This season is all about giving. So why not give — and get — a few laughs while you're at it? If you're sick of the standard Secret Santa swap and want to switch it up a bit, there are plenty of funny gift exchange games to play with your coworkers while staying socially distanced or even virtual. Plus, they'll be a much-needed break from the hustle and bustle of the year.
Like work itself, our holiday work parties will look different this year. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends staying home and limiting celebrations to only those within your household, you and your coworkers will likely need to find more creative ways to exchange gifts. But being remote doesn't mean you need to forgo the festivities altogether. There are plenty of ways to hold a virtual gift exchange that will keep you and your colleagues safe while swapping presents. It may take more planning than usual — gathering addresses, organizing times to drop off a gift or send one via mail — but your team can still partake in the present-giving parties this year.
Clear the schedule for your next Zoom meeting because it’s about to get extremely festive. Here are some gift exchange game ideas for work.
1. White Elephant
If you aren't familiar with how to play White Elephant, the basic rundown is this: everyone comes prepared with a wrapped gift and puts into it the designated gift pile. Everybody gets a number. That's the order in which you'll pick your gifts. When the first person picks, the person who comes after can either steal that gift or pick from the pile. This sentiment continues until all the gifts have been picked. Want to organize a virtual gift exchange? Let White Elephant Online take care of all the logistics for you.
2. Hot Gift Potato
If you've got a small team, you could throw it back to the good old days with a game of hot potato. Start by tossing a gift around the conference room table to the beat — or beep — of a timer. When the timer stops, the person who is holding onto the gift gets to keep it. Continue playing until all your co-workers have a gift in hand! You'll be surprised how the anxiety of the dwindling timer brings concentration and laughs. And hey, when you're out, at least you're out with a gift.
3. Secret Santa Reveal
OK, we all know and love Secret Santa. It's like having a secret admirer but HR doesn't need to get involved. Start with everyone opening their gift. Then, it's time to guess who was the undercover Santa for each person. The guessing game has the potential to get very interesting, and therefore hilarious.
4. Musical Chairs
Like Hot Potato, musical chairs is the low-stakes tension we need this year. Start playing as per usual: everyone circles a set of chairs as music plays. For the first round, after the music stops and everyone tries to grab a seat, the person who's left standing gets to pick a present. Then, the person who gets out in each subsequent round gets the option of picking a gift from the pile or stealing someone else's gift. The last person left has the benefit of seeing what everyone else has already picked, giving them the option to steal from anyone or choose the final unwrapped present.
5. Holiday Dice Exchange
Have a small-ish office? This could be the perfect game. All you need is a pair of dice and a rule sheet print out. Have everyone come prepared with a gift, obviously. From there, roll the dice one at a time. The number you land on comes with instructions that dictate the fate of your present, like unwrap your gift or everyone pass your present to the left.
6. Numbers Fact Game
How well do you know your co-workers? This is a great way to find out — or learn a little fun fact about one of your cubicle-mates. Have your most enthusiastic co-worker host. When everyone brings a gift in, it'll be marked with a number and you'll be given a paper with that same number on it. Write down a fun fact about yourself. The fact paper will go into a hat and the host will read off the facts. Whoever guesses who the coordinating fact is about first gets the gift associated with the number!
7. Trivia Gift Exchange
Similar to the numbers game, play a round of trivia with your office. It can even be tailored to your office, be holiday-specific, or just general random facts. When you answer correctly, you get a gift. Simple, informative, and hilarious.
8. Swapping Game
You'll need a set of rule cards to deal out, one to each person. The cards will have instructions like "give your gift to someone wearing a hat" or "everyone must swap their gift with another person." Presents will be taken from you, as warned by Gifts.com, and given to you in a whirlwind, frenzied-meets-festive fashion.
9. Never Have I Ever Game
Tailor this classic game to the holidays with prompts like, "never have I ever had eggnog." When you're out, you get to pick a gift and the last shreds of your dignity.
Bust out those bingo markers and start up the virtual bingo number caller. To play, the first winner gets to pick from the fresh pile of presents, the second winner can easily steal that gift or pick another gift. Continue the cycle until everyone has a gift that'll make them yell "BINGO!"
11. Coffee Mugs
Take the guesswork out of gift-giving with a mug exchange. Have everyone bring in a mug to give away — bonus points for creativity. Then, mark each wrapped mug with a number, as inspired by Gifts.com, and have each person participating in your office pick a number from a hat. Pick up your mug and relish in the festive chuckles.
12. Dollar Store Exchange
Set your budget to just a dollar or two. You and your co-workers are only allowed to exchange gifts within these perimeters. The gifts, no matter how small, will bring big-time laughs.
13. Mystery Gift
Remember when you were young and at Halloween parties and had to blindly stick your hand into a bowl of something and guess what it was? Usually, a bowl of spaghetti was worms, you know? Take the essence of the mystery game and translate it to holiday gift exchanges. You'll at least crack a smile as you watch your co-workers blindly try to figure out what it is they're taking home.
14. Gift Card Exchange
Make sending gifts as easy as possible by limiting your gift exchange to gift cards only. To make it even less of a hassle, only exchange virtual gift cards so people can easily email the gift to their recipient.
15. Scrooge Your Neighbor
For a Scrooge Your Neighbor gift exchange, everyone will get a preassigned character card. (e.g. Scrooge lets you block someone from stealing your gift, The Ghost of Christmas Future lets you peek at a gift before selecting it.) Go around the circle, each person selecting a gift but remember: you can also use your character card. Proceed to Scrooge your coworkers over with no remorse.
All you need for this exchange is a coin and someone who's good at flipping coins. If you get heads, you get steal someone else's gift. If you get tails, you get to pick from the unwrapped pile.
17. Wiki Race
If you've got a small group of people playing over Zoom, a Wiki race is a fun way to decide who gets to pick a present and when. Pick a random Wikipedia page to start on. Then, the first person to get to the Wikipedia page for Santa (or Christmas or egg nog, really anything festive) gets to pick a present. The catch? You're only allowed to click on hyperlinks within the Wikipedia page and the back button isn't allowed.
18. Guess The Gifter
Take a traditional gift exchange and add some ~mystery~ by having everyone anonymously receive a gift from another coworker. Then, take turns unwrapping your present over Zoom, trying to guess who gave who what.
19. Gift Hunt
Turn your office into a treasure trove. This game can easily be combined with Secret Santa. Except, you'll have to bring a set of clues along with your gift. Hide your recipient's gift somewhere in the office. Your map of clues will draw them closer to the gold. Once everyone has found their gift, extend the break by opening the gifts over tea.
To play, one person gives two contrasting options. It can be any two options: vanilla or chocolate, day or night, winter or summer, Santa or Scrooge, etc. Then, everyone goes around and says which one they pick, no explanations necessary. When it gets back to the original person, they say their choice. If the majority of people picked the same thing as the original person, that person gets to steal a gift. If they're in the minority, they pick from the pile.
Turn the dreaded Zoom mic into a game by having one person in charge of the Mute/Unmute All function. Make sure everyone is viewing in Active Speaker mode which highlights whoever is talking. Have the host ask the group a question then unmute everyone. Whoever's video is highlighted in speaker mode gets to unwrap their gift. Truly the most 2020 way to celebrate the holiday season.
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