Office White Elephant Gift Exchange Ideas

By Ashley Paskill on January 3, 2019

White elephant gift exchanges are a fun way to make memories and exchange gifts. Some families, offices, and other groups decide to do a white elephant gift exchange in lieu of exchanging gifts regularly. These gift exchanges make it simple for all involved since each participant only has o buy one present instead of something for everyone in the group.

For white elephant gift exchanges, each participant supplies a wrapped gift of similar value. The gifts are placed in a central location and people take turns selecting gifts. On each turn, a person may steal a gift or take a gift out of the center. Some variations allow for opening gifts while others do not. Like any game, there are a ton of variations, so make sure all of the rules are clear before playing.

While most white elephant exchanges may have inappropriate gifts, it is better to play it safe for the office setting. Also, depending on your office, it is important to be sensitive to other religions and holiday celebrations. Avoid gifts that mention or relate to one particular religious holiday or celebration.  Here are a few ideas of things you can get to be on the safe side.

office white elephant exchange

Image: Andrew Neel via

Something practical for the office

In an office setting, there are things that everyone inevitably needs. It could be pens, paper, or staples. Look around and take notice of things that are starting to run low. If you want to get something like pens or notebooks, get ones that are fun and different instead of plain ones to keep things interesting.  If you get something in a large quantity, everyone in the office can use it and share it.

You can buy a desktop calendar that has daily jokes. That way, someone in the office can tell jokes and keep the office atmosphere fun and light. Desktop boxing is a great way to relieve stress and tension in the office. If your office has coffee, you can buy a fun mug so the recipient can use it for coffee. You can also buy fun sticky notes or uniquely shaped paper clips to keep things interesting.

Inside office joke

As long as you keep things appropriate, if your office has some kind of running joke or inside joke going around, buy something related to it. These kinds of white elephant gifts always make people laugh and may even make a reappearance for years to come. Some previous white elephant gifts may even be the inside joke. However, it is important to keep it appropriate and professional. While you may have an inside joke that may seem funny to you and your immediate coworkers and supervisor, your main manager may not find humor in an inappropriate joke.

If everybody always complains about how cold the office is, you can buy an ugly holiday sweater or some slippers. For an office where all of the older people are constantly asking the younger workers how to use technology, you can buy one of the “For Dummies” books. If someone in the office is notoriously gassy, you can buy an air freshener to keep around.

A gift card to a store or restaurant near the office

Gift cards are a great gift. To make it fitting for the office, buy a gift card for a restaurant or store near the office. This is especially helpful if you or coworkers always grab a bite to eat at the restaurant on a regular basis for lunch or happy hour after work.  The store gift card is helpful since it is near the office and your coworkers will not have to worry about finding the store. They can make a stop before or after work. Also, gift cards are great because the recipient can choose what they want to buy.

With gift cards, you can wrap them up in a variety of creative ways. You can put a small box in a bunch of larger boxes. You can wrap it in a small box or an oversized box. You can even put it in a box that once held something else. Just make sure you hint that the box may not be indicative to what is actually in the box. Sometimes, the humor and entertainment is watching someone unwrap a gift in an unexpected package and people find it fun to find something they were not thinking about.

A team-building experience

As an office, there is nothing more important than working as a team to get things done. If you have a lot of new people or are looking to get to know your coworkers better, buying a team building activity is a great idea for the gift exchange. Whether it is a funny game or an escape room experience, any opportunity to get to know your coworkers better can help your company grow together to help everyone get on the same page and make the work environment a little more fun. It will give you memories to laugh about for years to come and will give you conversation starters for you and your coworkers.

White elephant gift exchanges are a lot of fun, but in an office setting, it is important to have gifts that are appropriate and professional. Luckily, this can still be fun, especially if you find something that has an office inside joke.

By Ashley Paskill

Uloop Writer

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