Pandemic or not, the holiday office party season is just around the corner. To help you shine as a guest or to help you plan an online celebration that differentiates itself from all the other videoconference meetings, here are considerations for the preparation, the party itself, the timeline as well as activities’ suggestions and gift ideas.
In business, year-end activities normally include the traditional office party. With the COVID-19 crisis and its sanitary measures still in place, for many organizations, this annual tradition will transition from an in person party to an online celebration.
To help you achieve the festive goal of this online gathering, here are six questions to stimulate your reflection, plus recommendations and suggestions.
I– WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THIS CELEBRATION?
Not all office parties are the same. Not all have the same goal. Drawing inspiration from your organizational culture, your annual goals and your forecast for the next year, assign a purpose that will motive your people to participate in this year-end party.
In person or online, the holiday office party is an opportunity to celebrate the season, to recognize achievements and get to know each other better. Make sure that all employees, introverts as well as extroverts, are excited and looking forward to attending the event. Consider the diversity of your team members. Make sure that every employee will feel welcome and will be able to participate.
Party purpose ideas:
- Show gratitude for your employees and publicly celebrate their successes.
- Consolidate the team by getting to know each other.
- Strengthen the “Inclusion and Diversity” movement, share traditions.
II– ON WHAT DAY AND AT WHAT TIME SHOULD THIS EVENT BE HELD?
Typically, the holiday office party is set during happy hours from 5pm to 7pm, in a trendy downtown restaurant or bar. In a sparkling decor, far from the daily decor of partitioned offices, this transition sets the tone and immediately creates the desired festive atmosphere.
Unfortunately, with the current closure of these establishments, that in pandemic containment, for many of your team members, the transition from employee mode to parent mode and then to party guest will not be easy. Gather as much information as possible on your team members’ family obligations, while of course respecting their privacy. Then carefully assess the home conditions with possible interruptions. Let the very important moments of the celebration be known in advance. Make sure to also formalize the end time. This will ensure that employees can plan the beginning and ending of their days to tend to family duties. Different time zones should also be considered.
This online activity must be very different than any of your videoconferencing meetings. Sending party packages ahead: food, drinks and/or gifts, will create anticipation for the event even before everyone clicks the link and you announce the start the party with a resounding “Happy Holidays!” ”
- “Afternoon Tea”: organize a tasting of different teas, led by a tea sommelier. Each employee receives a set containing a variety of teas, a mug and special pastries.
- Home Scavenger Hunt: Have employees go to their fridge or living room and bring back the most unusual food in there or the item they cannot live without. All take turns explaining the whys.
- With your team members and their children take a virtual tour of Santa Claus’ village on weekends and organize a gingerbread house competition. Each family receives a homemade gingerbread kit with an amount for the purchase of decorations.
III – WHAT IS THE CELEBRATION’S TIMELINE?
As you do for your meetings, orchestrate the evolution of the party with the clock in mind to make sure planned schedule is respect and all can then respect their home commitments.
Aim for interactivity and involve several team members by giving them roles and asking them to intervene at different times.
Start with an icebreaker activity where everyone shares a holiday tradition or with a “bingo” inspired by seasonal activities such as: having had a hot chocolate in the last week, having shopped for Christmas presents online, having already dressed up as Santa Claus, etc.
Don’t forget to thank the employees for their dedication under historic conditions. Also recognize the work of the celebration’s organizers before. Announce your 2021 vision with messages that convey hope as well as realistic and achievable objectives.
Formalize the activity by sending out invitations that feature an image that supports the theme. The invitation sets the tone for the celebration, announces its’ purpose and includes the details that will shed light on what is expected of every team member.
The invitation is also a good opportunity to remind people of technological guidelines, in particular that screenshots and recordings are strictly forbidden, unless all agree.
Here are some questions that will help you define the party’s timeline:
- Will you be soliciting ideas from your employees?
- Are you planning to have different speeches?
- Will you hire professionals to host the party?
IV – WHAT ABOUT GIFTS?
While gift exchanges are popular during the holiday season, they can be an added strain when hosting an online party while all are in telework mode.
Here are some suggestions for supporting local or encouraging charity giving:
- Offer each employee an amount to so they may support their favourite local business. Include a time in the party’s agenda so all can present their local favourite.
- Donate to the charity of choice of each of your clients. Give the same amount to everyone or offer the equivalent of 10% of the sales entrusted to you this year. Canadon.org https://www.canadahelps.org/en/ is an excellent resource that allows each recipient to donate according to their values.
- Pay each employee a day’s pay to encourage them to donate their time and talents to the cause they care about.
Note: Avoid giving COVID-19 gifts: masks, hydroalcoholic hand solutions and disinfectant soaps or sprays, with your corporate logo. This is self-promotion. It could upset your employees, customers and suppliers as well as affect your reputation.
V– WHAT TO WEAR AND WHERE?
Whether working from home or in person, the clothes we wear influence how others perceive us. To ensure that all are in harmony, it is important to guide employees as to the desired dress code for the party. Whether it is casual, chic or party comfy, all employees, the more daring and the more reserved, all feel good participating.
Here are some team building ideas for a cohesive screen image:
- Organize a contest: the funniest hat, the ugliest Christmas sweater, the most festive decor.
- Make a wire transfer to each employee for the purchase of background decorations.
- Assign a colour theme to each team in the company and take a screenshot that will become your corporate greeting card.
VI– WHAT IF THE BUDGET DOES NOT ALLOW YOU TO ORGANIZE A PARTY?
If your business activities and consequently your bottom line are affected by the ongoing pandemic and you don’t have a budget for food or activities, remember that the most important motivator for employees and what they value most is the recognition of their contributions.
Here are some simple, cost-effective ways to recognize employee contributions:
- Send a personalized card to each employee, that highlights individual achievements over the past year.
- As with gift exchanges, each employee chooses a name, but instead of presenting a gift, each person or a host reads aloud a description of the appreciated qualities of employees.
- You can also invite department heads to individually recognize their team members publicly, in front of all party attendees.
To guide you in planning your festive activities, always keep in mind that the most important word in Holiday Office Party is: office, not party. Everything that happens during the virtual office party does not only stay at the Holiday Office Party, it affects the company’s image, its’ reputation, relationships, the productivity and the bottom line.
Published in The référence l’Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines du Québec November 30 2020 (c) Julie Blais Comeau