5 ideas for rethinking swag in the remote world

Swag for the remote workforce needs a bit of rethinking. Things are different now that we aren't all sitting around offices!

 min. read
July 26, 2021
Swag comes in all shapes & sizes, picking them ain't easy!

I was flipping through RIGHTSLEEVE's 2021 trends guide recently and it got me thinking more critically about "what does swag mean in a remote world?". For the sake of clarification, we'll define "swag" as the non-essential gear that a company gives their employees. This has typically been t-shirts, pens, notebooks, mugs, stress balls, etc. I often lament about the excessive number of oddly coloured, ill-fitting t-shirts I've accumulated having only previously worked at 2 startups. I find swag wasteful, it turns out it's not just me:

Swag alone, for a typical 2 day conference, generates 150 lbs of CO2 emissions
- GreenStory, Ditch the Swag. Embrace the Offsets.

So when it comes to outfitting workers at home and rethinking our swag offering, maybe there is an opportunity to do it better? Here are my 5 takes on swag that is best for a remote world.

1. Mugs

Hard to have a swag list that doesn't include one of the cornerstones of any swag bag: branded drinking containers. Aside from my tech setup, my mug is the single most important item I have within reach at any time of the day. In the morning, it holds my caffeinated beverage of choice before transitioning into my water cup (until the midday caffeine pick-me-up, but that may just be me!).

While at one time important for the morning commute, highly secure or sealed travel mugs aren't as practical in the home setting (save maybe for their carrying capacity). Why not opt out for the simpler (and more cost effective) branded coffee mug? This will look great on those morning standup calls where a little bit of team spirit can go a long way!

The first branded swag we ever got? Alright, it was t-shirts, but THEN it was mugs.

2. Coffee, Tea, Matcha, etc.

Whoa whoa whoa, I thought we were talking about swag, not mornings drinks? Here's our spin, swag as we know it, physical, material, space consuming sometimes useless, should really be focused on "things that will benefit employees". The goal is not to fill your remote team's personal space with company branding, the goal is to equip them with items that will make them feel close to the company and enabled to do their work. We've previously wrote about how to influence employee happiness (from an onboarding perspective!).

On our team of 7 person team, we have coffee drinkers, tea drinkers, matcha drinkers, MUD\WTR drinkers, caffeinated sodas, and those that transition between these options (we are not kidding). So when it comes to getting our team swag that is useful to their day-to-day work, these morning-ritual-beverages was an easy pick. The best part? When it comes to remote workers, you don't need to worry about shipping from one central location. You can probably find delivery options for local providers, such as this list of Toronto-based coffee roasters who do home delivery.

3. Snacks

Keeping in the theme of "things that will benefit your employees" snacks, in the millions of forms they take, help keep your team energized. While maybe a bit broader and harder to pinpoint when compared to tea or coffee delivery, getting food sent to your team's house is only becoming easier.

The likes of Uber and Instacart are offering users the ability to order a wider array of snacks to your door. While I'm not suggesting throwing in toilet paper as part of your swag bag, may be some granola bars, chips, or cookies (or all 3!) can be options for your new employees to pick from.

Don't want to be overly perspective? You always just send employees credits on a food app of their choosing so they can do their own snack picking.

4. Fidget cube

aka the "21st century stress ball"

I'm a natural fidgeter. When I am not typing or doing something on my laptop, I play with objects within reach to keep my hands busy. At one time, I might have had a company branded stress ball to squeeze, but for our 21st century remote workforce requires innovative new fidget products. Enter, the fidget cube (which might be referred to by a number of different names or brands):

I can just feel myself relaxing with this thing in my hand.

This new age stress ball has tactile distractors of all types! When you need to sit back and do some deep thinking, or are simply trying to start entertained on that 5th Zoom call of the day, look no further than this fidgety-cuboid. Pick one of the company's brand colours for the cube and you've got yourself a new swag article!

5. Day-to-day comfort wear

Hard to have a swag list that didn't include some sort of apparel. With the changing face of remote/distributed work, the typical company tee might not be the most useful piece of clothing you can provide to your team. A few things to consider when reviewing your apparel game:

  1. What climate does your team, or a specific team member, live in? Maybe skip long sleeve sweaters for those island dwellers and avoid a tank top for anyone living in the great Canadian north!
  2. Does clothing play an important role in that team members culture? Perhaps some items are exactly appropriate for individual cultures, play it safe or ask your team member what works for them.
  3. Could the article of clothing be useful? Perhaps you have a very active team, maybe some sports gear would be helpful. Otherwise if your team is more adept at Netflixing & chilling, a branded blanket wouldn't hurt.

Let's all take a quick pause on the branded swag we are sending to our new remote workforce. Identify what sort of items would benefit your team, with their feedback, and go with that!