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January 24, 2014 7:11 AM   Subscribe

My office is looking for ideas on housewarming presents to welcome new employees. (Semi urgent as we have someone new starting Monday.)

I work in a small office full of nerdy mostly young mostly dudes. We're just in the last few months starting to transition out of a startup mentality and are hiring our first non-technical staff since I started 2 years ago. She starts Monday. (This would make this the second non-technical position at the company.)

Usually our method is "welcome, here is your computer, get to work," but we're trying to better ourselves. But my boss has asked that I get her flowers (or SOMETHING) to stick in her new office to make it feel more welcoming. I don't like the idea of flowers because I think it's kind of a "you are a lady and ladies like flowers here are some flowers for the lady worker" thing.

SO I NEED IDEAS. DESPERATELY. We are looking to get company swag printed up in the future (fleeces, coffee mugs, etc), but obviously that's not going to happen by Monday. And in general I think something small and a little special would be nice for EVERY new person who starts, dude, chick, old, young, whatever.

I'm in the Chicago Loop so anything a major city would be able to deliver, I can haz it. We're lucky to not really have a budget for this.
posted by phunniemee to Grab Bag (33 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: OK, now the boss has suggested a plant. Plant could work. What kind of plant would be good for an office and available in Chicago in the dead of winter?
posted by phunniemee at 7:12 AM on January 24, 2014

Best answer: Pothos or bamboo are pretty common (hard to kill) office plants. Or succulents?
posted by brilliantine at 7:14 AM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Some sort of nice breakfast food? Could backfire if she has any allergies, but could be a nice gesture?

Do you have any branded stationery/ary (never sure which is the correct spelling)? You could put a nice new notebook, pen and folder on her desk? Doesn't even have to be branded and a new person is going to be taking a lot of notes.
posted by Ziggy500 at 7:15 AM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think the nicest thing to do would be taking her out for lunch with the team, or with the part of the team she'll be working with. However, this may not scale as you grow.

Edible Arrangements are delicious, but some people are allergic or don't like or eat fruit for whatever reason.

I would be anti-plant. Not everyone likes plants and even people who do like plants may not like THAT plant. (If you do get a plant, don't get something that (a) dies if not watered every 3 days, (b) is poisonous to touch, and (c) is famously difficult to grow and will drop its leaves if looked at funny. Look up the plant on the internet before buying for a coworker, is what I am saying here.)

If you must get a plant, a potted plant that has an expiration date might be best -- there are some nice spring bulbs in pots out now, things like paperwhites, daffodils, whatever. However, many of them have heavy odors that don't work for everyone (I'm thinking of hyacinths and paperwhites).
posted by pie ninja at 7:24 AM on January 24, 2014 [9 favorites]

In the past, non-branded freebies I got from various jobs have included an ipod touch and a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. My daughter took the touch, but, three jobs later, I still use the headphones in the office every day.
posted by mr vino at 7:26 AM on January 24, 2014

A nice mug that they can use for coffee, tea, other drinks and maybe a sampler of tea or something like that?
posted by goggie at 7:26 AM on January 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I vote for a company-branded coffee mug in the future, but for bamboo (lucky bamboo), go to Chinatown.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 7:26 AM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am a nerd, I have worked with nerds for nigh-unto a decade and a half: nerds LOOOOOOVE junk food and USB sticks. WE LOVE THEM SO HARD. Other gifts come and go, but we gobble up the junk food and use those USB sticks each and every day. We also love Sharpies (you can never keep enough Sharpies on hand!), gift certs for local eateries, and decent earbuds (not awful dollar-store ones). Most other things are liable to get shoved in a desk drawer permanently.
posted by julthumbscrew at 7:31 AM on January 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've been given a mug at two separate companies.

Also, my manager at the last place said newbies buy breakfast for everyone one morning of their first week. He said it sort of jokingly so I didn't know if I should take it seriously. Anyway, I showed up with donuts, bagels, croissants, coffee and OJ, and the team barely touched any of it. Turned out they were all on various diets or had already eaten. Ugh.
posted by Dragonness at 7:31 AM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding that a small group take her out for lunch on her first day. That'll go a lot further toward making her feel welcomed and part of the team than a potted plant.
posted by Kriesa at 7:35 AM on January 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

My offices in San Francisco have always given out orchids on a new employee's first day.
posted by samthemander at 7:42 AM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thirding lunch. Flowers are nice, but they rot after a few days. Plants are just one more thing to care for. Mugs are meh. What I really wish I could have had on every new job is someone to tell me how things really work at the office. Lunch is a good time for that.
posted by Longtime Listener at 7:44 AM on January 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Might not help you for Monday, but for future. At my last job, the manager would send out a 'survey' with the employee's new hire paperwork. It asked questions like their favorite candy, movies, restaurant, etc. It helped in two ways - one, the team knew something about him/her before they started (and it was made clear in the survey that it would be shared with the team) and two, it helped them pick out a welcoming gift for the employee. Like, a bucket full of Milk Duds or a gift certificate to a nearby restaurant.

All employees got a company-branded mug from HR (which were coveted like crazy) as a 'welcome to the company' gift, but each team welcomed their new member in their own way.
posted by Twicketface at 7:44 AM on January 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

I've always appreciated: a mug, a good water bottle, high-quality notebook and pens, Post-It notes, and USB sticks (seconding julthumbscrew on that). The difference between the stuff that gets shoved in a drawer and never touched again and the stuff that I actually use has always been quality. I appreciate good stuff like I'd buy for myself, not crappy pens that leak, knock-off Post-Its that don't stick, etc.
posted by neushoorn at 7:51 AM on January 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Things that are possibly relevant:

We have a fully stocked kitchen with a ton of breakfast options, beverages, food, candy, snacks...etc. We also have a fully stocked office supply area with flash drives and sharpies and post its in all the colors of the rainbow. And we do a catered lunch in the office once a week. (I work in a nice place.)

I like the idea of company water bottles. Mugs are obvious but a really nice water bottle is something I hadn't thought of.

Bamboo could would well for this. As a bonus, I live near Chinatown and could theoretically pick that up this weekend to bring in Monday morning. THANKS, GUYS! Heroes, all of you.
posted by phunniemee at 7:54 AM on January 24, 2014

If your office lets people listen to music at their desks, get her a set of decent headphones/earbuds and/or a charging cord for her phone (actually, get her that anyway). Having spares at the office is fantastically convenient.
posted by Etrigan at 7:55 AM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd have loved a plant, did love a notebook/pens, and did NOT love a new-hire lunch, as I like to keep my lunchtime as downtime separate from work stuff.

Which is to say everyone likes different stuff. Whatever you do, I would imagine your new employee will appreciate the gesture even if he or she doesn't love the actual gift, so don't stress about it too much!
posted by Stacey at 7:55 AM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

A lamp. Seriously. Lamps make cubicles / offices look so cozy.
posted by jasondigitized at 7:58 AM on January 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

I feel like a broken record, but I think food/edible items are never a good gift. It is always a huge risk in terms of food preferences, food allergies, and even in terms of diet/losing weight. No food gifts.

I second plant, or some really nice pens. Nice, smooth writing pens are gold in my office.

On preview: jasondigitized is brilliant. Get a lamp. Or maybe a desk fan. Or both.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 7:59 AM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing taking them out for a relaxed lunch; a couple of companies I've worked for did that on my first day and being swept right into the "coworkers rounding each other up and walking to lunch" ritual definitely helped me feel like part of the team.

Plants are nice in theory but personally I'd feel a little bit burdened by the responsibility and wondering if it's some kind of test or message ("Great, what happens if it dies? Does this mean they don't want me to take vacation days?")

You mentioned that there's kitchen, but does the office have a a go-to coffeehouse in the neighborhood that people use as an excuse to stretch their legs/get outside for a few minutes? If so, a gift certificate would be a nice thing to receive.
posted by usonian at 8:04 AM on January 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Or maybe a desk fan.

Oh yeah! It didn't occur to me until PuppetMcSockerson mentioned it, but my little desk fan is indispensable. I have a reasonably attractive metal one like this that I got at Walgreens.
posted by mullacc at 8:06 AM on January 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Welcome lunches are usually pretty good. Also, maybe a gift card to a local coffee shop?
posted by rmd1023 at 8:06 AM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you have an office that feels colder temperature-wise to women, a small light fleece throw would be a nice thing to have. This might be a nice thing as future company swag, too. One of my favorite company swag items is such a throw, not bulky at all when folded up and nice to have as a lap blanket or on one's shoulders when the AC or heating is just too cold for me sitting at my desk. And for people who don't need to use it in the office in such a manner, it can still come in handy at home or in their car.
posted by needled at 8:09 AM on January 24, 2014

Ask if they have dietary restrictions and try to cater to those.
posted by Neekee at 8:12 AM on January 24, 2014

Nthing something other than a plant.

I like the idea of getting some sort of unique desktop curio like a fountain or a small piece of artwork, but considering how subjective such a gift would be, maybe you could give a gift card so the new hire can do her own workspace personalization.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 8:19 AM on January 24, 2014

I love the mug idea. Why not start a new tradition where new employees get an initial mug. Kinda cheesy and kinda fun.
posted by Lescha at 8:31 AM on January 24, 2014

I've set up a lot of n00bs in my day (in the neighborhood of 2000 over the course of 10 years) and the following have always gotten the biggest reaction.

1. Having a computer ready to go. (apparently some companies really suck at this)
2. Having the nameplate ready and printed (really defines the space as theirs)
3. Having business cards already printed (usually a really small run but makes them feel like they are a part of the company)
4. Having things like a stapler (with staples!), tape dispenser (with tape!), pens, pen cup, keyboard/mouse, etc. already there. Even if they can then trade them out for a color they like better later.
5. A small welcome of company swag. Usually a mug or water bottle, notebook, and pen. My current company also does laptop bag and t-shirt.

A lot of the point is to make the person feel like you (A) knew they were coming and (B) are wanted. By making their desk feel like a real desk and not a sterile environment. A plant probably works too.
posted by magnetsphere at 9:17 AM on January 24, 2014 [8 favorites]

Bay Area tech companies are really good at this. Lots have a standard box of stuff for new staff, nicely packaged, that contains stuff like coffee mugs, water bottles, ear buds, t-shirts, hoodies, etc. Most of it's branded and the goal is to foster a sense of affiliation. Twitter does (or maybe used to do) a nice thing of tying a red helium balloon to the person's chair. I think the goal of that was to identity the person as new so other staff would introduce themselves.
posted by Susan PG at 9:35 AM on January 24, 2014

Gift card to Brookstone or something similar in your area? Put it inside a welcome card with a handwritten note that you want her to feel free to personalize her work space in her own way. I know I would have loved that at any new job, and the note makes it clear that the purchase is mine to choose but should be for the office.
posted by trivia genius at 11:18 AM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Definitely not lunch. Many people need a little downtime at lunchtime, especially on their first day when there's so much pressure to be "on" the whole time that it's exhausting. Many other people don't need downtime. You have no idea which of these two types she is.
posted by hazyjane at 1:01 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Once, the stationary left on my desk at a new job included a notebook, just a regular one, but with welcome messages from my new team on the first page. Aww.
posted by AnnaRat at 1:58 PM on January 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

Picture frame (either pick one for the person or get them etched with your company name/logo). Book ends (a cool/funny pair just for that person). Mouse pad printed with a picture of something the person likes. Calendar or day planner.
posted by anaelith at 2:56 PM on January 26, 2014

Response by poster: Success! I went to Chinatown this weekend and got a cute little pot of bamboo. New employee came in, saw it on her desk, said "did you guys get me a plant? that's so sweet!"

In the future I'm going to lobby for mugs and water bottles and north face jackets.

Thanks, guys!
posted by phunniemee at 7:46 AM on January 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

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