Office Holiday Parties: How to Safely Manage the Merriment

Lauri M. Velotta-Rankin

Necessity is, indeed, the mother of invention. And in a similar spirit, 2020 has taught us that barriers merely provide new pathways for clever innovation. Covid-19 may be altering our holiday events, but employers are ensuring it doesn’t usurp its spirit.
As workplaces have gone virtual, so have office celebrations. This holiday season’s party venues may look a little different from years past, as many employees will be celebrating from the comfort of their own homes. But don’t anticipate the average Zoom meeting with limited fanfare. Companies are discovering unique approaches to entertain and pamper employees.
Remote Festivities

With offices in both Virginia and Puerto Rico, and remote employees working in a handful of states, American Relocation Connections (ARC) is one of many companies altering their usual holiday events. “In years past, we would fly everyone out and host the customary company holiday party.” recounts Director, Bill Mulholland. “This year is a little different at ARC. Our offices are closed, every employee is remote, and we're avoiding having employees travel. As such, we're using the pandemic as a platform to do some team building and show our appreciation to employees in a more personal fashion (in their own home). For the team building, we're all participating in a virtual game show with a funny Santa host! Employees will be on teams and win prizes. For the personal side, we'll be sending gifts to the employee's homes to enjoy on Christmas Day, like pumpkin pies, spiral hams, and gifts from the company.”
Sending kits in advance of virtual parties is also gaining traction. Gingerbread house building contests have been a popular idea, with supplies delivered to employees homes in advance of the event. Live decorating brings out the kid in everyone and the winners can be mailed gift cards. Cocktail kits are another trend, with a live bartender to demonstrate proper mixing techniques. Or a sommelier can host a wine and cheese sampling kit.
In-person parties can also be substituted by gift deliveries. Packages range from a variety of snacks and beverages to personalized items. Harry & David's offers delectable baskets of gourmet food, while Swag spoils with spa boxes containing shower steamer cubes and stone facial rollers. Caroo's gift boxes span mindfulness to happy hour, and they offer a season-appropriate bonus: for every purchase, Caroo makes a donation to the nonprofit, Feeding America. Interested in supporting a small business? From scented candle sets to personalized grilling tools, there are many customizable gift package options found on Etsy.

A company specializing in team building, The Go Game, developed Go Remote Celebrate, a virtual platform for holiday events. With over fifty options of holiday-themed games, they provide a live host to facilitate events like trivia, lip sync contests, and virtual gift exchanges. “Go Remote connects up to 1,500 people from around the globe with interactive games, music, live hosts and more,” informs co-founder, Ian Fraser. “We've reimagined what the holiday office party can be virtually, adding festive content and a little magic to our platform. From entirely customized experiences to holiday events, fundraisers, parties and tournaments, it's been incredible to see how different companies are using Go Remote for the holidays as well.” And the response demonstrates the popularity of their services. As of the end of October, they’ve already neared capacity for December.

Employers Council has some virtual event suggestions as well, to include hosting a virtual murder mystery, escape room, game show, and karaoke contest.
If budget restrictions don’t permit hiring external facilitators, a game of bingo or pop culture trivia can be easily hosted by a chosen employee.
In-Person Events
While less prolific, in-person events are still a viable option and can be safely hosted with the proper precautions. If region and weather oblige, open-air events can include individually-packaged meals and sanitizing stations. Employees can be gifted with logoed blankets to keep warm during the event. Avoid chokepoints where people typically gather, like bars and coat-checks. The CDC offers additional guidance on keeping holiday events safe.

Still want to be close but seeking a bit more distance? Holiday drive-through light displays or a drive-in movie (with a classic holiday film) can be festive alternatives.
However corporate holiday parties are hosted this year, the objective should be about boosting morale, keeping employees connected, and spreading some much-needed holiday cheer.

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