The festive season is just around the corner. For some, it has already begun – early whispers of putting up Christmas trees across homes in the UK is a tell-tale sign that the season is already upon us. Of course, this year, there is a good chance that our usual celebrations may look a little different to those of years gone by. 

With much of the workforce continuing to work from home, how can businesses bring on the holiday cheer whilst also complying with social distancing guidelines, restrictions on group numbers, and reduced opening hours?

The coronavirus pandemic might have brought some new considerations into the equation, but that’s not to say that companies can’t still pull out all the stops for their employees. It’s time to bring out the thinking caps, and channel some creativity into creating a COVID-proof digital party plan that will reward those who have continued to work hard in the face of everything that has been thrown their way this year. 

Here are a few ideas to get you started…

Not Another Zoom Quiz!

Video conferencing fatigue has well and truly set in for many, with enthusiasm for relentless Zoom meetings slowly draining as the months roll by.

Whilst a typical Zoom quiz night may seem somewhat lacking as a celebration of one of the merriest times of the year, there are many ways to spice up video conferencing and bring new experiences to the table.

In lieu of an office party this Christmas, businesses can organise an online event with all the same activities as they would have enjoyed in-person. Set a date for the event, as you would under normal circumstances; send out a party pack with instructions to all team members ahead of time and make sure no one opens their packages before the big day!

The options for activities are endless. In true Christmas spirit, why not send out gingerbread house kits that you can make together, accompanied with hot chocolate stirrers and marshmallows. This can be combined with a follow-up virtual activity like themed charades or Pictionary. 

If you’re looking for something a little more unconventional, there are plenty of online games, courses and entertainment options that could spark the interest of your employees. Virtual live drawing (from traditional portrait sessions to live-streamed zoo animals– the choice is yours!), can bring a unique flair to the festivities. 

A Truly Secret Santa!

Not being in the same place at the same time presents some logistical hurdles to much-loved traditions. But a little creativity and forethought can go a long way!

Virtual Secret Santa involves an added element of mystery. Whilst it’s easy to give away the secret when working in the office (sneakily dropping off a present without someone guessing who it’s for is often harder than it seems), having it delivered virtually makes it all the more challenging to guess.

Set a date for delivery, split up into groups if necessary, and exchange addresses so each team member can send their Secret Santa gift directly to the recipient’s doorstep. For those who are keen to avoid the headache of sorting out the logistics, there are plenty of websites available to help you organise a present-giving system.

Set a date and have everyone open their presents on-screen so you don’t miss out on watching the surprise on people’s faces and their failed attempts to guess who their gift came from! Top things off by enjoying some Christmas goodies together too!

Support Your Local Businesses

End-of-year Christmas work dos tend to take place at local pubs, restaurants and entertainment venues; a boost not only to employees’ morale, but also to the local economy. 

This year, many of these businesses will be missing out on the opportunity to do what they do best – serve and entertain their local residents. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t still support them as part of your workplace festivities.

On a basic level, you might consider rewarding your employees with the gift of food: a voucher for them and their loved ones for takeout, or to a local restaurant that will be welcoming diners back as soon as they are able. Even better, if your regular hangout is delivering throughout the festive season, then why not arrange for a surprise delivery of some much-loved treats for your employees?

Stand Together for a Good Cause

The trials and tribulations of 2020 have been felt by everyone. One positive to come out of this year, however, is people’s willingness to help and support one another in any way they can. 

So, to support the community spirit, why not dedicate the budget that you would otherwise have spent on a lavish party to a cause that your businesses and employees are passionate about?

You could make a corporate donation to your chosen charity for the year, or to make the idea more interactive, you could encourage staff to nominate and vote on causes close to their hearts. For something more tangible, you could also organise a giving scheme where staff are able to contribute donations – whether monetary or otherwise to a local organisation. As an employer, your gift to your employees this year could be to match these donations.

With many people struggling this year, asking staff to help create hampers or collect donations for Christmas food parcels is a good way to encourage the spirit of giving whilst helping local people in need. You could also honour the incredible work our NHS has done over the past year by making a special Christmas donation to support the fight against COVID.

With 2020 being rather unexpected to say the least, Christmas is the perfect time to say thank you to your employees, many of whom will have undoubtedly gone above and beyond the call of duty this year. However you choose to celebrate, by coming up with something unique, your efforts are sure to bring your team together and help your business focus on and celebrate the year’s successes in style!

Liza Kinnear

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