Creative XMas Presents to Delight Your Staff

Over the past few years, we’ve made it a tradition at Fresh Air Educators of giving unique Christmas gifts to our staff for the holidays (this is in addition to a great Christmas party and 2-3 additional days off between Christmas and New Year’s). Here is a run-down of some of the gifts we’ve given in the past to give you some inspiration if you are currently trying to think of a good gift for your staff.

2007 – First Gen iPod Touch

This was very cool and well received as the iPod Touch had only been released in September of that year and it was still a ground breaking product when we gave it to all our staff 2 months later just before our Christmas break.

1st Gen Apple iPod Touch


  • Cool Factor
  • Cutting Edge Technology


  • Becomes obsolete relatively quickly

2008 – Canada Goose Parkas

Ottawa, Canada is a cold place in winter. What better way to keep our staff warm by giving them an iconic (and stylish) arctic parka by Canada Goose.  This gift had/has great longevity — come winter time our office turns into a Canada Goose showroom.

Canada Goose Chilliwack Parka


  • Awesome top quality product that our staff will continue to use for years (if not decades)


  • Tricky to get the right sizing for everyone while still keeping the product a surprise

2009 – Bose Headphones

This gift was a little bit low on the wow factor, but the utility factor was high, as most staff continue to use these daily at work to drown out coworkers around them, as well as used for watching movies while on the plane.

BOSE Noise Cancelling Headphones


  • Useful at work to drown out noise from co-workers


  • Lack of WOW factor
  • Not everyone will use them

2010 – First Generation iPad

This gift was definitely a bit of a recycling of our 2007 gift, and lacked a bit of the wow factor because the iPad was already available since April, but it still made a great gift (in particular, since our mandate was to make our products more mobile friendly, and putting an iPad in everyone’s hands was a good start).

1st Gen Apple iPad


  • Cool Factor
  • Cutting Edge Technology


  • Becomes obsolete relatively quickly

2011 – DNA Art / Canvas Prints

Our friends at DNA11 / CanvasPop helped hook up all our staff with either a unique DNA portrait or allowed our more artistic staff to take their own photographs/digital artworks and print them on canvas.  A very cool, unique, and conversation starting gift.  Although this gift received mixed reviews (as it was much less utilitarian than our previous gifts) it was still well received and supported/encouraged arts and creativity.

DNA Art and Print to Canvas by DNA11 / CanvasPop


  • Unique conversation starter
  • Supports art & creativity


  • Not inherently “useful”
  • Some staff did not see benefit of “art”

2012 – Google Nexus 7

Each year it becomes tougher and tougher to come up with new ideas. This year is a bit of a recycle from previous ideas (similar gift to the iPad) but we have moved away from Apple and exposed our staff to the Android OS (and it is a mini tablet which seems to be the cool “in” thing these days).

Google Nexus


  • Cool Factor
  • Cutting Edge Technology


  • Similar to previous gifts
  • Not everyone is familiar with Android

The 4-Day Work Week

A few years ago Fresh Air Educators performed an HR experiment: We offered all our full time salaried employees the option to pick between 2 work schedules:

  • Status quo: 5 days @ 7.5hrs at current pay
  • 4-day work week: 4 days @ 7.5hrs – Every Friday off
    Work 20% less but take  a 10% pay cut

Here are some of the learnings:


You Will Be 20% Less Productive

Working 20% less DOES NOT mean 20% less productivity.  The 80/20 rule kicks in: The most important things will still get done while the 20% dropped will be the least important things (which probably only account for 5% of weekly productivity). By only working 80% of the time, you will still reap 95% of value.

Lazy Friday Afternoons
become Lazy Thursday Afternoons

One challenge I thought we would have is lazy Friday afternoons shifting to lazy Thursday afternoons. In our case, this does not appear to have happened.


Obvious Employee Perk

Offering an optional 4 day work-week to your employees is an obvious perk which leads to the following benefits for your business:

  • Easier to hire of top talent
  • Less employee turn over
  • Optional cost savings: If you are looking to save costs, you can offer the optional 4 day work week in exchange for a 10% pay cut.  (Employees work 20% less, but only take a 10% pay cut – so they are coming out ahead by 10%)

Happier, more rested, more productive staff

Your staff will have a long weekend every weekend.  That’s 52 extra days off a year.

Remove Yourself as the Bottleneck

As the business owner, you will receive 20% less requests and e-mails to answer.  Which means that your staff will be spending less time waiting on you.  Although *you* should really also work a 4 day work week,  your 5th day can be spent catching up and doing longer term “quadrant 2 activities” that you normally can never find the time to do.


No Work Gets Done on Friday

This applies more to specialized departments like Customer Service, QA, etc… Ie: If a bug is reported late Thursday afternoon, and QA does not have the time to fully investigate it, then we will often get delayed until Monday mid morning before the bug is officially reported to the dev team.

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