The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about tremendous challenges surrounding in-person gatherings, which has forced employers everywhere to think about whether they should host, postpone, or outright cancel their company holiday parties. In fact, in the annual survey from Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based outsourcing company, most employers are either canceling their parties or are considering hosting them virtually this holiday season.
Their annual survey has found that only 23% of organizations plan to host a year-end celebration in 2020, which is down from 76% in 2019, signifying a decline of more than two thirds. Also, among the companies that are planning on holding a holiday party, three out of four are going to do it virtually. As most of the companies that plan to celebrate have embraced virtual options as ideal solutions, we will be sharing some ideas and suggestions for your party planning committee to consider.
Virtual Ways to Celebrate the Holidays with Employees
The first thing you need to know is that events held during the day will be more well attended than those held after hours. A daytime event may cut down on any libations being consumed and will also reign in the potential for bad behavior, which can still happen in a virtual environment. You can check out the Zoom videos on YouTube for proof of that happening.
There are plenty of positives for holding a remote office celebration, such as not needing a babysitter, not paying for an Uber, and not being roped into an hour-long conversation with the guy from the mailroom about his bee-keeping side hustle. So, if you’re intent on hosting a virtual celebration this year, here are some ideas.
Depending on the size and budget of your company, some of the ideas may be more applicable than others. For example, some of these ideas cost very little to execute, while others are more expensive. Apart from that, some of these ideas promote greater interaction among the group, while others won’t promote interactivity.
Online Video Conferencing Events
· Virtual Performance/Event
You can invite a performer like a musician, singer, hypnotist, or comedian to perform virtually for your employees. You can even make it interactive if your company is small. For example, you can book a musical group who can take requests or a magician who can send parts of their tricks out in advance to audience participants.
· Virtual Crafting Class
From painting classes to iPhone photography workshops, you can plan your virtual event to learn new skills and have fun. Airbnb offers thousands of one-on-one virtual experiences, including everything from a master class in brewing to lessons on cooking Mexican street tacos. There are also classes on glass blowing and oil painting taught by professional artists also stuck at home in France and Italy.
Keep in mind that some of these events may require attendees to acquire materials before the session. These can be curated or paid for by you and sent into the home automatically.
· Virtual Happy Hours
Hundreds of wineries offer virtual wine tastings, while mixologists are also relatively easy to find online. You can also ask your mixologist to conduct a class on making Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s or different cocktails better suited to later in the day. Make sure that you include some virgin cocktails for those who don’t drink alcohol. Like the crafting classes, keep in mind that some of these ideas may require the audience to have certain materials on hand if they will be concocting drinks at home.
· Virtual Culinary Delights
If alcohol isn’t what you want, then you can consider a cheese and charcuterie tasting. Book an expert who can educate the audience on putting together an exquisite board while educating them on the differences between the cheese, meats, olives, hams, and anything else on the menu. To make this idea work, you should send in advance a carefully curated shipment of materials, as you can’t send people out to shop on their own to get this to work.
· Virtual Games and Socializing
If you want to bring out the camaraderie among your employees, nothing is better than an interactive event full of online games, trivia contests, and good old-fashioned storytelling. You can Google “Zoom online games” to procure some ideas, from virtual escape rooms to online bingo to family-feud style trivia games, where you can even customize the questions.
· Virtual Competitions
Everyone loves a competition, especially when there are special prizes on the line. You can host virtual competitions featuring anything from best Zoom backgrounds to ugly sweater contests that will have the competitive spirit among your employees rising up.
· Virtual Talent Show
You can even think about hosting an online talent show to bring out your team’s hidden talents. It can be anything from joke-telling to piano playing. You can even have an online karaoke machine for anyone that wants to try their hand at singing.
· Virtual Recognition Ceremonies
Even though you may not want to create an entire holiday event out of employee recognition, it may make sense to take some time out to recognize teams and individuals who went above and beyond this year, or those who achieved a significant milestone in the company, like a promotion, a special anniversary, or a new level of skills certification.
· Virtual Holiday Meetup
You shouldn’t also overlook the value of merely bringing everyone together online outside of a formal meeting. A virtual meet-up goes a long way in raising spirits, so feel free to get everyone online. You can even kick off the event with an inspirational message, either looking back at 2020 or ahead to 2021.
When hosting these types of events, it’s best to appoint someone to keep the conversation going if there is a lull or manage the conversation if you have a lively bunch.
High-end Holiday Care Packages
Many employers are also going the route of the high-end care package as a way to express their appreciation to workers who are still mostly working from home. Ideas take on an enormous range in terms of size, scope, and investment level.
On the more perishable side of things, we’ve read about pre-prepared meal delivery, as well as do-it-yourself dinners with carefully curated ingredients-in-a-box. We’ve also heard about high-end wine, whiskey, and tequila shipments, which will probably have a longer shelf life. Better still, at least in terms of longevity, we’ve been pitched branded Apple AirPods, video game consoles, electric blankets, outdoor fire-pits, grills, and more.
And while there’s something to be said for a high-value gift that employees will use often, versus a one-and-done event that may be quickly forgotten, we still feel rather strongly that what’s needed now, more than anything, is more togetherness. With that in mind, our preference is for ideas that bring everyone together.
Skipping it Altogether (or Postponing)
Even though holiday celebrations can positively impact a workplace’s culture, there is also a strong case to be made for forgoing a celebration altogether this year. Apart from the safety concerns, these events can be quite costly to host and can also consume an excessive amount of time to plan, depending on the event’s complexity.
So, if your business is in an industry that has been challenged financially this year, or you’ve had to cut back on staff, it might make sense to take a year off from celebrating. Most companies are already canceling or postponing their holiday events, so don’t feel bad about it. If you are going down this route, you should explain to your employees why throwing a holiday party, even a virtual one, isn’t feasible this year.
The same goes for any explanation that might be warranted if year-end bonuses and other traditions will be altered in any way. Even though some employees may be disappointed with the decision, they will still appreciate the transparency and sincerity.