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computer on table with christmas decorations and baked goods

The COVID-19 global pandemic has changed every aspect of our working lives as we know it. As the end of the year approaches and a second surge in cases has led many state and local officials to pass new rounds of mandates and closures, many organizations are trying to figure out how to reimagine a yearly staple: The traditional holiday party.

In a recent survey conducted by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, 55% of the 189 human resources professionals surveyed said their company is not having a holiday celebration in 2020 – the most since they started tracking such plans. With the second surge in COVID-19 cases nationwide upon us and the CDC’s advisory that indoor events pose a greater risk to spread the virus, it’s likely that percentage may rise significantly in the coming weeks.

Despite these facts, your company can – and in the wake of a very turbulent year – should celebrate this holiday season. Company holiday gatherings are critical for employee morale. A successful office party can not only bolster employees’ job satisfaction, but also encourage them to share positive sentiments with colleagues, provide you with an opportunity to celebrate success achieved during a very unusual year, and ultimately boost both your company’s profile and business potential. 

This year, a successful holiday “gathering” is a must to help maintain your company’s culture and employees’ connections to it and each other. In an age where virtual meetings have become part of “the new normal,” hosting a holiday party online can be a great alternative to accomplish these goals and maintain the safety of your employees, too. 

UTILIZE THE 6 Ps

You may have heard of the 6 Ps: Proper planning and preparation prevents poor performance. In much the same fashion your business would do its due diligence before every hire, new program, innovation or deal, you should apply the 6 Ps to virtual holiday parties.

What are your goals for the party? Will there be a theme? What do you think your employees will need to enjoy it in a virtual setting? These are the types of critical questions that should be answered in your planning to help guide the rest of the event from start to finish. While some employees may not have the need to tend to family members’ needs as they participate in the festivities, the occasional needy pet, child cameo, and ringing doorbell and/or other interruption is always a possibility. This could necessitate a need for the party to take place during regular work hours. Surveying employees around times that work best for them to relax and celebrate in a virtual setting can help prevent burnout of having to use virtual meeting software (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.) after hours.

Creating mailed or virtual invitations are also a great idea to make it feel more “official” and to bolster excitement as the date approaches. There are some excellent, free digital designs you can customize via Canva to create beautifully designed invites at an affordable cost.

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DESIGNATE A VIRTUAL HOST

All good parties have a host who greets people, engages them, introduces them to guests whom they may or may not otherwise interact with and generally help to keep the fun going. Your virtual event needs a host who can perform all of these functions in maintaining the balance between “work” and “party” at your holiday function. You don’t want people feeling constrained by the limits of their home but you also want to ensure that typical holiday party etiquette is being followed as well.

ENCOURAGE ENGAGEMENT WITH ACTIVITIES

Since engagement is the key to the success of any party, virtual or otherwise, it is essential that your holiday event have activities planned to engage all those who attend. Companies with strong cultures can use these events to not only have fun, but also reveal talents and skills that may have previously lied undetected (and possibly be useful in the future).

A virtual talent show can provide buttoned up managers a chance to showcase their more playful side, a group crafting activity can encourage creativity and team building among partners, and karaoke can provide insights into your employees’ music preferences. Should your budget allow for it, utilizing delivery options from a local restaurant, bar, distillery or winery for a tasting (be it of food, coffee, tea, beer or spirits) can provide social fun with the added bonus of everyone already being in the comfort – and safety – of their own home. (Make sure you know of any allergies in advance of placing orders.)

Looking for entertainment options? Websites like Gig Salad and Bark are among the dozens where you can find and hire magicians, trivia hosts, musicians and comedians to bring a humorous or musical spark to your event. On a budget? Sites like Jackbox.tv can provide hours of entertainment with games of all types, including old standards such as Pictionary® and UNO®. This can bring a nice, fun childlike atmosphere to your party.

Looking for another cost-effective way to engage your event’s attendees? Be creative and encourage them to be as well. Surprise them with gift cards, purchase white elephant gifts and/or prizes that can be exchanged or won via trivia, have an ugly sweater contest, or even consider a virtual escape room like the ones offered by Puzzle Break or Mystery Escape Room. You may be apart physically, but as long as you engage your attendees, you will have the sense of togetherness key to not only a successful holiday event, but organization as well.