10 Unique Ideas For the Annual Office Holiday Party in a Hybrid Work Environment

This past year employee preferences have shifted. Companies are looking for new ways to bring their employees together and the traditional office party seems to be the perfect fit. But how do you bring together a hybrid workforce in a meaningful way? We have some unique ideas for office parties in 2021.

The intention of what we know to be the annual office holiday party was intended to foster and strengthen working relationships and positioned as an integral part of company culture, allowing people to meet others from different departments and even encourage discussions and collaborations that might improve the company.

secret santa office christmas party

During the 1950s, holiday office parties were a social mixer of “being seen”. Attendance showed your dedication to the company. Career counselors advised ambitious men and women that skipping a holiday mixer was like ending your career.

During the 1970s and 1980s, holiday office parties had become a slow, unhurried affair. And in the 1990s to 2019 it seemed that most people would prefer another holiday perk like a day off rather than attend a party.

This year, while the office party may seem more likely to happen in person it will be with distinctions such as masks, which hinder clear communication, and optional attendance (with an emphasis on making people feel comfortable).

Nonetheless, the traditional office holiday party has a purpose, and many have sparked innovative ideas and thinking for their company. But what happens when company employees stop getting together in these corporate-sponsored social events? How does it impact the business and employees and what can companies do to bring their employees together during this time?

Now that we’ve embraced a virtual world, it’s time to rethink the office holiday party and find other ways to meet the same purpose.

  1. At home office gatherings. Send employees the same party box complete with food, wine, etc. and have all employees join for dinner together over Zoom. If you have a large company, you may host by office or department.
  2. Shake it up. The idea of the traditional office party is for employees to mingle. How about some office roulette where departments or teams are randomly selected to join in a video session or just mix up everyone with the goal of meeting new people in the company and learning what they do.
  3. Host a virtual gift exchange or Secret Santa. You can divide it up throughout the company or with in a group that can then participate in a “live unwrapping” event through video chat. An anonymous Secret Santa gives people to ask questions of one another to learn more about their role in the company.
  4. Take it outside. Not everyone in the U.S. can enjoy being outdoors for their company holiday party, but many parts of the country can. Pick a conveniently located park for a casual holiday get together complete with a food truck.

secret santa office party

  1. Hold a scavenger hunt. If the purpose is to bring employees together, nothing gets people to meet and immediately work together like a scavenger hunt around the office or a central part of the town.
  2. Give the gift of learning, together. Instead of a formal get together, allow employees to sign up for classes (in person or virtual) that anyone can enroll in. Make sure they are activities that allow colleagues to meet, mingle and have fun together.
  3. Employees that volunteer together, work well together. Today’s employees are looking for more meaning in their work and seeing that their company values giving back. Set up a few ways that employees can sign up to volunteer together in the community. They will begin to see each other in a new light and feel a comradery that can happen any other way.

office secret santa

  1. Host a pet party! Yes, an office holiday party featuring fido and meow meow. People love their pets and human bonding happens easily when they are present. For those without pets, encourage them to foster for a weekend and bring the pet along. Who knows, maybe it will lead to a special holiday gift – an adoption.
  2. Casual is better. With everyone working from home, fashion has become, well, a bit relaxed these days. Instead of a formal office holiday party, try a more casual version like a happy hour at a nearby restaurant or pub.
  3. Ask your people. With one short, simple email survey you can get employee input on how they would like to get together with colleagues and other company employees. You will tell your employees that they matter, and you might be surprised at their innovative ideas. Then take a poll and go with the winner.

office party pub

The key to the new office holiday party is to consider what your employees really need, want and will enjoy. As company’s begin to shift thinking around the way that things have been done “traditionally” and innovate to meet the needs of employees, leaders need to understand that employee time is valuable so give them something meaningful, simple and fun.

office party remote

Are you excited yet about organizing an office Secret Santa?
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