In a year that has brought forth so many twists and turns for the average human resources leader, planning holiday celebrations might be the last thing on their mind.
But amidst the lockdowns, the political turmoil and the ever-evolving adjustment to remote work, it is important to remember that employees still look to their employers at this time of year for a little bit of joy and reassurance.
Celebrating the holiday season with employees isn’t just about a party – its about providing employees with an opportunity to engage with one another off-the-clock, where the world of looming deadlines is paused for just a moment.
The mirthful interactions that teams have with one another during this period set the stage for the year to come. That being said, 2020 is different, in more ways than one.
This year, HR teams have to get creative in curating holiday and new year experiences for their teams that may look a little different than ‘normal’, but still give employees that same fuzzy feeling as the year comes to a close. Here are some ideas:
Take the holiday party virtual
The biggest question mark on most employees’ minds is, of course, the soiree of the season: the company’s holiday party. Though it can’t happen in person, lots of merriment can still be arranged digitally – focus on using teleconferencing software that allows for breakout rooms, so people can split off into smaller, more intimate groups to engage with each other instead of fighting to be heard on one massive group call.
Focus on New Year’s Celebrations
After such a chaotic year, there is definitely a unified desire for a fresh start amongst most employees. By centering activities around the start of the New Year, and focusing any fun initiatives around self-care (think spa days, meditation, relaxation, journaling, etc), instead of partying, employees will return from the holiday refreshed and recharged.
Perfect the digital gift
Crafting the perfect gift for employees is challenging in any circumstance, particularly with a diverse workforce. Thinking outside the box when it comes to gifting is critical. Many online outlets, like AirBnb and Groupon, have begun offering online experiential gifts digitally, so companies can purchase things like French cooking lessons or circuit fitness classes, conducted completely virtually, for employees. This gives every employee a chance to get a gift curated for their interests and skillset.
Create engaging digital experiences
Given that most companies have been working remotely for almost a year now, its important to take a fresh lens when crafting digital experiences for the holidays. Especially with lots of employees on a Zoom, more introverted attendees can become withdrawn or disengaged. By cultivating experiences focused on one-way content delivery – comedians, magic shows, drag queen bingo, etc, every employee is included, and nobody is left out of the fun.
Help employees feel valued
So much of what makes employees feel valued, especially at the end of the year, is interfacing that happens traditionally in an office setting. Whether it’s applause from a room during an end of year wrap up presentation or simply a thank you from their manager during a year-end review, these micro-interactions can be hard to manufacture digitally. That being said, creating outlets for executives, managers and even peers to recognize one another as the year closes digitally is critical. Hibob’s Shoutouts and Kudos features are used for this exact purpose, and allow employees across the globe to recognize each other’s accomplishments, and ensure their gratitude is felt across the organization as well.
Forecast the year ahead
Given that 2020 was full of surprises, employees are likely feeling extra anxious headed into 2021. Though traditional planning conversations can wait until a more appropriate time, teasing fun developments for the year ahead can get employees amped up for what’s to come. By sharing small tidbits about company growth, new initiatives and dynamic company changes, employees will not only feel secure that the company is in good shape headed into the new year, but appreciate the transparency that letting them ‘in on the secret’ illustrates.
Global gift exchanges
With employees scattered across the globe, a traditional in-person gift exchange can be challenging. But with the wonders of international shipping, the same experience can be replicated remotely. Scheduling time for employees to open gifts in front of one another on a group call creates another bonding experience, and because it’s all done remotely, it can connect employees who may not ordinarily interact with one another due to distance. A tip is to offer some sort of theme to the gift exchange to make it more challenging and fun, like “Things to help with work stress” or “Gifts to enjoy with family.”
Merge online with offline
The biggest thing employees are craving during the holiday season is some sense of normalcy, a reminder of when they weren’t working remotely. That’s why creating experiences that merge the online and the offline can help restore the feeling of a “normal” holiday gathering. Try to pair online ideas like cooking classes or wine tastings with sommeliers with offline elements, like shipping the ingredients and wines to employees’ homes. This makes the event feel different from a traditional meeting during the work day and goes a long way toward making it feel like something special and fun.
With so much going on in the workplace, it can be easy for things like holiday activities to slip low on the priority list. That being said, the holiday season (even one as unique as the one we’re experiencing in 2020) is a unique chance for HR to create synapses within the organization that will facilitate strong relationships in the year to come. Also, for many employees, this year may be the first time they are celebrating the holidays with a lost loved one, so it is so crucial to take steps to maintain a sense of belonging and community during a time that is isolating for so many. Whether it’s gifting, rich online experiences or a simple digital thank you, this time of year is all about connectivity.