Celebrating the Virtual Holidays
“What I don’t like about office Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day.” –Phyllis Diller
‘Tis the season. Diwali is celebrated October 24th and 25th. Halloween is right around the corner. Thanksgiving is coming up right after that. And then it gets a little more complicated. Rohatsu, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, Solstice, and New Year’s Eve are all in December. This time of year has always been difficult for Employers and Managers. Which ones do you celebrate? When do you celebrate? What’s your budget? Will there be booze? In our 3rd year of a global pandemic where remote work and virtual meetings are the new norm, it’s still a difficult time of year. But the questions are now centered around how are we celebrating the virtual holidays?
There’s a veritable cornucopia of ideas you can use to still celebrate the holidays with your staff in a virtual setting. Before that, let’s talk about some of the overlooked benefits to not having the traditional in person office parties. Human Resources, this one is for you.
It’s the time of year when offices are decorated with pumpkins, fall leaves, snowflakes, Christmas trees, lights, garland, nutcrackers (my favorite), and the controversial mistletoe. Do you let your employees dress up for Halloween? Can you hear the HR department squirming just by asking that question? I worked in a restaurant and the rule was “at your discretion so long as it doesn’t interfere with your ability to do your job.” Well, one bartender didn’t have the same definition of discretion when he showed up in a Hooters Server costume. I’m still haunted, John.
Thanksgiving usually takes care of itself. It’s always on a Thursday, so it’s pretty traditional to have a 4-day weekend. So long as you stay out of hot water by not bringing up Columbus and the “first Thanksgiving”, you should be fine. If things start getting uncomfortable, just pivot to the old pumpkin vs. pecan vs. apple pie debate. But December is really the tricky one. What if Christmas is on a Wednesday? Do you get Wednesday through Friday off? What about Christmas Eve? Do you put up decorations? Do you buy presents? Should you host a holiday party? Is it mandatory? What about those who don’t celebrate Christmas? How do you make everyone feel included and represented? For some, working remotely and not having to deal with any of it can be a relief.
According to a New York Post article, 33% of office workers admit they have done something they regret at a holiday party. And for some, that’s a great reason to go in the first place. But it’s not the only reason. Most are just looking forward to socializing, having some delicious food, and indulging in free drinks.
Historically, January has been the month of the year with the most amount of layoffs, according to workology.com. Sometimes, it’s simply the first of the fiscal year and the budget that was set up last year shows a projected decline. Other times, it was coming, you just didn’t have the heart to let your employees go during the holiday season. And there’s always a group that are on the chopping block because of some antics or inappropriate behavior at a holiday office party. Well, many companies don’t have to worry about that anymore, but now there’s something new to worry about: celebrating the virtual holidays.
Celebrating the Virtual Holidays
One popular office party staple during the holidays is the Secret Santa or White Elephant gift exchange. Everyone’s name goes into a hat and everyone draws a name. There’s usually a price limit. And then you go out and buy something for the person whose name you drew, wrap it, and open it at the holiday party. You can keep this tradition alive virtually. There are a number of free apps like Free Secret Santa Name Picker or Elfster for the occasion.
A great way to be inclusive and fun is to have a holiday Zoom background contest. Of course, Zoom has many pre-made backgrounds you can use. But you can encourage your team to get creative, use an app like Canva, and have everyone design their own background that showcases how they celebrate this time of year.
There are even groups that have made planning and executing virtual holiday parties a new business. One such group is coursehorse who can host virtual, hybrid, or in-person events with food, games, and activities for everyone.
Some companies can afford to be more philanthropic at this time of the year. In lieu of gifts, you could encourage your employees to donate to a charity of their choice and have the company match those donations. You could also post this to social media and your website to bring awareness to the great causes your team is passionate about.
Something that would work for Halloween or the December holidays is a virtual mystery escape room. Yes, those are now available online as well.
Look, the reality is, we’re not out of the woods yet with Covid 19. And even when it’s fully behind us, remote and hybrid work options are not going away. Hopefully you find this article useful. Everyone has a way to celebrate this time of year. Don’t let remote work keep you from celebrating the season and your employees. There are plenty of fun, safe, inclusive ways that are sure to entertain your staff and keep everyone from unwanted trips to HR as you celebrate the virtual holidays.