Your office Christmas isn’t cancelled! The top 5 ideas for a virtual office Christmas
With the COVID-19 pandemic still meaning that certain businesses are placing restrictions on company socials, the Christmas season may see more socials being moved online this year. The new variant means that some in-person social activities are being restricted, as they were for 2020. According to Gartner, around 88% of business organisations all over the world mandated or encouraged all their employees to work from home last year (https://review42.com/remote-work-statistics/) meaning office socials were either been neglected entirely or moved online.
Christmas is usually the time of year when there are plenty of in-work social activities. Secret Santa, Christmas team lunches, the office party and fundraisers are often popular with most people and gives everyone a chance to relax with their colleagues before the festive bank holidays. Even if you do decide to cancel or restrict this year's socials, it’s still important to ensure that your staff are able to participate in some social activities to keep morale up and limit the risks of burnout and stress.
We’ve compiled a list of top 5 ideas to help make your Christmas celebrations virtual this year!
1. Online Secret Santa
Secret Santa is a gift giving idea which is usually done in offices this time of year. Employees individually pick the name of a colleague out of a hat and secretly purchase a little gift, for around £5-£15 for the person they chose and, often on the last day in the office before Christmas break, these parcels are handed out and opened, mostly to some sort of amusement. Gift giving in person, when most of your teams are working from home, could be tricky, but there are ways around it. Using an online secret santa generator you can have a virtual “hat” to draw each name out of. When presenting the gift then it could either be virtual, such as a voucher, or a more fun idea could be to post physical gifts using address details from your HR software. As address details are personal information, this does mean co-ordinating your HR administrator to organise the postal deliveries, but do ensure that all safety measures are taken into consideration and you check with staff members that they’re happy to participate!
2. Virtual Christmas Party
By now, most of your staff will be used to virtual meet-ups with friends, using Google Meet or Zoom video calling software. Lockdown loneliness is a very real issue, with 4.2 million people in the UK describing themselves as “always or often” lonely (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-54973709) so ensuring companies make an effort to create sociable Christmas parties online could be a way forward. Large online events can be difficult, so utilising the Rooms feature in your online video chat can be helpful, or, alternatively, you could set up various online drinks with different groups of people, in the run up to Christmas so everyone can get a chance to catch up.
Other kinds of events such as quizzes or virtual escape rooms are a great alternative to simply drinks and a catch up and are a great way to interact with individuals put into teams to make it easier for everyone to get a chance to participate.
3. Charitable Giving During Lockdown
Charities and non-profit organisations have struggled a lot during lockdown with 1 in 3 UK charities reporting an increase in demand for their services, while more than half have reported a drop in donations during 2020 (https://www.cafonline.org/about-us/research/coronavirus-and-charitable-giving) therefore, you may find that employees are more likely to want to participate in some kind of charitable giving this year. One way in which you could look into doing this is by suggesting that, as an alternative to Secret Santa, you may want to explore charitable donations, or gifts for those less fortunate. Asking your employees to vote on what they’d prefer and even which charity they’d like to choose can promote a sense of inclusion, even if staff are working from home, and provides that festive cheer to those less fortunate.
4. Online Team Christmas Lunches
Team Christmas lunches are a highlight for many individuals, whether they celebrate Christmas or not, it’s nice to get together during the working day to have a meal and a catch up, often relaxing the lunch hours to accommodate a three course meal and a relaxing break. Having an online Christmas lunch could look a little different, however, many local pubs and restaurants are now providing delivery services, even for a luxurious roast dinner! An alternative to this, could be ordering a recipe box for each team member, where they look to cook their own festive feast! It might even be fun to get everyone cooking together on a call so people can help each other out if needed.
5. Virtual Christmas competitions
If your staff members are competitive, it might be fun to run to a few Christmas competitions! You could ask individuals to wear their tackiest Christmas jumper and have a poll to decide the best (or worst!) via a series of photos sent in to your office coordinator and posted on an internal intranet site or just sent round via an email. Getting your employees' children involved could also be fun, why not ask them to design a festive card or poster to present to the company at the end of year team meeting? Or even a virtual baking competition to see who can recreate the best Christmas tree cake? If baking is not a talent that your team share, it should at least get a few laughs.
A couple of things to bear in mind
If you’re keen to take part in a virtual office Christmas this year, there are a few things to bear in mind. Firstly, don’t make participation mandatory. This might seem obvious as you will most likely have staff members who don’t celebrate Christmas, but also bear in mind that this time of year can be hard for some people so do ensure sensitivity in approaching any festive celebration ideas. It’s also worthwhile to check out the tax advice for your virtual Christmas celebrations, as this year may be looking slightly different, but there are still opportunities to claim back tax. Finally, check who’s off and when. Annual leave is probably going to look a little different this year, but many staff members still need to take a break, so being able to easily download a report when employees are off will help ensure that everyone who wants to participate will be available.