Remember the good old days of the office holiday party? We thanked employees, recognized accomplishments, looked to a bright future, ate, drank and were merry.
Many HR professionals and other company leaders wonder: Is it really OK to have a holiday party again?
Yes, it is. But it’ll likely look and feel different than in years past.
“Similar to the flexibility provided by hybrid work, HR should also have a flexible approach to their company holiday party,” said Annie Rosencrans, US People and Culture Director at Hibob. “Many people may want an in-person celebration, but companies should still offer something for those who are uncomfortable, given pandemic protocol.”
So prepare now to celebrate in different ways – remotely, in-person safely or somewhere in between. Here are five expert tips on how to make it happen.
Find out what your people want. Some are likely comfortable – actually, really want – to be in person and celebrate again. They miss colleagues and pre-COVID experiences.
Still, others are just as happy getting together virtually or skipping socializing all together.
“Gather employee feedback. [Do an] anonymous questionnaire or poll, host a town hall meeting or get email input,” said Rosencrans. “It shows employees that leadership cares about their teams and wants to celebrate in a way that will make everyone feel safe while having fun.”
Include every holiday
Be sure to include all the holidays relevant to your workforce in celebrations.
“Many companies tend to stick to Christmas decorations and Christmas themed parties,” said Rosencrans. “It’s crucial to make a point to reference each holiday as the year-end celebrations are being planned – or keep it entirely secular.”
You might put up decor for each holiday. Or just focus on employees and your gratitude for their efforts.
Give them gifts
Nearly three-quarters of employees said they didn’t receive a holiday gift from their employer last year, according to a Snappy survey.
“Some organizations still don’t realize how important it’s to show appreciation to their employees for all their hard work,” said Hani Goldstein, co-founder and CEO of Snappy. “A small end-of-year gift to celebrate accomplishments can go a long way and has a huge impact.”
This is especially ideal if you choose to can the office party. A common gift that’s (hopefully) useful to all employees shows appreciation without demanding employees’ time or putting anyone in an uncomfortable situation.
Some things to consider: Gift cards to local eateries (support your community, too). Credit to a company or third-party store where they can pick a gift. Tickets or passes for employees to choose from to nearby amusement or water parks, cultural events or sports games.
Choose quality over quantity
When you decide to celebrate remotely, choose quality over quantity, Rosencrans suggested.
“Rather than a simple Zoom happy hour, consider hosting a special activity like a virtual cooking class or team trivia,” she said. Or “consider sending a care package to accompany the event to make it feel extra special.”
Limit remote celebrations to fewer than 20 people. More than that, and people lose interest and don’t participate.
Use any kind of celebration as a means to move forward.
“The antidote to uncertainty is clarity,” said Karin Hurt, author of Courageous Cultures. “Provide a directional path forward.”
Even if the main focus of your holiday gathering is fun, ask a leader to address the group briefly – no more than three minutes – on what matters most going forward and why.