As we start to wrap up the second holiday season of the pandemic, many businesses are struggling with the decision of whether—and how--to host a holiday party this year.
In addition to all of the pre-COVID concerns employers faced in hosting a holiday party, including keeping employees safe and mitigating risk, our current realities of COVID-19 and all the ways it has changed the way we work further complicate office holiday party planning.
Identify Your Goals
While the COVID pandemic continues, employers must decide whether they want to hold in-person parties, virtual gatherings, or forgo the holiday party this year.
It can help in making this decision if employers first consider their primary goal in hosting a holiday celebration. The most common benefits of a party are fostering employee engagement, showing employees appreciation for the team’s efforts in the previous year, and raising morale.
Once you are clear on what you are celebrating and why, you can look critically at the method of celebration you choose and decide what is appropriate for your situation.
The Great Resignation
With all this talk of The Great Resignation, employers are under greater stress than ever to create a desirable workplace in order to hold on to their employees. For this reason, greater emphasis may be placed on holding a holiday celebration that goes “above and beyond” to show your employees appreciation and improve morale.
A great way to gauge how you can meet the goals you have set for your holiday celebration is to survey your employees. Asking open-ended questions about what would make them feel appreciated, or what they need from you as an employer in the way of celebration could really plant some great new ideas.
Keep an open mind when it comes to altering the traditional holiday party. You may find employees would rather have the money you would spend on some sort of gathering be used to give them a holiday bonus, or as a charity donation, or even for use at some other point in the year.
In-person v. Remote v. Hybrid
Regardless of the goal you set for your company holiday celebration, it is important to show sensitivity for any concerns employees show toward the safety of attending social gatherings.
You do want to keep in mind, as well, that video conference fatigue is something many employees are starting to experience after nearly two years of working solely in a remote environment.
So what is the solution? It may be, if you’re still holding a social celebration, to meet somewhere in the middle. Smaller group gatherings in different areas, outdoor activities if weather permits, and offering video access to the event for those not yet ready to attend in-person can all be viable options.
If you do plan an in-person or hybrid gathering, it is important to remember to adhere to state and local guidelines around mask-wearing, distancing, number of people allowed to gather, and other health and safety factors.
Again, an employee survey can help in determining employee preferences and deciding what would make the majority of your employees happy with the celebration.
Set the Stage for Success
If you decide to do a social celebration—and the majority of your employees are still working remotely—keep in mind that some of them may feel socially awkward trying to re-engage with colleagues they may not have seen or spoken to in person in close to two years. To help combat the social awkwardness, prepare a game or conversation starters to help ease colleagues into engaging in conversations.
If you decide to host an in-person party, you should make it clear that attendance is optional so those who are still social distancing have their boundaries respected.
While there are many great ideas for hosting virtual parties, including a “secret santa” or mailing ingredients to employees so they can cook a meal together, first find out if your employees are feeling burnout from attending video conferences. The last thing you want is for your celebration to feel like one more chore.
Additionally, some employees might find it intrusive to attend a social work event from their homes, especially if the event occurs outside of regular working hours. Also, keep in mind that the holidays are busy and not many people can spare a Saturday night away or they may not have privacy in the evenings or weekends when their families are home!
So, if you host a celebration—no matter what type of celebration you decide on—it is a great idea to hold it during regular working hours. Then it feels like a fun treat and not a stressful obligation.
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