Holiday Ideas for the Remote Workplace

The holidays have traditionally been a time for gathering, enjoying each other’s company, and a lot of hugging, laughter, and bonding. However, with the age of social distancing upon us, many people have chosen to rethink how they will observe and celebrate the holiday season this year.

This is especially true for businesses that — under normal circumstances — would be gearing up to host a big party at a local venue or preparing small, in-office entertainment, like a holiday gift exchange, an ugly sweater-themed party, potluck team lunches, or other office Christmas party game ideas.

This holiday season will certainly look and feel different. Gatherings of large groups are less likely to happen, and with so many businesses operating on a remote basis, in-office parties are probably not happening. However, just because things aren’t the way they’ve been in the past doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy this time of year and take part in the holiday activities we know and love, albeit in a way that remains in line with the new normal.

Take your holiday event virtual

Take Your Holiday Event Virtual

2020 could definitely be considered the “Year of the Virtual Event.” Video conferencing tools like Zoom, FaceTime, Houseparty, and Facebook Messenger Rooms, just to name a few, have become more popular than ever, as they allow people to still keep in touch with one another while practicing social distancing.

These applications have become important for some businesses’ survival, too. Video conferencing capabilities have made it possible for people to successfully transition from a traditional office environment to working remotely without sacrificing face-to-face time with co-workers, managers, potential clients, or customers, yet still maintain a somewhat normal work routine.

Video conferencing has also influenced creativity as people have come up with a lot of fun ways to virtually host everything, from baby showers and birthday parties to happy hours and dinner gatherings. It’s as simple as planning a date, time, and all of the details, sending out an invitation, and everyone showing up — the same way you would with an in-person event.

Hosting your office holiday party, virtually, is a great way to get everyone from your company together, no matter where they are working from.

Play virtual holiday party games

Play Virtual Holiday Party Games

Kick things off with a welcome speech from the company CEO, boss, top manager, or even from whoever organized the virtual event. Invite everyone to pour a glass of eggnog or their preferred beverage and put on an ugly holiday sweater, festive antlers, or a Santa hat. Then, wish everyone a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, and toast to success and happiness in the new year.

During this speech, end-of-year employee accolades and awards can be given out, memorable moments in business can be recapped, and any other high-energy, mood-improving tidbits can be included. This encourages workplace unity, positive company culture, and helps boost team morale overall. A happy team equals a productive team, and a productive team equals workplace accomplishment.

There are various office holiday party games you can easily adapt to a virtual environment. Some great games to consider include Pictionary or charades with a holiday-themed list of words. You can even get everyone in the holiday spirit by adding a festive theme, like Christmas song karaoke, holiday or Christmas movie trivia games, or a scavenger hunt with all holiday-related items.

Organizing a scavenger hunt allows for a lot of unique creativity, too. First, decide how many rounds you want to play, and create a list of items for each round. Playing five to seven rounds with five items per round is an ideal place to start, especially if there are many people involved. You don’t want the game to go on so long that people start to lose interest.

Players are shown the item list as soon as the timer starts for each round and have a certain amount of time to bring back as many of the items as possible. If your video conferencing tool has a chat option, include the list there so that players can refer back to it if needed. The first player or first team to come back with all five items wins the round and receives an extra point, while everyone gets one point per item after that. Keeping the list short makes it easier for everyone to remember the items so that they don’t waste time coming back to the computer too often to check it.

You can make these holiday party games even more fun by raising the stakes with a great prize, just be sure to check your company’s policy on prizes. When choosing potential prizes for the winners, keep in mind that people working from a home office might not have all of the desk supplies they normally have in a traditional office. Or maybe they are working within a much smaller space than their traditional office was. You might even consider giving both the first person and last person to finish the game or contest a special prize as well.

Great prize options include an all-in-one printer, a high-quality webcam or other computer accessories, or a 2-in-1 laptop. If you want to go even bigger, offer up prizes like a hotel stay or spa retreat.

As long as you rack your brain and get experimental with these enjoyable office party game ideas, it won’t be difficult to transform them into a unique and memorable office holiday virtual event.

Use a Delivery Service for a Gift Exchange

Use a Delivery Service for a Gift Exchange

Office gift exchanges have been a long-time tradition during the holidays. There are two main styles of organizing gift-giving extravaganzas: Secret Santa and White Elephant.

Secret Santa works like this: each team member chooses a person at random (for example, everyone picks a name out of a hat), and that is who they purchase a gift for. The gift-giver remains anonymous, presenting the gift to their person in a secret manner (e.g., leaving it on their desk when they aren’t looking), and each person tries to guess who their gift came from after all gifts have been received.

On the other hand, the White Elephant game is played a little differently. Everyone brings a wrapped gift and chooses a number. The person who chose No. 1 chooses a gift from the pile and unwraps. The person who chose No. 2 then has the option to steal that gift to keep for themselves or open a new one. Then, whoever has No. 3 can choose to take gift No. 1 or 2 or open a new one, and so forth. There are various twists on these fun holiday office gift exchanges, but ultimately, the general idea is always some blind gift-giving.

Although it won’t be possible to replicate the exact concept of a white elephant gift exchange when planning it for a remote workforce, you can still organize a remote Secret Santa activity and keep the gift-giver’s identity a secret. That’s really the main difference between an in-office secret Santa and one that is completely remote.

Since the gifts are being shipped and delivered, a return address will ruin the secret part of Secret Santa! What’s the fix? To make sure that the gift-giver remains anonymous, you can ask that everyone participating use a different return address, like the game organizer’s address. This will keep the mystery alive and well between the gift-giver and the gift-receiver.

There are some helpful websites available that pair people up for the gift exchange, such as Elfster, which simplifies the organization process by letting you input all of the details for the gift exchange, matches everyone up, and sends them all of the necessary information. There is also DrawNames, a handy site that will save your list year after year so that you never get matched with the same person twice, and Giftster, which acts very much like a registry where participants can add items to a wish list and things can be marked as they are purchased. This Secret Santa generator is another option, as well.

You can take the remote gift exchange one step further and arrange for a virtual conference call where everyone can join together to open up their gifts and guess who their Santa was among the whole group. Play holiday songs in the background while everyone opens up their gifts, encourage people to dress up in festive colors and keep the holiday cheer loud and proud.

But what happens if you pick a person you don’t know very well? In this situation, you might not be sure what kind of gift to purchase for this particular co-worker because you don’t know much about their hobbies and interests outside of the workplace. The trick here is to think about practical gifts, like a wireless mouse, an insulated water bottle, or a planner. Other ideas could be a variety pack of K-Cup® pods, a colorful desktop calendar, a desk lamp, or a set of pens.

Remember that no one is expected to spend a lot of money on these friendly gift exchanges, so don’t get too stressed out about it if you end up picking a person you don’t know all that well. In most cases, there is a mutually agreed-upon cap on the dollar amount that each participant can spend on the gift. It’s just supposed to be a fun, light-hearted way to engage with your co-workers during a time when you don’t see each other in the office every day, as you once did.

Send a Care Package

Send a Care Package

As an alternative to a gift exchange, you can send care packages to your colleagues. This is a great idea for a team leader or project manager to send out to their team members. Pre-packaged gift baskets are always a nice gesture for a holiday gift, or you can customize something special for each person with festive wrapping paper.

Here are a few ideas of things you could put together to make a holiday-themed basket:

Don’t Forget This Is the Digital Age

While it is very exciting to receive an actual package in the mail, especially during the holidays, there are many ways to send gifts digitally. Gift cards to just about anywhere can be purchased and sent electronically, such as restaurant and retail store gift certificates, movie theater and museum tickets, travel packages, and more.

Digital photo albums can also be shared among colleagues. One thing that many people love about the holidays is the decorations. You can share pictures and videos of your home holiday decorations, your holiday dinner preparations, and even recipes for your favorite holiday dishes, your family’s holiday photos, and anything else you would like to share with your co-workers. You can do this through Google Docs, Dropbox, or even just creating a private group on social media.

Don’t let this new normal way of life discourage you from enjoying the holidays at work just like you would any other year. There are many ways to organize an office holiday celebration that allows you to still share this wonderful time of year with your co-workers, colleagues, and friends.

There are endless opportunities for virtual events that can bring together everyone, regardless of where they are working, and plenty of ways to send Secret Santa gifts and care packages all over the world, not to mention a ton of options for filling and packaging those gifts.

The holiday season can be just as spirited and cheerful as ever, even if you work remotely.

About the Author 

Shaina Wizov is a lifestyle blogger and social media influencer with a background in journalism and media studies. Follow her at @takeabiteoutofboca.

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