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How to organise your own office Secret Santa

How to organise your own office Secret Santa
A handy guide to organising your office Secret Santa, from the team at Resolve IT.

I’m organising the office Secret! With Christmas fast approaching, lots of businesses want something a bit fun to take their team up to the holiday. Our Joe explores the best solutions, digital and (whisper it) analogue too.

Okay, someone in the office has suggested a Secret Santa. They ask for an organiser. There’s a lot of mumbling and looking at the floor, but when the music stops, you realise you’ve been left with the responsibility. So what are your best options?

A few quick hints before we go any further;

Firstly, not everyone wants to be involved. Don’t force them into it.

Secondly, set a deadline. What’s the last day everyone is in the office?

Thirdly, set a price limit.

Fourthly, or d) if you fancy a change, set a few ground rules, and clearly communicate them to everyone involved. For instance; don’t buy anything that might be found inappropriate or offensive.

Okay. Congratulations, you’ve made it this far! Everyone knows what’s expected, what’s acceptable and what isn’t, and everyone’s on board.

Now it’s time to start in earnest, and you’d be surprised how many online tools can help you.

Option 1: Worksmart (

>Worksmart is run by the Trades Union Congress, and offers a range of articles and advice for workers, as well as a few fun games and tools. One of them is the Worksmart Secret Santa.

The organiser is the only person who needs to sign up, after which you only have to enter the other peoples’ email addresses. They are then sent an email asking them if they want to take part. Handily, if you’re all on the same email domain (if your email addresses all end in the same thing) you can just enter @ and your domain and you’ll only have to enter the individual email alias; a great time saving feature!

Once you’ve done that, you will get an email when each of the participants agrees to take part. Once everyone's on board, they are automatically assigned a giftee, and will receive an automatically generated email telling them who, along with any personal message you want to add.


  • Opportunity to add an email domain rather than individually type all the addresses.  A simple but useful feature to save a bit of time.
  • Automated emails give people all the details they need, with the option to add further detail or a message if you want
  • Organiser receives an email each time someone agrees to take part, so you know how manyof your colleagues are on board
  • Easy to set up and make sure no one gets left out


  • Entering £5.00 made the price limit £500- perhaps not ideal
  • Only 30 people can join each gift exchange, meaning larger offices will have to create more than one
  • Don’t forget your password, or you’re in trouble


Option 2: Elfster

This is the Facebook of the Secret Santa world. You effectively sign up to a gift exchange network, and via this gaudily coloured website you can tell people what you want, suggest gifts for other people and effectively generate a whole profile for your Secret Santa-ing.

Every person taking part needs to sign up, but once that’s done you can pair people up quite easily, ask anonymous questions of your assigned giftee, create your own personal wishlist, and generally network in a social way.


  • Easy instructional video
  • Ability to ask anonymous questions
  • Well-designed website
  • Nice array of gifts, with direct links to Amazon (I chose the Simon Cowell mug and the “Cuddle snuggle fleece blanket wrap with sleeves [zebra print]”)


  • All participants have to sign up to Elfster
  • A little too complicated for the casual user


Option 3: The old-fashioned way

One person writes everyone’s name on separate pieces of paper, puts them all in a hat, and asks people to pick out a name. Simple yet effective.


  • The personal touch
  • No need to wait for people to reply to emails; they’re right in front of you!
  • You can easily let people know about rules
  • Some personal effort means people are more invested


  • It’s much more personal, and requires a bit of effort on everyone’s part
  • If you’re arranging a gift exchange for lots of people, it can get complicated, especially if people aren’t all together in the office at one time
  • People may pull their own name out of the hat, potentially giving away some of the mystery
  • If someone loses their sheet of paper, there’s no handy email to remind them who they’re buying for


If you’re in an office of less than 20 people, you might still prefer the “analogue” version. It seems a lot more personal, and you can make sure everyone is on board. However, with more co-workers you may struggle to make sure everyone gets the message. In this situation, or if you just have to go digital, I’d recommend Worksmart.

As nice as Elfster is, it just seems too complicated for something that is essentially just a bit of fun. For the more dedicated Secret Santas out there it might be perfect, but for people wanting something quick and fairly simple, Worksmart is the way to go.


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