It’s clear that 2020 is going to be a very different Christmas, not least for businesses. This is normally a time to celebrate with employees of all religions, and to reflect on the year’s accomplishments and hard work. However, with the usual much-anticipated festive parties off the table this year, organisations are having to re-think how to show appreciation to their employees and create some festive cheer.

So how can employers make sure they’re more Santa than Grinch in a Covid Christmas season? Here are some ideas:

1. Festive workshops

After almost ten months of Covid restrictions, the novelty of Zoom meetings has worn off. However, with virtual team celebrations the only option for parties this year, there are ways that employers can make these fun and unique. Your team may welcome an opportunity to dress up in party clothes after months of living in loungewear, so why not create a festive dress code and allow everyone to kick back and enjoy some much-needed festive fun?

Budgets normally used for party venues and related costs can be used to create something different but equally special. Why not send your employees a festive box of cocktail making ingredients and snacks, and hold a virtual team cocktail making class with an expert mixologist. Or for a less boozy option, organise a team wreath making or cook-along workshop; organisers send materials/ingredients to participants beforehand and then guide them, step by step, on how to make the festive wreath or meal of their dreams.

2. Get your virtual party on

For those businesses wanting to maintain the vibe of a traditional Christmas party, there are lots of options for creating an online version. Many event management businesses have adapted to the Covid world by staging exciting virtual parties with a difference. These can feature anything from a comedy bouncer who checks dress code on the way in, to a virtual DJ, to a range of immersive themed rooms and dancefloors for employees to choose from. For the adventurous, festive team building options include online escape rooms and even virtual murder mystery parties hosted by an actor.

3. Send out Christmas gift boxes or hampers

If a virtual party doesn’t tick the box, consider redirecting party funds to a thank you gift instead. Employees will appreciate a festive treat such as a food hamper, gift box or luxurious pamper set. Give them something that they wouldn’t necessarily buy themselves, that’s appropriate to their likes and dislikes, and fits with any cultural or religious rules. If possible, include a personalised note to thank them for their contribution.

4. Secret Santa

So far – possibly due to his remote location and tendency to mix largely with elves – Santa is one of the few to have avoided Covid restrictions. Create some festive sparkle by arranging a virtual Secret Santa, where colleagues can opt-in to anonymously buy a small gift for one of their teammates. There are plenty of guides online to help you put this together, and online tools such as Elfster or Draw Names that you can use to draw names from  a virtual hat. Once all participants have sent a gift to their designated colleague, hold a virtual team gift opening gathering. This is not only a nice way to create some festive cheer while working from home, but also creates a good team bonding opportunity ahead of the Christmas holidays.

5. Christmas tunes

For more outgoing, gregarious teams, an all-out festive virtual extravaganza might be just the ticket. Zoom karaoke sessions may be a good way to release the pent-up energy of 2020’s extraverts. Use an online tool such as Watch Together to create a virtual karaoke booth, and then select a YouTube playlist of karaoke classics to get the vocal chords working. It may take a while for everyone to warm up from the distance of their own homes, but once they’re in the karaoke zone, it’s likely to be some of the most fun your team has had all year! If your team likes a laugh but singing isn’t their cup of festive tea, other options include a festive quiz or fancy dress video call. Decide based on your team’s preferences and consider letting them vote on their preferred option. 

Whatever your choice of celebration, remember that the main reason for a party or gift is to say thank you to your employees after a particularly challenging year. Show your gratitude and use the festive season as an opportunity to reflect on what everyone has achieved, paint a vision for the future and create some optimism and excitement for 2021.

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