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5 Ways to Celebrate the Holidays in the Era of Zoom

Gabby VanAlstine
Gabby VanAlstine

With in-person holiday gatherings and celebrations on hold due to the pandemic, many employers are left scrambling for ways to foster culture, express appreciation for employees, and collectively say goodbye to what has arguably been the worst year many of us have experienced. 

You could postpone celebrations until it’s safer to gather in person, but I’d urge you to reconsider before being a grinch and calling off the celebrations this year. Even if you have struggled through some awkward remote happy hours this year, a remote holiday/year end celebration in 2020 could be more important than ever. 

Employees are facing the challenges of online schooling, a highly contagious virus, continued business uncertainty, social isolation, and more. A virtual celebration that fosters connection and sparks joy could prove to be a very meaningful bright spot in the employee experience for your team, even the Ebenezer Scrooge of the bunch.

The Emplify culture elves are busy preparing our get together, but below you will find a flurry of ideas to adopt and adapt for your team’s virtual celebration of 2020: 

  1. Virtual gingerbread house contest: Crafts are great stress relievers! Send employees gingerbread house kits or ask them to get creative with graham crackers and mayo! Set a time limit and invite the kids, and have a virtual judge select the winner. Creating your own ornaments with whatever they have around the house is also an easy way to engage employees. 

  2. Recipes and reminiscing: People bond through food, and the holidays are filled with unique and traditional delicacies. Send around a Google doc and have each team member add their favorite holiday recipe. Share the doc with everyone and host a remote gathering where they can share why that recipe mattered to them. Have one or two volunteers take the team into their kitchen to show them how it’s done, and consider expanding recipe submission to include cocktail and mocktail recipes to make spirits bright (pun intended). Bonus: This event will also lead to neat conversations about heritage, as family traditions are often rooted in diversity. 

  3. Secret Santa/White Elephant: Everyone loves snail mail. Use giftster or elfster to arrange, and plan a time for the big reveal! Try a virtual secret Santa with electronic gift cards if your team doesn’t want to spend an afternoon in line at the post office. 

  4. Charity Challenge: ‘Tis the season of giving! Encourage employees to take some time this holiday season to do some good—safely. Employees can participate in random acts of kindness like caroling or sending virtual cards to soldiers or individuals in retirement homes. Host a virtual event, inviting families, and ask everyone to share how they used their time in spreading some holiday cheer. 

  5. The Best Thing: Everyone needs some good news this year! Encourage departments to create a single slide before the celebration to share the best thing they accomplished throughout this challenging year. Encourage them to get creative and put it to a song or haiku. Responses can vary from team building and culture based (“hired Buddy the Elf!”) to performance based (“exceeded our quota by 23%). 

As you’re dreaming of a remote holiday event, be sure to schedule so that members of the leadership team can attend. Ask your leaders to take a few moments to express a message of appreciation and hope for a brighter 2021 (whether your 2021 is in the office or remote).

If you feel time is too pressed to make something happen prior to an avalanche of PTO before 2021, a simple and meaningful fix is to have leaders send a personalized note and/or gift card to each of their employees. Although this year was a lump of coal, a simple note expressing appreciation and reminding your team that brighter days are ahead will renew their hope, increase trust, and build some momentum for the new year. 

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