Office workers have been reluctantly returning to their desks in drips and drabs across the country for months, but come January, bosses will increasingly want butts in ergonomic seats for the new year.
There are two kinds of office returners: the ones that have been waiting to return for two years, and the kind that would probably sell their firstborn to Elon Musk to avoid going back to sitting under fluorescent lighting for a majority of the day. This list is for the latter. Like all unpleasant fates, this one is largely unavoidable, and all we can really do is bring the creature comforts of home into the workplace. (Although some creature comforts, like your couch and that clutch afternoon nap/shower combo, probably won’t be welcome in the office.) Consider these suggestions an investment in your ability to have a conversation with your friend that isn’t simply 35 minutes straight of complaints.
The air in offices is notoriously dry and uncomfortable, so if a reluctant office returner is trying to achieve some scrap of comfort, the first step is to be as moisturized as possible. This can be attained in several different ways, including hand lotions, face mists, lip balms, and a stylish but minimalist humidifier. If you’ve got a friend that’s a little too hydrated in their face, opt for some blotting paper (or this TikTok recommended $10 blotting stick) which no one ever seems to have enough of; they make good stocking stuffers.
Please note that an important rule with these kinds of gifts: avoid anything with an overpowering scent. While your friend hates that they are in the office, you don’t want them to be the most hated person in that office because they keep spraying an obnoxiously fragranced spray on their faces once an hour.
Maybe your friend is more bitter than most about having to go back to the office and maybe this person is also incredibly petty. I highly, highly recommend a super noisy Bluetooth-compatible keyboard to replace their current keyboard. It’s great for those of us who type with purpose and also want to make a statement, that statement being: you made me come to this office, and now you’re going to hear me click-clacking all day long. For the friend who loves cute shit, I offer up this adorable typewriter-style keyboard ($130) that is not incredibly loud, but it is loud enough to turn a few heads.
Label Maker, $35
Office theft, be it real or imagined, is a scourge upon every workplace. The only way to avoid this is to aggressively label everything that is yours using a large and legible font. Pam the receptionist can’t take your leftover chicken soup unnoticed if she’s pulling out a well-labeled Tupperware from the community fridge. I spent years in a business that lived and died by good labels and I can recommend with the utmost confidence that if you get a label maker from Brother, you won’t regret it.
Everyone and their mom adopted a dog or cat in the early days of the pandemic, and for those that still have their pets (shame on everybody who gave them back to the shelters), it may be hard to part with their furry friend. While I don’t support inviting the surveillance state into a home, I also don’t support my puppies chewing on the pedals of my Peloton because they’re bored.
There are a trillion different kinds of pet cameras available on the market, but the only ones worth considering are those that allow you to talk to your pet and hear into your home in case the rugrat is barking at nothing. (Though the cameras that let you talk to your pet are really only effective for pets that are trained in their basic commands and will respond as you yell a command from your desk to the absolute bewilderment of your colleagues.) The cameras that dispense treats are all fun and games until Fido decides he’s going to start hitting the camera to get more, so make sure you know about your friend’s pet’s demeanor before committing to this gift.
Show me a well-heated office and I’ll show you the foyer of hell. The nice thing about gifting someone a shawl is that you can make one yourself if you’re into knitting or crochet—or you can find one on Etsy that looks like you took the time to make it yourself. There are a ton of free patterns online if you’re so inclined, and there’s also an array of small businesses selling shawls in every style under the sun, so let this be the one gift that you don’t purchase from the Demon King’s website.
First of all, do not walk back into any office unless you are vaxxed to the gills and feeling great. But neither the Pfizer nor the Moderna shot is going to help fight off regular old office colds. So give your friend the gift of a little extra vitamin C, whether through some gummies, a powder they can put in their water, or a giant bag of oranges to share with their office buddies.
Every office has its own version of Whose Mug Is It Anyway, in which contestants must comment on mugs the are missing, unwashed, or simply in a location that is not the designated mug place. Some people are fine with using whatever shitty lifeless mugs their office provides, but maybe your friend has a personality that requires a collection of statement mugs and other drinking devices. Hebron Arts and Huellas Artisinal Boutique have gorgeous collections of ceramic or porcelain mugs in varying sizes that really scream, “This is my mug and you will look like an asshole if you take what is clearly my mug.”
Stationary is one of those gifts that’s affordable but still gives off “I thought long and hard about what to get you” energy. In a fully digital age, the art of recording things on paper is getting lost, but few things feel nicer than whipping out your best pen and writing down some wild shit that your co-workers said in a beautifully understated notebook.
Years ago, I worked with an incredibly racist person and I still have the Moleskine wherein I racked up three pages of quotes in just two days of simply listening to chatter whenever and wherever it happened. I look back on these notes fondly; your friend can do the same with the right notebook!