It May Be Time to Reimagine “Secret Santa” Due to the Cost of Living Crises

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Photo Credits - Mel Poole via Unsplash

Secret Santa is one of the time-honoured traditions that come with the festive season, including in workplaces. However, recent research by finance network UK Money Bloggers and review website Smart Money People suggests that the traditional workplace gift exchange may be reevaluated, particularly in light of the current cost of living crises. 

With employees expected to spend a staggering £167 million on Secret Santa gifts this year, it’s essential to consider the financial and environmental implications of this well-intentioned tradition.

READ: National Living Wage to Increase in 2024 But it May Still Fall Short of Real Living Wage

The Survey by UK Money Bloggers and Smart Money People

The survey reveals a significant disconnect between the enthusiasm for Secret Santa and the actual experiences of employees. While 33% of employees plan to participate in workplace Secret Santa this year, a striking 30% express a preference not to take part, indicating a substantial portion of the workforce may not find joy in the tradition. 

A significant 36% anticipate giving away the gifts they receive, contributing to an estimated £60 million in wasted presents. This discrepancy raises concerns about the meaningfulness and sustainability of the current Secret Santa model.

One of the key issues identified in the research is the stress and discomfort associated with Secret Santa. A quarter (24%) of participants reported having to buy gifts for colleagues they’ve never spoken to, highlighting the potentially awkward dynamics that can arise in the workplace during the holiday season. 

Furthermore, 18% consider Secret Santa an additional stressor during an already hectic time of the year. These findings underscore the need for a thoughtful reconsideration of this long-standing tradition.

The rising cost of living is another significant factor contributing to the call for change in workplace gift exchanges. A substantial 72% of staff surveyed expressed a desire for alterations to Secret Santa, with 31% suggesting setting smaller donation limits. 

This desire for change reflects the economic challenges many employees face, prompting a reevaluation of how resources are allocated during the holiday season.

Embracing the Season of Giving with Second-Hand Santa

Jacqueline Dewey, CEO of Smart Money People, advocates for a shift towards a more socially and environmentally conscious approach. Dewey suggests that workplaces redirect the funds typically allocated for traditional Secret Santa gifts toward charitable donations. She recommends charities like KidsOut, which focuses on buying Christmas presents for children in women’s refuges. 

This alternative not only aligns with the spirit of giving during the holiday season but also addresses the growing awareness of social responsibility among employees.

Moreover, the environmental charity Hubbub proposes an innovative alternative called “Second-hand Santa.” This concept encourages sourcing gifts from charity shops or regifting items already owned, aiming to reduce the environmental impact associated with the production and transportation of new novelty items. 

By embracing Secondhand Santa, employees can collectively contribute to a more sustainable and eco-friendly holiday tradition.

READ: HR Nightmares to Avoid During an Office Christmas Party

Secret Santa Alternatives Can Foster Workplace Culture

The research conducted by UK Money Bloggers and Smart Money People suggests that it may be time to reimagine the traditional Secret Santa in the workplace. The financial strain of the rising cost of living and the stress and discomfort associated with the current model call for a more thoughtful and inclusive approach. 

By redirecting resources toward charitable donations or embracing eco-friendly alternatives like Second-hand Santa, employers can foster a workplace culture that aligns with the evolving needs and values of their workforce, ensuring that the holiday season remains a time of joy and inclusivity for all.

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