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Skip the Soiree: Give Employees a Holiday Gift

Oven timers are ticking. Turkeys are basting. Friends and family are flying in from all corners of the country. That's right. The holiday season is here.

That means entrepreneurs soon will be getting into a celebratory groove. But before you start planning that end-of-year holiday bash for your employees, you may want to consider swapping your company's annual office potluck or expensive night on the town for a simple gift.

According to the 2010 Holiday Business Gift Survey by clothing retailer Lands' End Business Outfitters, more than 70 percent of employees who participated indicated that they would rather receive a gift than go to an office holiday party. The national poll of more than 1,400 small-business owners and employees conducted this month found that 54 percent of employers plan to buy  a gift for employees and business partners -- and they expect to spend about $25 or less.

The art of office gift-giving isn't easy. The key, according to the survey, is to steer clear of "traditional" gift items, including ornaments, a popcorn tin or the old (old) standby - a fruitcake. Instead, opt for practical items that can be used either in or out of the workplace, such as food baskets or customized office supplies like magnetic paperclip holders or flash drives. (Click here for tips on gift giving throughout the year.)

Or, if tracking down specific gifts for each employee isn't in your wheelhouse, another, less time-consuming option is to give gift cards. In fact, a recent survey from the National Retail Federation says overall spending on gift cards is expected to jump by about 4 percent this year, with the average person buying around $150 worth between November and December. Cards from American Express, Visa or Mastercard, which can be used anywhere instead of one specific store or chain, are expected to be popular this year, the retail group survey says.

Jason Fell is the managing editor of Entrepreneur.com.

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