The office party is so last year! In 2020, we need new ways to celebrate holidays with remote employees.
Socially distanced. Remote. Virtual. Masked. Separated. Whatever your work circumstances are, HR leaders and front-line managers will need to rethink and redo holiday celebrations this year.
And it could be more important than ever: More than half of employees feel less connected to their company culture, a TELUS International survey found. They miss their colleagues, routines and culture – including the fun stuff such as holiday celebrations and good times with co-workers.
“Organizations should be looking for alternative ways to celebrate the holidays and instill a sense of normalcy because, as we know, this year was like no other, and there’s no better time to celebrate like the holidays!” says Albert Galarza, Global Vice President of Human Resources at TELUS International. “Take the time to recognize even the smallest contributions, embrace togetherness and find laughter – laughter is key.”
There’s still time to set up unique seasonal celebrations.
We have 10 here, some from companies that have already taken on the holiday spirit. And all of the ideas can work for any size or distanced work group.
Exchange gifts … the old fashion way
Remember when the only way to get the knitted sweater from Great Aunt Hilda who lives 100 miles away was through the mail? Recreate that experience with a holiday gift exchange between employees.
Leaders at FlexJobs suggest inviting employees to participate in a mail gift exchange. Set a dollar limit and deadline to send gifts. Share a few suggestions on gift ideas. You can make the exchange public. Or you might have one organizer send names and addresses to everyone who wants to participate, setting them up for a Secret Santa exchange that adds a surprise element.
Bake for each other
You aren’t having the annual cookie swap in the cafeteria this year. But you can still do it via the United States Postal Service.
Invite employees to sign up to receive and mail cookies to each other – and include the recipe with their package. Set a cookie amount – a dozen or more – and give everyone who wants to participate a name and address for sending their delicacies and baking tips.
Exchange (E) cards
If employees aren’t up to baking or shopping, but still want to share in the holiday spirit, try a card exchange. Even easier, they can do an E-card exchange to skip the address sharing, writing and stamping process!
You can direct your team to any of the many E-card sites and let them have at it. They can get creative and create their own, or use any of dozens of premade designs and messages.
Bring on the contests
Get employees involved in virtual contests that almost make them feel like they’re in the workplace again. Two ideas:
- Work space decorations. Invite employees to decorate their home offices for their holiday of choice – much like they might decorate their work station, office, cubicle or locker. Then have them either submit a photo of their space or a video tour. Invite everyone to vote on the best and give a gift card prize to the winner.
- Ugly sweaters. Ask employees to don their ugliest or most creative holiday sweater at your next Zoom meeting. Then get everyone on the meeting to vote on the most obnoxious, creative, brightest, etc., and send prizes to the winners.
Involve the family
Telus International planned events to celebrate holidays with remote employees and their families. Two examples:
- Jingle Family Challenge. They invited employees to video themselves and their children, roommates or anyone in between, singing a favorite holiday song. Everyone can watch the performances, and a panel judges the best, which is rewarded with a family photoshoot.
- Gingerbread House Decorating Contest. The company sent employees a kit to build and decorate a gingerbread house. Employees shared their creations – and they rewarded winners.
- Video call with Santa. The company gave employees’ children an opportunity to talk with Santa Claus and his elves via video. Then they sent a gift to all the kids who participated.
Carol with co-workers
Leaders at FlexJobs suggest a spirited singalong in the only way we can these days: virtually.
Invite employees to participate – whether they can play an instrument or sing. Then send a song list to those who want to join in.
Set up a video call, inviting all those who don’t want to perform to watch the performance.
Help the community
Some companies have extended or adjusted their on-site philanthropic efforts to the virtual stage. And the holidays are a great time to help even more.
At Successfuel, HRMorning’s parent company, we’ve continued our annual friendly competition to support the local food bank. The office is divided into two teams, competing to bring in the most food. This year, however, most people are giving through online donations. Some dropped off food at the office where it’ll be picked up for our cause.
You might get together a team of volunteers who can meet virtually and help choose a cause or two. They can come up with ways the company can contribute now and down the road. VolunteerMatch can help you identify local and national remote volunteering opportunities.
Host a virtual party
You probably can’t have the crew together, so go ahead and continue what you’ve likely done many times this year: eat, drink and be merry virtually.
“Virtual celebrations can be as creative as in-person – for example, a virtual holiday scavenger hunt or a virtual ugly sweater party or your favorite holiday recipe sharing party,” says Galarza. “These activities can spread some much-needed positivity in the workplace, help to enhance both employee morale and company culture, and also foster employee camaraderie even if they can’t be in the same place physically.”
You might send employees vouchers to order food and drinks from a local establishment for your party.
FlexJobs suggested creating Zoom Breakout rooms to mimic different sections at a typical party. For instance, make “space” for employees to move from the appetizer table to the bar to the dessert table. You might even designate one breakout room as the photo booth where a volunteer can take screenshots of the gallery view throughout the party.
Telus leaders hosted holiday trivia in some of their groups’ holiday virtual get-togethers. You can find a host of trivia and other game ideas here.