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Over a third of millennials want to ban Secret Santa and other office 'whip-rounds'

Photo: David Everett Strickler/Unsplash

Over a third of Millennials want to ban secret Santa and other office ‘whip-rounds’ as they are forced to dip into their savings or go into debt to contribute.

A survey of 4,000 UK workers by Jobsite found almost three quarters (73%) of office workers aged between 23 and 38 have regularly contributed more than they could afford to an office celebration, compared to two thirds (58%) of the UK population.

The financial strain of contributing to activities such as secret Santa and presents for birthdays and promotions can be so severe that over a quarter (26%) of younger workers have either dipped into their savings or gone into their overdraft to contribute.

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What office whip-rounds are Brits contributing to?

Brits spend their own money on office occasions such as birthdays, engagements and secret Santas about 15 times a year, the research found.

Birthday celebrations take the largest slice of cake, with workers forking out an average of five times a year.

In total, employees spend about £99 every year on gifts for their co-workers – a stunning £4,667 over the course of their careers.

Shockingly, millennial workers see their contributions add to 34% more, with a total of £151 per year spent on 17 colleagues celebrations, which represents £7,111 over a career.

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The impact on younger workers

The results of young workers being left out of pocket are not just financial but can also cause a rising tide of resentment amongst employees.

Just under a quarter (22%) of younger employees – those aged 23 to 38 – said they felt angry at the person organising the whip-round for not considering their financial situation.

Meanwhile, 17% have been “called out”, or experienced allegations of “stinginess” relating to their contribution, resulting in a sense of shame within the workplace.

As a result, one in five workers believe such events should not be celebrated at all in the workplace, while a quarter of workers and 35% of millennials would even like to see them banned.

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Office whip-rounds are good for morale... if done right

However, despite the financial and emotional pressures, the likes of ‘Secret Santa’ are here to stay, as the majority (61%) of UK office workers think they are good for morale, 60% believe they help build a healthy rapport amongst colleagues, and a further 64% believe gifting between employees is a sign of respect and appreciation.

Interestingly, those aged between 22 and 38 were more likely to acknowledge these benefits (67% vs 62% on average), despite being more likely to be on the receiving end of some of the negative side effects of contribution.

This could imply that while office celebrations carry value, they are in need of a modern-day rethink – especially as two fifths (42%) of the UK workforce deems them “old-fashioned”.

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A fairer way of gifting

With office celebrations carrying a number of benefits, employees think businesses should continue to support them – but look to put less burden on the individual employee.

A significant proportion of young workers feel like the business should shoulder the burden. Millennials in employment particularly agree, with almost a quarter (24%) asking for dedicated company budgets to avoid chipping in, compared to 21% across all UK workers.

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Dr Ashley Weinberg, an expert in workplace psychology at the University of Salford, said: “The giving and receiving of gifts is a natural part of our make-up as social animals. In fact, the basis of most of our face-to-face communication relies on taking turns and understanding the unwritten rules which underpin it. The workplace is an obvious testing ground for our ability to negotiate, but we don't always feel we have the power to say 'no' and we should.

 “Having the chance to share our appreciation of colleagues and to celebrate positive events is really valuable – just as long as this is done fairly. Workplace organisations can play a positive part in this, whether helping to suggest sensible parameters or even by setting the ball rolling with a contribution to collections for employees.”