how do you hold an office holiday party during a pandemic?

Usually at this time of year, my inbox fills up with questions about company holiday parties: How many drinks are OK to have there? Should I bring a date? Do I really have to go at all?

This year, the questions are quite different – and nearly all along the lines of “what do we even do for the holidays in a pandemic?” Many employers are simply canceling holiday celebrations, since there’s no way to safely gather. But some employers have devised celebrations that will keep people safe and actually sound fun (even to this curmudgeon). I recently asked Ask a Manager readers to share how their teams are observing the holidays in lieu of in-person parties this year, and it turns out companies have gotten really creative. At Slate today, I shared some of the most interesting ideas people reported. You can read it here.

{ 116 comments… read them below }

  1. Amber Rose*

    Everyone who’s home is going to order lunch and expense it back to the company and those of us still here will have lunch brought in for us to eat at our desks. We’ll be decorating the lunch room and streaming it over chat along with the gift giveaway. The only people actually allowed to stay in that room will be me and my coworker.

    That’s our party this year. We were planning to still do a distanced lunch, but workplace gatherings are forbidden as of last week so this is the best we can do.

    1. Retro*

      I like the idea of doing something revolving around a (socially distanced or virtual) lunch gathering of some sort. Depending on your line of work and how covid resistant your industry is, sending everyone a cocktail kit or gift basket (or anything more costly) can seem tone deaf if the company had lay offs recently or cut hours. Food and conversation are musts even through hard times so I like the idea of focusing on something that isn’t as much of a luxury. Though I wouldn’t begrudge anyone who’s company was in the position to do something more special for their employees or slip in that extra few bucks or so into their bank account as a end of year bonus!

    2. Yvette*

      That’s such a good, basic, simple idea that I can’t believe all the people who wrote in saying “What should we do?” haven’t already thought of it. But then I didn’t either. ;)

      1. Alison*

        Maybe they’re people like me who live in a rural area where the idea of getting food delivered is laughable. I love this idea but all the staff live in different towns, none of which are close enough to restaurants to deliver anything. I’m trying to think of something else. It might be just a happy hour instead (where people would have to byob).

      2. Holidayhelper*

        I’ve gotten my reports an amazon gift card, our company social team is going to organise hampers, but only to members that pay in… I have staff that aren’t in the group so I wanted to do something to say thanks and boost morale.

    3. Quill*

      Best response I can think of.

      Personally I would like some sushi and the security of eating it more or less alone.

      1. Yvette*

        Yes to eating alone. Some of my favorite things to eat are almost impossible to do so without looking like a complete slob, at least for me. (tacos, Stromboli, burritos, sausage and pepper sub) It would be great to enjoy them in private.

        1. Not A Girl Boss*

          …which is actually why the new Zoom Lunch party thing is my nightmare. Its just so much more up close and personal to eat on camera than to eat across a conference table from people.

          1. Amber Rose*

            To be fair, nobody is going to have cameras on so we can just have the decorations showing, and nobody is actually required to attend. It’s just an option. Probably most people will listen in while we do the prize draw and that’s it.

  2. bennie*

    i’m not sure if we’re getting a party but my company is providing a substantial bonus (think one month’s rent level) for everyone in the company in lieu of some holiday themed gift, and i am so so immensely grateful

  3. Hibiscus*

    I work for a hospital system which takes its fancy holiday meal tradition seriously (like, they’re all on different days so if you move around you can score more than one meal of prime rib and crab claws.) They announced they will give away bags of produce and dried goods, which is something they did this spring for employees–no need to demonstrate need, just show up on the day and get your share and no shame–maybe you just were so busy you couldn’t shop or didn’t want to go into a store.

    1. KateM*

      Whether that is going to be appreciated depends a lot on the cost of what is offered and how much time/risk does it take to get the bags. I’m not going to subscribe to my teen’s school’s offered produce bags worth as much as you can expect to be considering it’s offered in lieue of usual free school lunches (students have been sent to stufy from home), getting of which would require me to drive half an hour one way into the very heart of major city with lots of people. Even thought these seem to contain decent stuff.

    2. pleaset cheap rolls*

      This reminds me of when I lived in China a few decades ago, when organizations would give out all sorts of food products for Lunar New Year. It was kind of cool. And then there would be some re-gifting that was sort of like barter – handing around stuff to friends.

  4. ScottM*

    I like the afternoon off idea. Although that’s not nearly as fun as when I was working in the office. Because I would usually tell my wife that I was leaving the office an hour later than I really was, so I could go to the bar with a book and get some badly needed ‘me’ time.

  5. Gul Ducat*

    We are having a virtual gathering, totally optional, during work hours. We have purchased a license for a holiday movie and everyone who works here will have the option to watch the movie, play online games/puzzles, or whatever other activity we came up with. We planned to have a variety of passive and active online activities, and if none of them appeal, you can do your own thing. There will be snacks delivered, too. We will have a chat going for anyone who wants to watch the movie virtually, so hopefully people who are working from home will feel like they are connected to the people they miss seeing all the time. Then, because we have access to the movie, people can also stream it at home with their families.
    It ain’t much, but it’s the best we could come up with given all the time, social, and budgetary restraints.

  6. Mel_05*

    I didn’t think anyone would be able to come up with good pandemic-holiday party ideas, but these are charming.

  7. Caramel & Cheddar*

    We got the days between Christmas and New Year’s off as bonus days and that is all I need, no party required.

    1. Llama doc*

      I’m closing Christmas week and paying my staff in lieu of a holiday party. If our clients don’t go crazy this may become a new tradition. No one needs to use PTO.

  8. CTT*

    Ooh, I really like the drive-in one! I went to a drive-in movie for the first time over the summer, and I was surprised that even in the closed universe of my car and with total strangers, I still got the “we’re all experiencing a movie together!” feeling. And it would be a nice way to see people, even if you are in separate cars.

    Also, I have no idea what my company is doing, and it is especially a bummer because last year we finally landed on the perfect holiday party setup for our office.

    1. Bostonian*

      I really like the drive-in movie idea, too! Although, not sure I would want to do that in the winter here in New England.

    2. Esmeralda*

      So you have not had the boomer experience of dad telling kids to hide under the seats so the movie cost less…

      “But dad! isn’t that lying and cheating?”
      “And stealing! Dad, isn’t it stealing from the drive in owners?”
      “Movies are different. Get back under the seat.”

      Ahh, life in the 1970s!

  9. DarthMom*

    Our company usually has a big, catered luncheon where we celebrate employment anniversaries, Christmas bonuses and tons of door prizes and other surprises. Since we work around the clock we have smaller celebrations for the shifts that can’t attend. We can’t meet in person this year, of course, but we also wanted to support the local caterer that does such a wonderful job for us every time. So, we’re providing the hot, boxed up catered meal to all 200 of our associates – delivered to their office or home (depending on whether they are working – we are essential, so we do have some folks in the office) hands-free… and then we’ll all eat together while doing our usual celebratory stuff (including door prizes!) on zoom. It will have the usual zoom awkwardness, for sure… and it will definitely be different… but we’re looking forward to all being ‘together’.
    Our company would not have been described as particularly nimble before covid… but I appreciate the creativity and the way that we have handled the pandemic (unlimited PTO for illnesses, flexibility, bonuses and 2 pay increases for everyone).

  10. Dust Bunny*

    We’ve been sending out gift bags and then meeting over Zoom. We’re not a very big institution, though, and our “party” expectations are very low-key, anyway.

  11. Amethystmoon*

    I have not seen anything in e-mail regarding the company I work for having a holiday celebration at all this year. It used to be in the cafeteria. One of the managers would dress up as Santa every year, and we would get music and free food. Last year, they had an ugly sweater contest. We would all get a small gift card to one of the stores we support. I suppose you could still have that on Zoom, technically.

    1. Anne of Green Gables*

      We’re doing an ugly sweater contest, and it’s been extended to include categories for hats and footwear/socks. I am not sure if it is live on our Zoom competitor or if you submit pictures to be in a slideshow.

  12. R*

    My side gig is hosting pub trivia by Zoom, and a lot of workplaces have been hiring me for virtual trivia games for staff. It’s been fun for me! Hopefully fun for the staff too. Good reviews so far.

    1. Sophie Hatter*

      my BIL does that! I am hoping he gets some bookings for this kind of thing, it would make a fun party!

  13. I'm just here for the cats*

    Does anyone know where to get chocolate tasting kits that could be sent to people that are cheaper? The ones I’ve found out $40+ per kit

  14. Can't Sit Still*

    The team is ordering/preparing their own meal (we’re across multiple time zones) and expensing the meal or groceries. (Groceries are included since not everyone has a corporate card and I didn’t want anyone to have to worry about paying out of pocket and waiting for reimbursement.) We’ll eat together over Zoom and family members and pets are welcome to join us. They vetoed any activities, and the company has sent out a small gift to everyone.

    1. Mongrel*

      We have a Zoom lunch set up for Christmas as well but I’m going to have to skip it. I suffer from Misophonia and having someone chewing directly into their microphone is my idea of hell, and that one guy who only eats crunchy food **shudder**

  15. College football is back!*

    I work for the Gov’t and we have zero budget for holiday parties. No $ for gifts, food, etc. We had a co-worker who would host us all at his home for a pot luck lunch. That was always a big success. We also did a smaller office gift exchange with a maximum value of $10 (the naughty Santa kind.) $10 being the ethical limit on gifts as determined by our ethics attorney. So I’m a bit stumped for ideas – most of the tasting ideas would require people to spend their own money, which may be tough this year. We do a zoom happy hour once a month that isn’t well attended as of late. The boss has asked for ideas, so I’m reading everything here with a high level of interest. Thanks!.

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      I’m in the same boat. Work at state university, have small dept of about 16 people. We usually do a potluck. Only minimum people (4-5) per day in office.
      I was looking at some of the escape room ideas. Or maybe trivia, over lunch

      1. Melissa*

        I was hoping someone had done directions to point to for online escape rooms. I’m in govt also, and previous director used to take us all out for breakfast on her dime. New director can’t do that because of covid (but he also has five kids and previous director is single with none) and asked for ideas this morning. Of possible options, I think escape room is the thing that might be most interesting for our group. I love the trivia idea, but I don’t know if the rest of our team would.

        1. KateM*

          Bart Bonte keeps a blog about puzzle games, including escape rooms. I like the best Nicolet and MonkeyGoHappy, myself, but they may be too cute for work environment.
          (I don’t know if links are allowed.)

      2. Justme, the OG*

        I also work for a state university and last year we did a potluck. It was actually a lot of fun. No idea what (if anything) we will do this year.

    2. JXB*

      We’re same. Public Sector. Can’t spend any organizational funds on employees, especially food. (That’s actually illegal!) Have to be careful about not having a “Christmas” theme. Even if we organize something where employees donate/bring food – no alcohol (of course) and nothing that might be PERCEIVED as extravagant or inappropriate. Certainly no bonuses nor gifts from management. Time off is mandated by state law. We do get 3 days and many people take extra leave. Sometimes Executive Directors can give an extra half-day or full-day if carefully and rarely done. (The agency is still open; some volunteer for skeleton crew.)

      In past years, we sometimes had either a Thanksgiving potluck or holiday party organized by volunteers and employee donations. But I doubt we’ll see anything this year, which is fine.

      However, our HR department has been lovely about providing some fun virtual activities periodically during the last 8 months. We started voluntary return to office a few weeks ago but I think it’s probably still 80% work from home.

      I have a job; my family is healthy. That’s plenty of holiday cheer for me!

      1. Anonymous to protect the generous*

        Our supervisors in our state university department gave us time off Thanksgiving week by scheduling “working days”, in which you had to periodically check your email and respond to students and so on, but otherwise, how you spent the day was at your discretion.

        1. JXB*

          Over the years, I’ve sometimes had a team manager where we all went for a holiday lunch (everyone paid their own) and then a lengthy off-premise “staff meeting” that – at least on the calendar – lasted all afternoon. ;-)

    3. Governmint Condition*

      We usually have a 100% employee-funded event at a nearby catering hall. Since we can’t do that, they’re asking us to come up with ideas for an alternative. Thing is, we don’t even have video technology on our computers (no cameras allowed), so we can’t do a Zoom party unless it’s audio-only. So there have been no viable ideas so far.

      Worse, we may never be able to have a party again. The catering hall went out of business, and they were the only one who would host us for a reasonable rate for government salaries. So next year, we probably won’t be able to afford a party.

      (Forgive me for the fact that whenever I read about employer-funded parties on this site, it feels like a foreign concept to me.)

    4. Not A Girl Boss*

      We had a team member dress up as Santa and do Zoom Calls with Santa for the kids.

      I do think there are some group crafting classes you can do more or less for free – depending on food sensitivities, most anyone has stuff on hand for sugar cookies. Or a paper cutout snowflake making contest. Or everyone makes a hand-made card for someone else in the office. Or old fashioned show-and-tell sharing favorite holiday traditions.

    5. Dahlia*

      I like the Jackbox party games and one person can host a lot of people with computers or phones – they just use a URL to play. Maybe something like that?

        1. Humble Schoolmarm*

          Howdy neighbour!

          Thanks so much for posting this! I’ve been looking for different (and educational-ish) stuff to try with students as our classes get more uncertain due to Covid and Holiday fever hits. This looks great and a good cause too!

    6. Colette*

      A demo/class on something like origami would work – pretty much everyone has paper.

      Trivia would also work – a mix of work-related questions, holiday trivia, general knowledge. Or play 10 seconds of a song and have people figure out what it is.

      1. Colette*

        Oh, and for Halloween we had a “share your spookiest drink” – some were purchased, some people made. But it gave people something to talk about. You could do “most festive drink” or “red or green drink” or “best to warm you up when you get in from outdoors”

    7. Hush42*

      You could still do the gift exchange via Elfster- its what my company is doing and I actually think its a great way to do secret Santa. Then you could do some type of zoom call happy hour with everyone who wants to participate and watch people open the secret Santa gifts. People would still have to provide their own appetizers and beverages but that basically happens at a potluck anyway.

    8. Jaid*

      My federal agency usually gives us a half day on Christmas Eve. My unit would bring in potluck, but not this year!

  16. Monty*

    One of my work groups is doing a small Secret Santa exchange (postage is included in the budget) and we’ll open the gifts all together on zoom. Another group is organizing zoom trivia over drinks with gift card prizes, including for best team name and best holiday outfit. I also know of a workplace doing a virtual movie night and drinks– they’ve all agreed on a cult movie to watch and some of them are going to perform certain actions in sync with the film.

  17. Klida*

    I don’t think there’s going to be anything.

    Usually the party fits the description in the “how to …” linked under this post, by doing everything out says you should avoid.

    The latest all staff meeting sounded very much like “we managed to raise our amble profits even more than last year, why don’t you work a bit more for free because we’re are so great to you”.

  18. Bostonian*

    Crafts! That’s something my office has done in the past, and even if you’re not particularly crafty, it is so nice to be able to just tune out and focus on something creative with your hands for a bit. And you can engage in as much or as little chatter with others as you want while you work.

    1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

      Ugh, that sounds like not my worst nightmare (which would be enforced karaoke) but definitely in the top ten.

  19. A Poster Has No Name*

    I have no idea what, if anything, my company is doing. For our site, we normally have a kid’s holiday party on campus and then individual departments get a budget for a celebration that makes sense for the team. These are all obviously not happening, but I haven’t heard if anything is going to replace even the department celebration budgets.

    A couple of virtual conferences I participated in sent out DoorDash/GrubHub gift cards so you could get your free lunch, which was nice, and I wouldn’t mind something like that (maybe with optional Zoom time after business hours or whatever, which would be the equivalent of what my department usually does, anyway).

  20. cheeky*

    I don’t know why people are bothering this year, tbh. If there was ever a year to hit pause on company parties, this is it.

    1. Anonya*

      I completely agree. While I appreciate that people are trying to be creative with it, I see a company-wide celebration as so unnecessary and even stressful when people’s reserves are drained. That said, I will do a gift for my team because I’d sort of feel like a monster if I didn’t.

    2. SomebodyElse*

      Because some people enjoy them. Some companies use them as a way to show appreciation. Some people have had a crap year and just need a little something that is different than staring at their same 4 walls.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Agreed. And some of us introverts are able to handle, and even like, a bit of socialization sometimes.

    3. Beans are green*

      A lot of my colleagues tell me they really appreciate the opportunities to socialize; we’re usually in and out of each others’ offices all day. Some live alone and are going stir crazy; some are single parents and look forward to talking to adults; and in general, we get along as work friends and people miss each other. As long as it’s opt in, what’s the harm?

    4. allathian*

      I saw a news story on the statistics in my area, where some 65 percent of employers are skipping the party completely, 10 percent are going fully virtual and the rest are doing smaller celebrations that are allowed under our current COVID rules (a maximum of 10 people can meet either in public or in private, although the limit is pretty much impossible to enforce for private meetings). Many employers are also placing limits on how many people who do the same job or are on the same team are allowed to meet, to avoid a case where, say, everyone doing accounts payable is on sick leave or quarantined at the same time.

  21. whyamihere*

    I’m just laughing at the picture SLATE created. That woman on the bottom left – Ma’am this is a WORK PARTY. :)

  22. hmmm*

    My company is essential, only about 8-12 people. We put a table out to share some foods/ ordered in. The last half hour of each day in December we’re social distancing and everyone can hang out. Throughout the day we’re each getting food off the table. Yes everything is being done social distancing and COVID safe procedures.

    My friend’s company is doing a virtual escape room and game day with online games.

  23. OkapiFeels*

    The cocktail kits and zoom bartender is a cute one. The Nebulas conference (for sci-fi and fantasy writers) did a similar thing back in May. This was part of their overall Zoom strategy, which included 20+ overall breakout rooms with names like “The Room of Requirement” and “by the potted plant,” of which the “bar” with bartender was one. (We didn’t get cocktail kits, but the bartender would ask you about what you had in your house and advise you on the cocktails you could make with what you had.) Their goal was to imitate the ability to move into and out of various conversations and spaces, similar to a real-life convention, and it worked really well, especially for me, an introvert. It really facilitates people socializing in the way that suits them best.

  24. Workerbee*

    I hope to heck we don’t do anything. Miraculously, they just cancelled the in-person gathering that had been planned, and which would have involved a large room with food, drinks, tables and “no need to wear a mask at your small table gathering!” I wasn’t going to attend.

    I think I’m just worn out from this year and would rather have the time to myself, if that makes sense. Having an optional Zoom happy hour might be a thing, but I hope doesn’t involve eating, as there’s something about camera angles that makes eating over Zoom less pleasant to witness than eating in person. More in your face, as it were! ;)

    1. Colorado*

      I’m with you. I’m mentally and emotionally worn out. As a social person who does like parties, this year I’d love an afternoon off to watch a super cheesy Hallmark flick completely guilt free. Oh, and someone to watch my kid while I do so. :D (no judging the cheese please).

    2. allathian*

      Yeah, I hear you. Many people really don’t have the spoons to make any extra effort for their workplace at this time.

  25. Week old sourdough*

    I usually look forward to our Christmas potluck and party, but this year there has been no mention of it. I’m afraid to ask, too.

  26. nunya*

    Cant see a point doing anything. We used to just shut the office down for an afternoon and go out and have a lunch and do a small Secret Santa gift exchange. Not happening now. Virtual gatherings suck, and are just reminders of how terrible everything is. The worst part is hearing how everyone else is enjoying this and wanting to telework more. I guess once things get back to normal it will be job search time.

  27. Sleepy*

    We’ve had several online celebrations where everyone orders delivery and gets reimbursed and we’ve all enjoyed them, so we’ll do the same for Christmas. I think the key is keeping the size of the Zoom gathering down and putting people in breakout rooms by team rather than having a gigantic group of people staring awkwardly at the camera.

  28. CanCan*

    Sorry, but none of these ideas sound that good if you have to pay for them (my government employer can’t pay for employee gifts/entertainment). I don’t care about cocktails (alcoholic or not), and it’s weird to participate in any kind of “tasting party” in alone front of a zoom screen; I’d rather take the package and share it with my family in the evening.

    The point of Christmas parties is to socialize with colleagues. Online meetings of more than 2-3 people don’t really allow for socializing (audio delays; people distracted; having to talk to the whole group at once, rather than each person separately as in real life; trouble sequencing – i.e. people start talking at the same time). And enjoying any kind of food/beverage in front of a screen with colleagues doesn’t make sense either. Especially if it’s something that my family members who are also working/studying from home would’ve enjoyed as well.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah. I guess I’m just happy that while I work for the government, public sector employers in my country are expected and permitted to spend money on their employees. I’ve enjoyed some of the company parties I’ve attended in the past, although I do admit that 6-hour cruises aren’t my thing. I want to be able to go home when I’m all peopled out.

  29. Been There*

    My company has had to lay off a LOT of people this year, so my department is opting for an optional, virtual happy hour. We will probably play a couple of trivia games, and I’ll browse my phone or facebook on mute while other people talk. It’s only an hour, it’s optional, and there’s only 17 of us left, so it won’t be too bad. I’ve definitely gone to some pretty BAD holiday parties.

  30. Esmeralda*

    Love Slate’s illustration with the article /sarcasm

    Apparently only 28-year-olds are invited to the party.

  31. Richard Hershberger*

    Putting on my Grinch hat, none of these seem like something I would enjoy, rather than endure. Well, the extra time off. That is always a winner. But cocktail kits with a bartender telling me how to do it? I already know how to make a martini the way I like it. (News flash: There isn’t one true way!). I neither need nor want someone to teach me. (And second new flash: choice of the gin is a big part of the operation. What comes with the kit? I shudder to think.)

  32. Elmyra Duff*

    We’re having ours virtually. Our boss said she was giving us each $100 to spend on booze and snacks, but then said that, no, we have to go spend $100 on booze and snacks and give her a receipt to be reimbursed. The receipt is due five days before pay day, and I’m just like…cool, yeah, of COURSE I have an extra $100 just sitting around for this very reason. (I’m extremely salty about this and have no one to talk to about it.)

    1. Phony Genius*

      I don’t drink. I wonder if I could submit my weekly grocery receipt and call it “snacks.”

      1. Elmyra Duff*

        Ha. My partner said to go buy $100 worth of booze to restock our home bar and grab a bag of doritos or something, too.

    2. SomebodyElse*

      Can I suggest that you talk to your boss and let them know this is going to be a problem? I’m sure they aren’t trying to cause anyone problems and would be happy to figure out an alternative.

      I do know from being in a similar situation how much added stress like this sucks.

      1. Elmyra Duff*

        I’m still too new for her to take me seriously. Plus I already burned my one financial-related ask when I told her my insurance was $500 and I couldn’t afford it (Have to go through the ACA because she doesn’t offer insurance for the company because we’re too small) and she said she gives us all $50 toward our premiums every month and doesn’t understand why my insurance is unaffordable.

        I’m getting out of here as soon as the job market gets better.

        1. allathian*

          I’m so sorry. I guess you’ll just have to attend the party without any snacks and if asked about it, say “I’m sorry, I don’t have the money to pay for this before payday”.

          No, don’t do that. But I guess you could afford a bag of Doritos and a can of soda or beer or hard soda and submit the receipt to her for reimbursement? Just because she says she’ll reimburse you for up to $100 doesn’t mean you have to spend that much on something that you can’t afford. She can’t order you to spend money you don’t have. Or she can try, but there’s no way she’ll be able to enforce it. Sounds like she has no idea what it’s like living paycheck to paycheck.

          1. Just a Cog in the Machine*

            $100 is a lot of booze and snacks for one person. I don’t drink alcohol, so it would be even harder to spend that, and not have a LOT of junk food in the house. (Not that I wouldn’t/couldn’t eat it, but I shouldn’t.)

            So I would just buy a couple things and say you wouldn’t be able to/didn’t want to eat that much snack food.

  33. Liza*

    My workplace usually has a large Christmas Banquet for employees and their families. Obviously that wasn’t happening this year. Most of us are working in-person (only a few people are remote), so instead of the banquet, they hosted an outdoor, drop-in luncheon for employees only. We have a nice plaza with chairs and tables, and with the 2-hour drop-in window it didn’t feel crowded. Masks were required before and after actually eating. They gave us our usual bonuses in our paycheck, and gave out smaller $ amount gift cards as well. I actually enjoyed this a whole lot more than the banquet!

  34. LCH*

    we had lay offs so we aren’t doing anything this year (that i know of) since: money; and it would look bad. although we did get two extra holiday days. usually we have an off-site afternoon lunch with games in January.

  35. Grab-n-Go Christmas*

    We usually have a large Christmas party with gifts for the children of employees, catered food, lots of drinks, etc. This year we’re doing a “Grab-and-Go-Christmas.” We rented a local coffee shop for the hours of 4:00-6:00 p.m. Our employees can come through their drive-thru to pick up a full meal for their family (catering company will dish it up on-site so it’s hot), a full cheese cake, all of the gifts for their kids (plus our president will hand out bonuses through the window!). It’s a great solution to a bummer of a situation. Our employees have already been very appreciative of the effort.

  36. Elenna*

    My company tried to email us all Uber Eats gift cards so we could all order food and have a virtual stream instead of the yearly gala they usually hold, but there was some sort of technical difficulties and we didn’t get the gift card until the day after the stream. So, like, I appreciate the gift card, but if you’re going to do something like that maybe make sure it works in advance :)

  37. Momma Bear*

    They were going to try to do a gathering at an outdoor venue, but our county just restricted gatherings so it’s on hold. I’m personally going to decorate my door a little and see who follows suit. We are getting a Christmas bonus which honestly is more appreciated right now than huddling under a pavilion right now.

  38. HC Help*

    The hospital I work at is replacing the typical holiday open house buffet and music with a free food truck out in the parking lot. Our cafeterias are pretty good but I am looking forward to a change of pace! (We are already getting four free meals a day due to the current surge.)

  39. LogicalOne*

    We are having a one-hour Zoom meeting with the entire company on the Tuesday before Christmas. We are getting everyone together that can make it, watching a custom holiday video that one of our staff created and discussing other things, and the week before we will be distributing custom made holiday treat bags that are meant to be opened and eaten during our Zoom meeting. Of course we aren’t expecting everyone to do this nor able to make it so this is the best we can do for a company of over 100 staff. I am surprised given that our company is tightly watching our budget, that they are purchasing and giving away these treat bags to everyone. It’s actually the first time everyone in our company is getting something from the big-wigs. Maybe there needs to be more pandemics. Kidding of course LOL!!

  40. Bookworm*

    Honestly? Don’t have one.

    My org is having a Zoom meeting, which makes me want to scream. I want less Zoom time, not more. Management decided to vacate a few leases (locations were in places where local laws never let us return to the physical office anyway and we don’t know how this will end…) so we don’t have a place to gather, anyway, as those same ordinances have shut down bars and restaurants, too.

    This isn’t for everyone but if your org is having a Zoom or other virtual holiday party, don’t hold it against employees if they bail early or don’t go at all.

    1. SusanB*

      Same. I also have to go to a zoom party. They’re not providing a drink or a treat or a gift or anything. We just have t sit in zoom and listen to the bosses talk. At the end of the day on a Friday. I don’t want to go. I don’t care. I hate zoom.

      We’re also under a hiring freeze. No one got raises again and we might have layoffs. So I realize they can’t send everyone a bottle of champagne but I do not want to sit in a damn zoom meeting either.

      1. Not Australian*

        Oh dear, wouldn’t it be a shame if you accidentally-on-purpose lost your connection to the meeting after the first five minutes?

  41. desk platypus*

    My department cancelled the usual potluck and cookie exchange, though there will likely be individually wrapped snacks in the lounge throughout December. There’s also going to be a Christmas tree decorating contest where you can decorate a work space with a small tree that can fit on a flat surface. Mini trees, trees made out creative materials like yarn, corks, etc. that sort of thing. There’s likely going to be a restaurant gift card as a prize.

    Unfortunately, my main employer is proceeding with the county wide Christmas luncheon. The room itself is massive and there will likely be fewer attending but it has the potential to still be a lot of people under one roof. It’s ‘restaurant Covid rules’ with tables spaced six feet apart, ten people to a table, masks on unless eating, but there’s still a buffet line. But there are gloves provided to use for touching utensils but given my county is ‘masks are optional’ despite state mandates so I doubt any of these rules will amount to much. Also, departments are asked to bring in desserts from home to share.

  42. Xantar*

    There’s a site called Menti dot com which lets you post live polls. Basically, people can connect with their smart phones. When the host shares their screen on Zoom, the audience will be able to see the results coming in real time.

    We’re planning to host trivia and “Two Truths and a Lie About the Bosses” where people can vote on which one they think is the lie.

  43. Emily*

    Understand all those who would rather skip this year (or have to for budget) but if looking for other non-consumption activities, would make a pitch for virtual museum visits! Museums have gotten hit really hard in the closures and have had a lot of layoffs and financial difficulties nationwide. Many of them have pivoted to digital experiences and are doing private virtual tours – doing a private after hours tour might have been out of budget in pre-covid-times for a small team but is possible and maybe different now! Check your locals (though would pitch my former colleauges at the Tenement Museum in NYC as well!) because lots of groups in need if you can (and depending on situation, may be able to get tax writeoff!)

  44. Claire*

    My workplace usually has a large gathering with a buffet, and this year we’re meeting on a rooftop, socially distanced, and the food will be served to us rather than us helping ourselves. HOWEVER, my state has had zero community transmission cases in a number of weeks, so while we’re still being careful, there’s very little chance of anyone having the virus to begin with. I know that’s far from being the case everywhere.

  45. FriendlyCanadian*

    A big law firm my company works with always hosts a Christmas part and this year they’re sending us 75 dollars on Uber Eats to buy something fun. Best Christmas party I’ve been to

  46. The Other Dawn*

    I have no idea if my company is doing anything–they usually don’t. Normally it’s by department or location. It’s likely my department won’t do anything since we’re all remote for the first time. We polled the team and there just isn’t much interest in anything virtual. They likely don’t have the bandwidth for it, plus it’s just not the same as hanging out in the conference room, chatting and scarfing down lots of food. And I already know no one is comfortable enough to do something in-person but distanced, which is fine. I left it up to them, as I don’t want to force anyone to log into doing something if they don’t want to.

    As for gifts, I gave everyone a free PTO day to use between last week and the end of the year, which they really appreciated. Also, I usually let them go–or rather log off, nowadays–around noon on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. I may send a small gift and a personalized card, though I have no idea what kind of gift yet.

  47. No More Zoom Please*

    My company has 2 zoom holiday parties scheduled this year, and I’m dreading them. One I think I can safely leave my camera off for and ignore, but for the other I’ll need to be visibly present (there is no opting out and they are during business hours). In past years, we just had a happy hour at a local bar and the company would pick up the tab for an hour or so; as far as I’ve heard, it’ll be the same unstructured get-together this year but over zoom and with no company-subsidized booze or snacks to make it bearable. So we’ll just be awkwardly listening to the bosses chat for a couple of hours, I guess?

    Plus, one of the bosses is making us all contribute to a “festive” booklet to be distributed back to us as a gift (again, no opting out). Yes, we’re getting extra work for the holidays! The bosses are good-hearted people and I’m sure they genuinely intended to make this enjoyable, but it seems like they just didn’t think things through.

    I understand the company probably can’t afford any of the really cool interactive/demonstration ideas, but I would have much preferred an extra afternoon off or a $20 Seamless gift card to the current plan.

  48. Blomma*

    My work doesn’t usually have a holiday party. We have an “employee appreciation event and dinner” in January or February. (Earlier this year we did a glassblowing workshop and went to a nice restaurant.) I’m sure it will be some kind of virtual event in 2021. For holiday spirit or whatever, they got us each a gingerbread house kit for a decorating contest that will be voted on by everyone.

  49. Cats cats cats*

    My team has a 4 hour “Year in review and 2021 Planning” meeting on their calendars. There’s a fake agenda, documents we will create, its glorious. When they join the call I’ll announce its our holiday party, do a quick scavenger hunt, and call it a very early day.

    As an organization, my company is having a comedian perform. It’s a pretty big name, so I hope there arent any technology issues.

    1. allathian*

      That’s really cool. Especially as many even big name performers are struggling this year, with live events canceled. Fingers crossed that the tech works!

  50. Grumpy Academic*

    We’re doing a movie night – employer pays for film rental, chat time either side.

    We were also given some extra days off but all marking deadlines and other teaching paperwork deadlines are still the same so as teaching staff I doubt I’ll be able to take them – we CAN carry them over but I’m already losing carry-over days because of the stupid pandemic and how fricking much more work my job as an educator has been, so I don’t feel as grateful as I no doubt should.

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