Tradition dictates December is the time for corporate giving and goodwill to all staff. This yuletide, however, is the first since the recession really got under way, and employers face the prospect of deciding exactly what to do. Will it be a credit-crunch Christmas, or should organisations be seen splashing the cash on lavish gifts and blowouts?
"If staff have suffered cuts, are working longer hours or have seen colleagues made redundant, it's more important for employers to show they really do appreciate their efforts," says Kevin Harrington, director of voucher and smart card services provider Sodexo Pass. Justine Clement, managing director of sales promotion and staff incentives specialist Unmissable, goes further: "Rewarding staff with a gift or incentive this Christmas will not only help boost morale but sends a positive message externally, to clients and competitors," she says.
Christmas, then, does not have to be cancelled. But with the pressure to find the most cost-effective and appropriate ways to say thank you to staff this festive season, HR magazine has sorted through Santa's workshop and found some of the more imaginative gift ideas, to suit a range of budgets.
UNDER POUNDS 5
WHAT: MINI CHRISTMAS TREES
Supplied: in seed form, this is a grow -your-own Christmas tree with spruce tree seeds in a branded festive-coloured pot.
Price: Starts at 96p
Where can I get it? Living Promotions - www.livingpromotions.com
WHAT: INDEPENDENT CINEMA TICKET VOUCHERS
Issued either as a stand-alone product or in conjunction with vouchers for some of the UK's mainstream cinema chains, including Odeon, this gift can be redeemed at over 200 independent cinemas across the UK and Ireland. Venues include the Duke of York's Picturehouse in Brighton, the Brewery Arts Centre in Cumbria and Bollywood picturehouse The Boleyn Cinema, in East London. "With a raft of quality films scheduled for release over the Christmas holiday period, the cinema will be as popular as ever, making cinema vouchers an ideal incentive," says David Pearson, director of Filmology.
Price: Starts at £2.75 per head
Where can I get it? Filmology - www.filmology.co.uk
WHAT: PERSONALISED BOX OF CHOCOLATES
Available in a range of sizes and containing a choice of chocolates and truffles in flavours such as Champagne and luscious lemon, each box can be printed with a bespoke, personal message.
Price: Starts at £1.25
Where can I get it? www.sweetthoughts.co.uk
WHAT: PERSONALISED CHOCOLATE ADVENT CALENDAR
Ensure staff feel valued by printing their individual names and a personalised message on the front. These calendars are made of Fair Trade chocolate and the packaging is biodegradable - a good gift for companies with an ethical conscience.
Price: Under £5 a head
Where can I get it? Tomato Source - www.tomato-source.co.uk
WHAT: FATHER CHRISTMAS MEMO GARDEN
Comprising a grass garden in a Father Christmas tin, along with hat and branding, there is a small area on the festive label for a corporate message.
Price: Starts at £1.66
Where can I get it? Living Promotions www.livingpromotions com
POUNDS 5 - POUNDS 20
WHAT: B&Q GIFT CARD
B&Q launched its new Gift Card this year. Accepted in 331 stores nationwide, for products ranging from Christmas trees and fairy lights to kitchen tiles and designer wallpaper, the scheme offers flexibility for staff who may be feeling the economic pinch. Support services include design, fulfilment, delivery and remote activation.
Price: Card denominations start at £5. Discounts on orders of £1,000-£9,999: 2.5%; £10,000-£24,999: 5%; over £25,000: negotiable
Where can I get it? B&Q - www.diy.com/businessservices
WHAT: POTTED LOBSTER
Presented in a reusable Kilner jar, this butter and chive lobster treat is one of fine food mail order company Forman & Field's most popular festive items.
Where can I get it? Forman & Field - www.formanandfield.com
WHAT: ONSITE WELLBEING AND BEAUTY SERVICES
Get ready for the office Christmas party in style with an onsite pre-pamper party from Glo Wellbeing. It includes a classic chill-out package, complete with foot rubs, hand massage, shoulder and neck massage or Indian head massage. There is a mobile spa option for the party itself, featuring airbrush and glitter tattoos, massages and manicures - while Bollywood Bliss spices things up with Bollywood dancing and henna tattoos. Alternatively, ensure staff stagger into the office on time the morning after by booking a post-party pick-me-up.
Price: Catering for groups ranging from 12 to 1,200, prices start at £12.50 per person.
Where can I get it? Glo Wellbeing - www.glo-wellbeing.co.uk
POUNDS 20 - POUNDS 40
WHAT: FRAGRANCE VIVABOX
Contains samples of 10 top fragrance brands - together with a guide and a voucher that allows the recipient to obtain the full-sized version of the product they liked best. Brands include Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Hugo Boss.
Price: Starts at £30
Where can I get it? Sodexo Pass - www.vivaboxes.co.uk
WHAT: SCOTTISH FEAST
A selection of traditional Scottish fare from one of celebrity chef Rick Stein's food heroes, Loch Fyne Oysters, a cluster of independent producers committed to using sustainable farming and fishing methods. Contains Haggis, whole black pudding, Moniack haggis sauce - made from redcurrants with a slightly sweet taste - oatcakes, shortbread and tablet.
Where can I get it? Loch Fyne Oysters - www.lochfyne.com
WHAT: THEATRE CD GIFT PACK
Includes £30 worth of theatre tokens that can be used at more than 230 theatres nationwide, covering plays, musicals, shows and pantomimes. Also included is a Show Tunes CD with a range of music from hit West End musicals sung by stars including TV-favourite John Barrowman, who sings Any Dream Will Do from Joseph and Summer Nights from Grease. Helen Jones, marketing manager at the Society of London Theatre, which runs Theatre Tokens, says: "Companies are looking to reward staff, customers and suppliers with more unusual gifts that show they have given a bit more thought to what will appeal."
Price: Starts at £35.99
Where can I get it? www.theatretokens.com
WHAT: ADOPT A REINDEER
This 'Rudolf's Friend' gift pack makes the recipient a friend of the Cairngorm Reindeer Herd, Britain's only herd of around 150 reindeer living naturally and free, at the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre, Scotland. The package includes a welcome letter, a history of the herd, pre-paid registration card, personalised gift certificate, soft-toy reindeer, a membership card valid for one year and a voucher for one free entry.
Were can I get it? Virgin Experience Days - www.virginexperiencedays.co.uk
POUNDS 40 - POUNDS 100
WHAT: WIRELESS ENERGY MONITOR
Provides up-to-the-second information on the amount of electricity used in terms of both power and cost, while storing data for historical comparison. This means recipients can see in real time the environmental and cash benefits of turning off electrical devices at home. Alternatively, they can spread the festive cheer by billing house guests for their share of the electricity used cooking the turkey. Justine Clement, managing director of Unmissable, says: "We are all now far more environmentally-aware and companies increasingly want to be seen as 'doing their bit'."
Price: Around £42
Where can I get it? www.unmissable.com
WHAT: CRANBERRY CRATE
A hardy little cranberry plant that will readily fruit outside in the right conditions. It is supplied ready to plant with full instructions along with a jar of festive cranberry relish and one of pickled cranberries. All of this comes hand packaged in a rustic wooden crate that is hand -tied with large raffia bows and your gift message.
Where can I get it? www.buyagift.co.uk
WHAT: LAVOD MP3 BICYCLE SPEAKER AND LED LIGHT SYSTEM
Keen to get staff on their bikes? This space-saving wireless device mounts on the handlebars to combine a powerful multifunction LED cycle light with an MP3 player packing a high-quality loud speaker. The real bonus is safety. Users can ride to the rhythm, leaving them free to listen to the traffic and potential hazards around them.
Where can I get it? www.gadgets.co.uk
WHAT: PORSCHE DESIGN P'3140 COMPACT BALLPOINT PEN
Porsche has pulled out all the stops in its search for car-related metaphors to describe the P'3140 - 'it goes into action and stops as fast as a racing car, and possesses the same sophisticated and rugged technology'; it also 'accelerates' (the point extends) with a brief movement of the wrist.
Price: Starts at £40
Where can I get it? P&MM Source-e - www.p-mmsource-e.com
WHAT: PURE INDULGENCE DAYS
Give staff access to a bit of pampering and style advice at House of Fraser. Available in three packages - classic, premier and ultimate - each includes an appointment with a fashion expert and a make-up artist, plus vouchers to spend in- store.
Price: Starts at £300
Where can I get it? House of Fraser Business Incentives - www.houseoffraser.co.uk
WHAT: LAP OF LUXURY BOX GIFT
Contents include a handmade 100% natural wax soothing candle with notes of coconut and sweet vanilla and an organic chocolate drink from the posh Daylesford estate in the Cotswolds. There is also a silk eye pillow designed and crafted in the UK, which uses the principles of acupressure, organic seeds and soothing lavender to target headaches and induce a good night's sleep.
Where can I get it? www.unmissable.com
WHAT: GOURMAND GIFT BOX
Ideal for the die-hard foodie, this selection of fine foods is presented in an attractive wooden box. Contents include wild, hand-sliced smoked salmon, fresh pate de foie de canard, Keta caviar, spiced apricot compote, Artisan chocolates and Somerset cider brandy.
Where can I get it? www.formanandfield.com
WHAT: HUSKY DOG RIDE FOR TWO
Give animal lovers and adrenaline junkies the thrill of tearing through the Kent countryside with a partner of their choice on a trike pulled by a team of eight huskies. This two-hour experience includes a full briefing from a husky handler and a chance to pet and harness the animals before hopping on to the cart.
Where can I get it? eXhilaration - www.exhilaration.co.uk
WHAT: COOL-ER EBOOK READER
With its sleek profile, choice of colourful exteriors and durable lightweight plastic casing, this ebook reader offers a six-inch screen, an iPod-like scroll wheel and Vizplex E-ink 'glare-free' technology. It stores up to 800 novels.
Where can I get it. Firebox - www.firebox.com
BLOW THE BUDGET
WHAT: ARCTIC ICE SAFARI FOR 10 PEOPLE
A unique adventure for 10 people to visit the Arctic Circle, aboard snowmobiles. This journey into the deserted and silent Arctic wilderness in Kiruna, Sweden, also features husky sledding. With overnight accommodation in the Ice Igloo Hotel, the Wilderness Safari Camp and a superior four-star hotel, this is a fantastic way to explore this winter wonderland.
Price: £22,990.21 per person (excluding flights)
Where can I get it? www.buyagift.co.uk