praised by new homeowners for their ability to do double duty: Separated, they can be graphic coasters, and together, they can act as a trivet.

For the co-worker who just moved to a studio apartment

Photo: retailer

Hannah Starke, a former member of the Strategist social team, knows all about being short on space: Her first solo apartment features “a kitchen that’s better described as a 22-square-foot closet.” To make it all work, Starke is pretty particular about every essential in the space, including these under-cabinet utensil holders — she uses them to hang dishwashing brushes, mugs, and measuring spoons.

For the co-worker whose apartment is a mini-greenhouse

This once-pricey philodendron varietal — named after the famous Hermès handbag — is now on Amazon starting at just $15. It’s like a collector’s item for gardeners.

For the co-worker whose desk is a propagation station

Their plants can have their own sunshine party.

For the co-worker coming back from parental leave

Late nights and early mornings aren’t easy on the eyes — and senior account director in PR Sonya Li Casino, who happens to be a new mom, says this roller, which she found on Instagram, helps with that. “I bought one for myself and like three other people I know. It’s very, very addicting and makes me feel so refreshed,” she says.

For the co-worker who started the office book club

$14

They’ll enjoy Pure Colour, Sheila Heti’s most recent novel. “Heti’s insistence on keeping utility and care at the forefront of her work — her defense of art as a therapeutic — is perhaps more radical than it gets credit for,” writes Jennifer Wilson in her review for Vulture.

For the co-worker with bookshelves in their Zoom background

These acrylic bookends can double as file collators — they’ll fit in as stylish office furniture or on a home bookshelf.

For the co-worker who collects fancy soap

For our guide to gifts that give back, we discovered this soap — every purchase of it goes to support the New York Botanical Garden’s research and education efforts. The bar looks like it should be an extra in Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, and it’s rose scented with notes of bergamot and black currant.

For the co-worker whose desk is filled with family photos

If they’re running out of desk real estate for framed family photos, this digital photo frame — a favorite of Amazon reviewers — can display all those memories in one neat slideshow.

For the office karaoke star

Photo: retailer

This mini-microphone comes TikTok-approved, as mononymous content creator Marz appreciates just how simple it is to use and its stand to stay hands free.

For the co-worker who multitasks

Omoton Adjustable Cell Phone Stand
From $11
From $11

Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness told us about this handy-dandy phone “easel” that will free up your multitasking colleagues’ hands so they can work on spinning even more plates (or for when they need a Twitter or TikTok break).

For the co-worker who’s particular about their desk-organization system

$31

If you’ve seen your co-worker painstakingly rearrange files or make sure their lamp is at just the right angle, this might bring some satisfaction to their very precise mind. Daniel Loya, professional organizer and owner of Spaces Transformed, says the tower desk bar “offers simple organization balanced with clean lines that make it a work of art.” It can hold glasses, writing utensils, and a phone.

For the co-worker whose (handwritten) notes you always ask to borrow

This compact fountain pen came in second in its category in our 100-pen ranking — just edged out by a $135 option. It’s also recommended by Call Me by Your Name author André Aciman, who calls it “the Volkswagen of pens with a Jaguar engine.”

For the co-worker who’s a cat person

Why do cats love this banana toy so much? When we asked Nora Wood, adoption-event coordinator for Anjellicle Cats, she explained that its shape makes it perfect to play with. Plus, it’s far superior to the “lots of crap catnip out there.”

For the co-worker who’s more of a dog person

Strategist senior manager of audience development Mia Leimkuhler has gifted this interactive squirrel toy to other pet parents, and “it’s a hit every time,” she says.

For the co-worker who needs to take things one day at a time

$40

… or one hour at a time. This set of hourglasses comes with one five-minute and one 30-minute timer that are nice-looking enough for your co-worker to display on their desk.

For the co-worker who always looks on the bright side

Brighten up your already cheery co-worker’s desk with this vintage-inspired orange-juice vase, which Strategist writer Ambar Pardilla can vouch is ideal for taller stems. The vase also comes in an even sweeter strawberry shape.

For the co-worker who hates scented candles

Acupuncturist Gabriel Sher keeps this quiet diffuser in his office, which can fill the room with the aroma of his favorite soothing lavender-scented essential oil. Your co-worker can set it on a timer or completely forget about it. “If you keep it on continuously, it turns off automatically when the water runs out,” Sher points out.

For the co-worker who can’t have too many scented candles

The hottest candle scent right now is technically a fruit: tomato. Out of all the candles we’ve been seeing, this Jonathan Adler candle is the only one that actually looks like a tomato. It has notes of rhubarb, basil, and thyme too.

For the co-worker who’s always cold

If the office AC vent blasts right above their desk, gift them what we declared the best-in-class space heater, which has 11 temperature settings and an adjustable fan strength that will allow them to control how much noise it makes.

For the co-worker who’s always hot

$16

For the polar opposite of that always-cold co-worker, Strategist writer Dominique Pariso found a solution to face sweat in this mini manual fan, which “is now an essential, on par with my house keys and debit card.” She calls it “the closest thing you can get to sticking your head in a freezer on a steamy subway platform.”

For the co-worker who’s worried about blue-light exposure on their skin

“After years of beauty reporting and countless conversations with dermatologists and aestheticians, I’ve learned that sunscreen is a nonnegotiable year-round thing,” says Strategist writer Tembe Denton-Hurst. Elta MD’s dermatologist-recommended sunscreen is our best-in-class pick and will prevent UV damage.

For the co-worker who knows everyone’s birth chart

If they can spot a Scorpio from a Sagitarrius with just one look, they may also like tarot-reading. When we spoke to tarot readers and astrologers, they recommended this centennial version of the classic Rider deck. It’s “the most-popular modern deck by far,” explains Jerico Mandybur, an author and tarot-card reader. Mandybur adds that it’s “a good one to go with to get you off the ground.”

For the intern who went above and beyond

When we asked college students about the gifts they’d want, these tumblers were described as “easy to clean and store and one step up from Solo cups.” They’re also a favorite of Mimi Cheng co-founders (and sisters) Hannah and Marian Cheng, who say they’re reminiscent of “drinking and eating tapas in Madrid.”

For the co-worker who organizes office happy hours

To take their cocktails to the next level, “bitters are the salt and pepper, the pinch of seasoning” that their glass needs, according to Lynnette Marrero, the beverage director for New York City–based Llama Inn and Llama San. This set includes three that several experts told us all about, for old-fashioneds, Manhattans, and much more.

For the co-worker who can’t work with heels on

They might never leave their desk when they slip into these polka-dot slippers from floral-print aficionado Laura Ashley.

For the co-worker who needs to kick their feet up to think

$30

For a small but impactful desk update — whether they’re IRL or WFH — this footrest can ensure their lower body is positioned properly to keep a bend in their knees and hips, chiropractor Cariann Paul tells us (feet that don’t reach the floor means added pressure to your back and legs).

For the co-worker who likes to plan their week weeks in advance

The Hobonichi Techo is a perennial Strategist favorite and our pick for best-in-class planner, scoring high marks for its “hard-wearing cover, thin (but quality) pages for a slim profile, lie-flat opening, and compact size,” according to associate editor Louis Cheslaw. “It definitely falls into the ‘if you know, you know’ category of stationery,” says Strategist writer Dominique Pariso.

For the co-worker who prefers notebooks to planners

“I am steadfast in my belief that Moleskine blank-page notebooks are the way to go,” says former Strategist tech writer Jordan Bowman. He first found out about this notebook in college and has been a believer ever since. His pages are all filled with “a mix of cursive, doctor gibberish, and journalistic shorthand.”

For the co-worker who’s over the puzzle craze

Their puzzle phase may be done with, but they probably won’t be bored of this board game. It only took one weekend of playing it for Strategist senior writer Liza Corsillo, a self-professed board-game fan, to get hooked. “It cherry-picks the elements of my favorite games (the fast play of Ticket to Ride, the social interaction of Settlers of Catan) but is more engaging and fun to look at,” Corsillo writes.

For the co-worker who always gets asked, “How did you make that?”

Corsillo uses this washable paint to hand-paint her own clothes. “If I had unlimited time, I might set up a shop to sell my hand-painted clothing and home goods,” she writes. Your crafty co-worker will no doubt follow and DIY their own one-of-a-kind shirts, pants, and more.

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