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 challenging. But the general principles remain the same as with any other gift: You’re looking for items that are thoughtful (and affordable) and that they’ll enjoy using. We did the legwork for you and hunted down the best gifts for less than $50 for every type of co-worker broken down into six categories. Whether they’re a foodie, an amateur skin-care scientist, or constantly trying to improve their desk space, we’ve found a tried-and-true Strategist favorite they’ll enjoy. And if you’re looking for a present for your hard-to-please boss, we have a separate gift guide for them. (For the rest of your list, we have guides for everyone from tween boys to grandparents.)
Food and drink gifts
For the co-worker who makes gourmet office lunches
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 thermos “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 getting used to commuting again.
For the co-worker who’s two teas in by 9 a.m.
For the co-worker who has marathon days of public speaking
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
They’ve probably already mastered their perfect cup of hot coffee — so help your co-worker expand their repertoire with this combination cold-brew-maker and tea infuser that MochaBox Coffee co-owners Harlin Thomas II and Floyd Sartin recommend as an “affordable, easy-to-use” entry into cold brew.
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 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 with a secret condiment stash
For the co-worker who’s serious about getting their eight cups of water in
For the cool intern
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 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 hour
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 keeps their vermouth in the fridge
Self-care and beauty gifts
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 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 collects fancy soap
For the co-worker with miraculously good hair
This hair oil from Korean brand British M was evangelized to our beauty writer Rio Viera-Newton by Soko Glam founder Charlotte Cho. “This is the best hair oil I’ve ever tried in my life,” Rio says. “It never, ever weighs my hair down or makes it look wet or sticky, even if I use a touch too much.”
For the co-worker battling winter dryness
For the co-worker whose ideal vacation involves a campfire
For the co-worker whose ideal vacation involves a farmer’s market
For the co-worker who asks to borrow your charger
For the co-worker whose desk is filled with family photos
For the office karaoke star
For the co-worker who multitasks
Gifts for the office
For the co-worker who plans 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’s particular about their desk-organization system
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 desk feels like a spa
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 desperately needs a new work bag
One of the Strategist’s favorite work bags we use ourselves, the Baggu cotton-canvas 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, and comes in a dozen colors from op-art checkers to classic black.
For the co-worker who likes to send a handwritten note
For the co-worker who needs to take things one day at a time
… 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
For the co-worker who’s always cold
For the co-worker who’s always hot
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 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
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).
Gifts for the home
For the co-worker who just moved to a new place
For the co-worker cutting down on kitchen waste
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 loves a status plant
For the co-worker who’s Zoom background is full of plants
Their plants can have their own sunshine party.
For the co-worker who just got a dog
For the co-worker with a hyperactive cat
Books and games
For the co-worker with an artistic side
For the co-worker who always has a food experiment brewing
If they’ve always got kimchee or kombucha in the works, they’ll enjoy this cookbook full of “surprisingly doable recipes and techniques” from three-star Michelin restaurant Noma. It “takes readers deep into the funky depths of the Copenhagen restaurant’s famous fermentation lab,” says former Strategist writer Nikita Richardson.
For the co-worker who knows everyone’s birth chart
If they can spot a Scorpio from a Sagittarius with just one look, they may 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 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 spends their weekends birding
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