What Is Employee Swag?

Employee swag is typically branded clothing, gear, office supplies, or advertising media. Classic examples include shirts, hats, water bottles, stickers, sunglasses, technology, notebooks, backpacks and luggage.

Should Businesses Give Employee Swag?

The main question a business should ask itself before going all out on employee swag is, “Can we afford it?” Branded material, whether it be a box full of shirts or a closet full of inventory, has a cost associated with it. While there is a balance of benefits and disadvantages, how swag is accounted for in the budget or how it can help meet the button line is an important consideration.

Benefits of Employee Swag

  • A sense of belonging. Employee swag can help new employees feel a part of the brand immediately. Whether it is a work polo, a shirt for casual Fridays, water bottles they take to the gym, or headphones they wear on the airplane while traveling, swag aids in creating a culture of belonging.
  • Walking billboards. Swag can play a bigger role in the business’ strategy, especially in recruiting. Imagine that a job seeker sees a hat while at a restaurant, or a phone case on a college campus, and they ask what the company is or go home and research career options. If an employee receives a welcome box on their first day of work, invite them to take and post a picture of it online. Swag can also be used at recruiting fairs to draw potential employees to talk to recruiters. More expensive items can be used as leverage for a candidate to submit an application on the spot.
  • Workplace perk. Companies that have larger budgets for employee swag can get more expensive items, such as coolers, insulated drink or coffee tumblers, grilling equipment, name brand backpacks and clothing, outdoor equipment, running shoes and more. Employees view receiving expensive items for free or a discount as a valuable workplace perk. When using trendy or popular items, someone may ask where they got it. They can respond, “I got it at work!” which quickly shows how a company values their employees beyond a paycheck.

Disadvantages of Employee Swag

  • Cost. It is easy to spend a lot on employee swag, and if not done properly, this can hurt the company’s ability to be profitable. If a company has 90% annual turnover among thousands of frontline staff, purchasing each new employee an expensive branded laptop would be a waste of funds. In a less extreme example, if a company is operating in the red, adding additional expenses for employee swag may not help long-term job security.
  • True value added. Some employees have high standards for employee swag, and others may view cheap swag as an insult to their hard work. If the company has announced they are gathering all employees for a meeting and swag, expectations naturally run high. When the company gives out a cheap item, odds are high it gets thrown away or ends up in a drawer, never to be used. If employees feel they work hard and are underpaid for their work, swag can be viewed with the mindset of “This is it?” Swag should aim to bring value to the employee by either being a useful or nice item.
  • Hurt employer brand. When done wrong, employee swag can hurt the employer brand. A cheap or poorly designed shirt ends up at a donation center and on the clothing racks of a discount store. Employers also run the risk of their logo or brand being publicized in a negative way if a current or former employee does something illegal. Examples can include an arrest, drug use, and other controversial actions outside the workplace. Although this is a larger issue for employers, having a company brand associated with it does not help.

Great Employee Swag Ideas

There are many good swag ideas, and ultimately a company should look at the demographic of their employees to see what would be best. It is vital to keep employee swag gender- and ethnic-neutral to avoid any form of discrimination.

Welcome Boxes for New Hires

Welcome boxes are a great way to present multiple less expensive items together to bring value. These boxes can include smaller items such as stickers, keychains, lanyards, bluelight glasses, or snacks with a nicer item such as a water bottle, coffee mug, shirt,or jacket.

Backpacks and Bookbags

Most employees have ditched the briefcase for a backpack or bookbags. Branded baggage helps the employee stay organized coming to and from the office by giving them a central spot for their technology (laptops and chargers), snacks and drinks, keys, and workplace identification. Employees may even use this baggage outside of work when they travel.

Branded Workgear

Take into consideration what your employees are doing for their jobs, and create swag that meets their needs. Do your employees bring lunch daily? Have a branded lunchbox. Do your employees spend a lot of time traveling? Have a branded travel bag to help them travel with ease. Do your employees work outside a lot? Have branded hats or sunglasses they can use on and off the job.

Additionally, employees may enjoy more practical swag such as lip balm, portable chargers, tablet cases, cooling towels for hot environments, masks (in the age of COVID or in healthcare positions), and other clothing.

Best Times to Give Employee Swag

Having employee swag is step one. Giving swag out in a purposeful way is the next step.

New Hire

Nothing says “Welcome to the team!” like a meaningful welcome box or swag items.

Work Milestones

Giving branded swag and awards to acknowledge personnel milestones have more meaning than a general giveaway. This might be time-based, like work anniversaries, or accomplishment-based, like a certain quota of sales.


This is the most classic time to present swag to employees, especially around the end-of-year holidays.

Earned Award and Redemption

Some companies take an additional step to balance purchasing higher quality and more expensive items. Systems like Awardco and Motivosity allow employees to earn rewards and recognition that can be used to purchase products and employee swag.