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The Best Virtual Gift Ideas for Your Remote Employees and Coworkers

Virtual gifts you can give your employees to make them feel appreciated despite working remotely...

Gerald Ainomugisha
HR and Tech writer, storyteller, and Afrobeat aficionado
January 28, 2022
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If you are reading this right now, then there’s a high chance you are frustrated because you can’t seem to find the best virtual gifts to get your remote workers. You are probably even more frustrated because every list of ‘virtual gifts’ you have found is made up of mostly physical, offline gifts like gift baskets, desk organizers, house plants, coffee mugs, chargers among others. There aren't enough virtual gifts for you to pick from.

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic made remote work common in most workspaces, several things about how teams operate have changed to comply with COVID-19 guidelines and SOPs.

One of these things that had to change is how team managers reward and motivate their remote team members. So, where you once had an office holiday party attended physically by everyone in the company, bonding, exchanging Christmas gifts, and reminiscing over the year, you now have remote teams, Zoom meetings, Zoom parties, and virtual gifts.

Why You Should Give Virtual Gifts to Your Remote Employees

If you are wondering why you should give virtual gifts to your remote employees even though you don’t see them at the office every day, it is because you still have to motivate, incentivize and reward your employees even while they are working remotely. Giving your remote teams gifts increases their engagement and sense of belonging to the team regardless of where they are.

Remote workers often feel alienated and disconnected from the rest of the team because they don't get to engage in the bonding practices at the workplace. Because of this, it is crucial that you endeavor to show them that they are a valued member of the team.

Furthermore, every manager needs to increase remote employee engagement in their team. Studies have shown that increased employee engagement can lead to higher employee retention, productivity, and job satisfaction. This consequently leads to increased profitability and reduced costs associated with recruiting and off-boarding employees. Given these drastic implications of low employee engagement, your HR department cannot afford to skip simple gestures like giving gifts to your team members.  

A gift nicely wrapped

To help you find meaningful virtual gifts for your remote employees, we have compiled a list of the best virtual gifts to give your remote employees. We focus on virtual gifts that do not require mailing addresses and postage fees.

The Best Virtual Gifts for Your Remote Teams

An assortment of gifts and snacks

1. Subscriptions

A person holding a remote for a TV subscription

A tremendous and easy virtual gift to give your remote employees are subscription to an online streaming service like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Apple TV and many others. Because your employees are working from home, they spend a lot of their free time at home and not out with friends. Purchasing your employee a subscription to an online streaming service could give them something to do with their free time.

A subscription to an online streaming service is an excellent gift because your employee and their entire family can use it. This can help your employees get more quality time with their families and improve their wellness. Stress reduction is key for your employees during the holiday season so you should also prioritize their well-being during this period. 

Furthermore, working remotely, especially during the pandemic, means balancing child care and work. A subscription to an online streaming service could give the kids something to do while mom and dad work in the home office. In addition, having something to occupy the kids with could help your employees be more productive during the hours they set aside for work.

Other subscriptions you get your employee include;

  • Gym membership
  • Online games and music platforms like Spotify and Pandora
  • Subscription to a coffee, cheese, wine, or beer of the month club
  • Subscription to a fitness app, like Thenx or Headspace.

Related: 6 Ways to Manage Virtual Teams

2. Access to Virtual Courses and Training Programs

Graphic of a virtual training course

One of the best virtual gifts you can give your employees is access to online courses and training programs. Employees love learning new skills and acquiring new qualifications at work. This can factor heavily into whether or not they qualify for a promotion or raise, so getting new skills is essential.

Employees are more likely to be more satisfied with their employer and last longer if they feel like they are growing professionally. This is especially true in the post-pandemic workplace, which requires new skills that employees didn't prioritize before the pandemic. Many employees are nervous about returning to the workplace and realizing that their pre-pandemic skills are obsolete. One of the best ways to mitigate these concerns is by purchasing training programs to improve their skills.

One of the benefits of the pandemic is the impact it has had on virtual learning. Virtual training programs are now more interactive and customizable around the learner's unique needs than ever before. As a result, your employees can gain valuable knowledge and skills without sacrificing productive work hours and social time.

Some good examples of virtual programs include coding classes, marketing and customer service training, and sales training. However, as mentioned above, it is important to ensure that you gift employees with training programs that match their interests and career directions.

3. NFTS and Other Digital Collectibles

NFTs  and other digital collectibles

NFTs or Non-Fungible Tokens have exploded onto the crypto-currency scene as a form of digital collectible. NFTs can be minted for anything and give the owners sole ownership of a limited digital collectible like art, music, a sports highlight, and many others. Unlike other crypto-currencies, NFTs cannot be exchanged directly for other NFTs but instead other crypto-currencies.

NFTs would make great virtual gifts for the collectors and young people in your team. They are also great gifts for the accounting and finance guys in the team who probably already know about them. NFTs are great virtual gifts because not only are their digital collectibles that can't be destroyed or copied; they are also assets that can be exchanged for another cryptocurrency like Bitcoin or Ethereum.    

Furthermore, since NFTs are still relatively new compared to other crypto-currencies, the applications and consequently their future value is limitless. Therefore, helping your employees start building their NFT portfolios now could turn out to be a great financial decision for their futures since no one knows what any of these assets could be worth in the future.

Of course, it is worth mentioning that NFTs, like crypto in general, are a bit of a polarizing subject. Some people love them despite their volatility and others want nothing to do with them. Hence, it would be best to check if the employee you’d like to gift one to is in one camp or the other. 

4. Virtual Team Building Activities

Virtual team building activities

Virtual team building activities have become more prevalent ever since remote work became mainstream. You should leverage this trend to gift and reward your remote employees for their continued engagement despite the difficulties of staying focused while working from home. 

Virtual team building activities can take any form, from virtual hangouts catching up to playing online games together with coworkers. You can also take this opportunity to provide mentorship opportunities for interested employees. There are a lot of people that feel like their careers have stagnated due to remote work. For such people, an hour of lunch with the boss or with someone whose job or career they admire would be a hell of a gift. 

5. Virtual Gift Cards for E-commerce Platforms

E-commerce platform

One of the things that became harder to do during lockdown was grocery shopping and shopping for any other amenities required in the home. One solution to this was to shop online from e-commerce stores like Amazon. This saves people from commuting to and from grocery stores and malls to buy things.

You have to mind which employees you give this to though, as some employees might not find this gift personal enough. One solution to this is to give gift cards to places that you know that employee likes to go to. For instance, you could get your health and wellness conscious employees gift cards to Whole Foods or Wegmans. 

Platforms like WeGift and Blueboard make it much easier for you to gift your remote workers. Visit them for inspiration on what to get your remote employees.

Gift Ideas for Remote Employees in Case You Are Willing to Ship

Gift boxes for remote employees

As we said, all the gifts on this list are virtua. However, if you’d like to go the extra mile, there are ways in which you can send physical goods to your remote employees, while foregoing the hassle of shipping them yourself. Take the example of AwardCo. They have an integration with Amazon Business, so employees can redeem their rewards for any product listed on the eCommerce giant. You can send all kinds of things like: 

  • Home appliances and electronics like power banks and portable hard drives
  • Work From Home (WFH) gear
  • Board games for the family
  • Fitness equipment
  • Potted plants
  • Set of wine glasses
  • Care packages and gift hampers

How to Decide Which Remote Employees to Give Virtual Gifts To     

There is a fallacy among many employers that only their younger employees care about receiving gifts. Many employers believe that Millennials and Gen Z employees are high maintenance and self-absorbed. 

As the generations that grew up with positive reinforcement and participation trophies, employers believe that the young are the ones to focus on when giving out gifts to team members. The argument is that the older generations are not accustomed to receiving gifts, and they only care about getting their salaries, bonuses, and benefit packages.

On the other hand, other employers believe that only their top-performing employees deserve to be gifted at the end of a project or assignment. These employers will typically only show appreciation to the remote workers that contributed the most to the company's revenues. Unfortunately, both these approaches couldn't be further from the truth.

Regardless of age, position in the company, or contribution, all employees deserve to be gifted. The simple act of gifting your employees goes a long way towards making them feel valued and that their contributions matter to their employers. This is especially true about employees that worked during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A remote employee working

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed a lot about the way employees work. Many employees have had to balance home care and management with work for their employers. This has meant keeping irregular work hours and suffering severe burnout as a result, adopting workarounds to various work processes, and finding new ways to be productive. Many have not had the time for their loved ones that they expected. This ability to adapt to the changing workplace format is enough to earn each remote worker a virtual gift.  

What to Consider When Giving a Virtual Gift to a Remote Employee     

If this is your first time gifting your employees, there are a few things to consider before deciding which virtual gifts to give your remote employees. There are three main goals of giving employees gifts. The perfect gift is one that achieves the following:

  1. To make the employees receiving the gifts happy and feel appreciated by their employers
  2. To grow the relationship between the employer or team leader and their team members.
  3. To make the employees feel unique and valued with gifts that are personalized and meaningful to them. 

We have curated some guidelines for you to consider when choosing virtual gifts for your employees with these goals in mind. These guidelines will help you gift your employees effectively and avoid any awkwardness from giving inappropriate gifts to employees. Some of these factors include;

Taylor Virtual Gifts to Individuals     

Nothing makes a gift recipient happier than knowing that their gift was selected based on their unique passions and interests. The best gifts are tailored to the receiver's tastes. Personalized gifts show your remote employees that you care enough about them to know their tastes and preferences. For example, a book could be a fantastic gift to an employee who likes to read and is interested in the book's topic. However, in the wrong hands, it is nothing more than clutter that will most likely get re-gifted to someone else.

Therefore take the time to know whom you are gifting and their preferences if you want your gift to achieve the goals mentioned above.

Show Appreciation for Your Employees.

It is essential to give virtual gifts that symbolize how much you value your employees. Gifting people is not as simple as picking something and clicking purchase on Amazon. You have to make sure that the gift or gift box you choose communicates how much you value the services and contributions of that employee to your organization.

Even if you don't believe that you are communicating value, your employee will take it as your way of expressing how valuable they are to you. For instance, your employees are likely not to feel valued and appreciated for their unique contributions if they all receive the same gifts regardless of their tastes, preferences, and individual contributions to the team.

Be Transparent     

It is important to be as transparent as possible when gifting your employees so there are no feelings of unfairness, corruption, or favoritism. For this, we would encourage you to make the virtual gift-giving ceremonies public and open to everyone.

You can also give a small speech along with every gift to contextualize the gifts for everyone. For instance, an employee whose gift is better than everyone else’s because they worked harder than everyone else deserves a speech that mentions that fact.  

Set a Price Range and Stick To It     

Another way to avoid favoritism or unfairness in the gifting process is to set a price range and stick to it. It is not uncommon for employees to look up the prices of their gifts if only to compare with their colleagues' gifts. Therefore, setting a minimum and maximum price for the virtual gifts can help you tone down any feelings of favoritism among your team members.

Furthermore, having an upper price limit for virtual gifts will prevent unnecessary spending on expensive gifts. You can communicate how much you know and value an employee with a thoughtful gift that is not necessarily expensive.

Workers panicking


Avoid Controversial and Inappropriate Gifts     

It is crucial for every employer or manager gifting their employees to know where the boundaries of appropriateness lie. For example, a funny gift for a friend or family member could be an HR nightmare if given to a colleague or subordinate.

When gifting employees, it is vital to avoid any innuendo or practical jokes that could be misunderstood by the recipient and others like family members and colleagues. One of the best ways to comply with this is to avoid getting too personal with your gifts to employees and colleagues. For example, while a subscription to a gym is a thoughtful gift, it could be seen as a commentary on someone's size, which could be interpreted as some form of body shaming.

If you are uncertain about whether a gift is inappropriate or insensitive, perhaps check in with the rest of the Human Resources department before you confirm your purchase. HR and other colleagues can help to judge whether a gift is appropriate or not in the workplace. So, take the time and get the clearance. It might save your job and stop you from making one of your team members uncomfortable.

Last Advice on Employee Appreciation Gifts 

This is our list of the best virtual gifts you can give to your employees to make them feel valued and appreciated as members of your team, despite working remotely. We have also included guidelines for choosing an appropriate gift for your employees based on their interests and preferences. If you follow these guidelines, you should easily find the perfect virtual gifts for your remote employees.

If you would like some more help choosing gifts, rewarding your employees, and keeping track of all the data related to your rewards program, you should consider a Employee Recognition Software. This is the best way for you to stay on top of all things to do with recognizing, incentivizing, and rewarding your remote employees for their contributions to your business’ success.

Related Articles:

How to Onboard Remote Employees (Step-by-Step Guide)

List of Creative Employee Recognition Award Ideas

Wordings for Employee Recognition & Appreciation

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Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald writes both content and copy for businesses in the niches of HR, marketing and technology. When he’s not busy creating magic with his words, you can find him dancing in front of the mirror to Afrobeat hits.


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