October 22, 2020

Troy Hill

Here’s how to throw an engaging virtual holiday party

While the whirlwind year that is 2020 is starting to wind down, it means that the winter holidays are quickly approaching. Normally, this time of year gives companies and organizations the opportunity to hold a fun holiday party to celebrate the end of the year. However, with the coronavirus pandemic forcing social distancing, an in-person party is uncertain. The holiday office party, if held this year, will have to be a virtual holiday party or look significantly different than in years past.

Fortunately, we have the opportunity to have meetings and parties online, and with a little extra effort and some innovative new ideas, they can bring a little holiday spirit and cheer to your virtual shared office space.

Karen Stafford, the Arizona president of the Employers Council, says it’s important to take the time to just be together and highlight the accomplishments, hard work, and flexibility that everyone demonstrated this year. At the end of the year, a party gives leaders the chance to focus on and celebrate the wins of the year, no matter how small or large.

Stafford says to get the team’s input while planning the party. Get them involved by asking them to share things like their top 10 wins, learnings, or ways they pivoted over the course of the year and then focus on them and celebrate them.

“I would make them short,” Stafford says. “Your holiday party from years past may have been several hours long, maybe [this year’s party is] just an hour. Just enough to maybe do a game, [etc.].”

Some games to try include: a company or pop culture trivia game, bingo, puzzles, or riddles. You can break people into teams and utilize the breakout rooms. Party games that you can play online from separate locations, such as Jackbox games, are also a great option that get people to be creative and funny. With games like this, you can share a screen and have people send in answers by going to a website on their phone.

Another idea is to have employees submit a “top three things nobody else knows about me” (while keeping it safe for work) and then you can set up a game where people guess what things belong to who.

Depending on your budget, you could also show your appreciation by creatively catering food to your employees.

Jennifer Russo, owner and executive chef of The Market by Jennifer’s, a restaurant with a catering service, has been brainstorming ways to have effective parties and events for months.

Currently, Russo is working with a company to provide baskets of food to their employees, along with her cookbook, so they can conduct a live cooking demonstration for them to follow along with for their company’s holiday party.

Russo says she had other ideas for potential holiday parties she could cater, such as a picnic in the park where they provide the food, or curbside pick-ups for the food they are catering if employees don’t feel comfortable with it being delivered.

“We’re a custom caterer anyways so we’re open to working with whatever the company or our guests would like to do,” Russo says. “We will talk to them just like they’re doing a normal event, and share our options and ideas with them and take out all the hard work for them so they can just enjoy themselves.”

Collaborating with Russo or a catering company is another great way to treat your employees to delicious, locally-made food options for the party.

While all of these ideas have the potential to be a lot of fun, it might not be completely appropriate to have an end-of-the-year celebration. Many organizations might feel like they haven’t had years worth celebrating.

“Rather than force it,” Stafford says, “consider and talk with your team about other alternatives. Maybe you adopt a family… maybe connect with a charity and do the Zoom event around seeing a video or thank you from that charity. (There are) lots of options, so it doesn’t have to be boring and or tossed to the side completely.”

Whatever you and your company decide to do, it is clear that holding a holiday party, even a virtual one, gives you an opportunity to connect with everyone in your company, increase morale and recognition, and treat your employees. You might even have a fun time with it, too.