photo of a red christmas ornament with the word celebrate on it


By Jeanne Bolhuis and Sonja Burnside

Let’s face it – COVID-19 has been quite the party downer this year. We’d all been hoping we’d get to gather with our colleagues and celebrate the holidays together, but unfortunately the workplace holiday parties just don’t seem practical or safe during the pandemic.

We put our thinking caps on (this year they look an awful lot like Santa hats) to give you some ideas for ways to help employees celebrate safely this year. Many of these ideas can also be done at home with family and friends, so feel free to share the holiday cheer with your teams!

Picture this

Don’t miss out on seeing the holiday fun. Encourage people to share photos and videos. You could host a video tour, create a shared photo drive, post pictures on company social media platforms and have others vote on them. Some ideas for things to see:

  • Decorations
  • Homemade treats (share the recipes too!)
  • Santa hats
  • Traditions

Remember, Christmas isn’t the only holiday happening right now. Encourage employees to share things about the holidays they celebrate!

Take care

Everyone loves getting something on their doorstep! Send care packages to your team. Have a local bakery make some cookies or goodies to send employees, order up some awesome company swag, buy holiday cards (and actually sign them) or create theme packages: happy hour cocktail kit, coffee set, self-care items, at-home games to play. Get creative! And the care packages don’t have to be huge. It really is the thought that counts and a little can go a long way.

Challenge accepted

Invite your employees — whether they’re remote or in-person — to participate in a little friendly competition through video gatherings or photos. Maybe an ugly sweater or most festive desk/workspace decorating contest. Gingerbread house contest anyone? Again, get creative!

Virtually the perfect gift

Save the cost of sending packages to everyone by sending gifts virtually. Electronic gift cards, ticket vouchers, travel packages, charitable donations and time off can all easily be given by email. And let’s be real — they will probably be more appreciated than another coffee cup. But if you’ve already ordered coffee cups and they’re on their way to employees, they’re going to love that too. Like we said before, it’s the thought that counts and now, more than ever, employees need to know their employer is thinking of them.

Game on

Create a remote office party and play bingo, Pictionary, charades, trivia or other games. Have someone give a toast too!

Color their world

Add some color to your employees’ lives by sending a bouquet of flowers or a plant (maybe a poinsettia?) to employees. Houseplants instantly transform a workspace and add life and color to a home.

Worth their weight in gold

Okay maybe you don’t have to go as far as purchasing solid gold everything, but consider using the money you would have spent on location, food and drinks at a holiday party to gift employees something very special and high-end. Some popular ideas we’ve heard are office chairs for home, air pods and robot vacuums.

Virtually in person

If the pandemic has proven anything, it’s that human beings are resilient, resourceful and creative. We’ve figured out ways to do almost everything virtually. This makes it easy for us to connect with friends and loved ones and maybe even try some things we wouldn’t have otherwise! Invite your team to experience something new together!

  • Online cooking classes  Many top-name chefs are offering online cooking classes. Setup a time for everyone to participate and pay for the cost of the supplies.
  • Online mixology classes  A virtual alternative to the traditional happy hour. Shake things up with a unique cocktail class that employees can only learn from an expert mixologist. An added benefit is that you’ll be helping out a bartender who usually relies on lots of holiday parties for income at this time of year.
  • Virtual escape rooms  Yes, even these have gone virtual. Connect the dots before time runs out!
  • Virtual talent show  Everyone has secret hobbies and hidden talents. What better way to get to know each other outside of work by hosting a talent show!

Jeanne Bolhuis, Chief Consulting Officer, and Sonja Burnside, HR Generalist, are Keyser’s in-house human resources experts.