gifts they might actually want

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

Photo-Illustration: retailers

Coming up with holiday 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 principle of co-worker gifting remains 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 HR representative who so patiently explained your company’s retirement benefits. And if you’re looking for a present for your hard-to-please boss, we have a separate gift guide to shop from. And some items will even still arrive by Christmas — we’ve noted which ones won’t in the descriptions.

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’s always meal-prepping

Heavy glass containers are impractical for the co-worker whose work bag is already overflowing. Nutrition expert and founder of NAO Wellness Nikki Ostrower feels the same way, so she uses these, which “collapse like an accordion.” Your co-worker can separate veggies from dressings in these color-coded containers — and you won’t have to hear about their wilted lettuce again.

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’s avoiding plastic straws

Pasta straws are the latest alternative to environmentally damaging plastic straws, and they have the benefit of being thicker and more rigid than their flimsy paper counterparts, so they won’t fall apart in your cold brew. Strategist contributor Natalie Toren has used them in everything from iced coffee to blueberry smoothies and hibiscus tea and says that they are “far superior.” [Editor’s note: This item arrives after Christmas.]

For the instant-noodle expert

$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 them. [Editor’s note: This item arrives after Christmas.]

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.”

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.” [Editor’s note: This item arrives after Christmas.]

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 you finish every last drop.