what do we do about end-of-year celebrations during the pandemic?

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question:

I work for a multinational company. Normally at the end of the year, various geographic offices would have holiday parties/dinners. Obviously this won’t happen this year due to the plague. One of our teams in the UK is investigating online escape rooms, which sounds fun! But are there other ideas people would suggest?

Readers, how are your offices handling the holidays this year? Has anyone found a fun way to celebrate without being in-person?

(Note: I know some folks hate holiday parties even during normal years. For this post, I’m asking that we stay focused on ideas for offices that do want to do something.)

{ 461 comments… read them below }

  1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    Remote secret Santa/gift giving is fun! There is a website called Elfster where people can actually set budgets and register their preferred gifts so as to avoid that creepy guy from accounting trying to gift lingerie..

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        Third! Elfster is great. I’ve used it for a number of gift exchanges. And while it lets you select a variety of specific gifts, you can also just use it as a guide, showing you the sort of things that person likes.
        For example, I use it to run gift exchanges in a crafting forum I help moderate. Users select a wide variety of gifts which clue their giver in to their favorite characters, colors, clothing styles, etc., all of which makes for great inspiration to create the perfect craft for your recipient.
        Givers can also anonymously ask their recipients questions. I’ve been asked for my shirt size, for example, and then received a gorgeous custom-designed shirt in my favorite color and with my favorite Disney princess on the front. Fits like a glove, too.
        Definitely a resource worth exploring.

          1. Alice's Rabbit*

            I will probably wear that shirt out within a year, I wear it so often. So yeah, Elfster has definitely worked well, for me.

    1. Public Sector Manager*

      I haven’t heard of Elfster until today. With the pandemic, do they allow someone to send a gift without knowing where the recipient lives? This is always the difficult part at my public agency–people are exceptionally protective of their home addresses. Gift cards and the like can always be sent by email. However, for tangible gifts, is there a way to send it through the website and still protect people’s anonymity of their home address?

      1. ElizabethJane*

        I think if the person is OK with setting up a specific wish list through Amazon you can do that (as in, the recipient provides Elfster with a link to their Amazon wish list and then the gift giver goes to Amazon to buy it and it gets shipped that way).

        If the recipient wants things that can’t be purchased via a major corporation I’m not sure it’s possible. I don’t believe I could say “Send me something from a local boutique” but not provide my address.

        1. Elizabeth*

          I have used Elfster before, a few years ago. In addition to the usual suspects for wishlists, they have allowed for Etsy lists to be included. I was able to purchase some items from multiple sellers and have them shipped without knowing what address they were going to. YMMV; they may have changed who they work with since then.

        2. TootsNYC*

          with Elfster, you can absolutely add text notes:
          “I like plain-color slightly dress T-shirts”
          “I love coffee, so any local roast would be fun”

          You can also add a note to a link and say, “this kind of thing, but not necessarily this brand” or even “please, only this brand or model because of X”

      2. Wordnerd*

        In my experience, Elfster would show the gifter the recipient’s provided physical address. However, I think that address would only be viewable to that assigned gifter (and maybe the overall organizer), and not to everyone in the the whole group participating in the exchange.

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          Not to the overall organizer. I have organized a few gift exchanges via Elsmere, and saw no one’s address but my own recipient’s.

      3. Jack Be Nimble*

        No, not in my experience! Elfster just does the matching and shares wishlists, all of the actual gift-giving happens outside of the system. So people would be required to share their addresses in order to have the thing shipped to them.

        1. Abby*

          I wonder if, if your team is all in basically the same area, you could have gifts dropped at a central location (the office?) and have one person coordinate a curbside gift pickup day.

          1. Alice's Rabbit*

            That could work! Everyone required to have their gifts in by Wednesday, say. And then on Friday, ask folks to swing by to pick up their Secret Santa, plus any gifts from management.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Everyone coming in on the same day could be a lot of unnecessary virus exposure. It would definitely be unnecessary exposure for anyone who uses public transit
              And many of us would opt out because of a long commute or kids in school who need an adult in the house.

              1. Alice's Rabbit*

                Swinging by, like a drive by pick up. Someone masked and gloved hands you a bag through your window, and off you go.
                Those who couldn’t easily come in can ask for other arrangements, like having the gifts dropped off or mailed. A couple members of the administrative staff could handle that task, in lieu of planning a big party (which takes a lotvof time to organize).

                1. Katrinka*

                  I would totally volunteer to deliver gifts. Deck out the car, blaring holiday songs, an ugly Christmas sweater, leave the package on the front step and then let them know it’s there once I’m back in the car and can wave. I think I have a couple of Santa and other holiday hats/hairbands around too.

      4. Emi*

        Elfster lets participants list their addresses, and the organizer can set these to only be visible to each person’s assigned giver. (This is not the default setting. I don’t know why.) If you want addresses totally hidden, people will have to use some kind of registry (lots of people have mentioned Amazon but this is a very basic and widely-used gift registry feature.)

      5. Normally a lurker*

        So, I run a bunch of Elfster things every year. And the answer is kinda.

        Elster requires you put in an address to send to the person – BUT – you can just add your amazon wishlist (or any other wishlist that functions like amazon in which they don’t see your address) in leiu of your address and stay hidden.

        Word of warning about it – Elster requires you fill out everything so you end up doing:

        Jane Smith
        “Amazon Wishlist”
        na, na, 12345

        Also, the only person who can see whatever you put as your address is the person who draws your name.

    2. Remote Employee 4 Lyfe*

      Seconding this. I worked in a fully remote environment last holiday season, and this had been a tradition for several years, though it was entirely opt-in. We used a website that organized the whole process for us, where people could enter their wishlists. We also had a really strict limit for spending, like $20. A few more things that made it special:
      * The best part about it was everyone participating posting a small list of likes and dislikes – we all got to know each other better through reading those lists and connect over shared interest.
      * We also had a gift wrapping contest as part of it – we were a creative bunch with lots of backgrounds in the arts, so some gifts were a person making a donation to a charity in the recipient’s honor, but making a video that fit their interest to share that with them, or a homemade puzzle, or other similar “fun” announcements.
      * We’d have the “holiday party” on Zoom, where folks would open what they had received from their gift giver. We’d all ooooh and ahhh, and laugh.
      * Then, after that, we had the opportunity to go into breakout rooms – last year, one room did Schitt’s Creek trivia (it was a favorite among many staffers), another did Pictionary using the “annotate” functions of Zoom. And of course folks could also just log off if they wanted to, with no pressure to spend the rest of the day working.

      This was all done during the work day, not after hours. We shut down early that day, and folks not participating got to log off early.

    3. Firecat*

      Each and everytime we used elfster for secrete Santa my person didn’t enter any likes. Or just did one thing like “motorcycles”. Without fail each year they looked hugely disappointed at opening time. I’m also one of the few who stuck to the gift limit $.

      I was planning to skip it this year but with the pandemic was hoping it would be scrapped.

      1. Public Sector Manager*

        I do have the world’s tiniest violin in my desk drawer. Perfect gift for this situation!

      2. TootsNYC*

        we use Elfster for a cousin gift exchange, and my son was pretty disappointed the first two years–because he didn’t give any gift ideas!

        I had not a lot of sympathy for him. (well, as his mom, I always value his emotions, but also, he left himself open for it)

          1. Katrinka*

            At work, we actually had a form to fill out – favorite color, sizes, favorite music, food, drink, etc. It was a lot of fun because it gave us a lot to choose from.

    4. ThePear8*

      Ooh I might need to look into Elfster.
      I asked a question similar to this a few open threads ago for a club I lead at my university, since we obviously can’t do our usual white elephant gift exchange this year. After talking about it with the other club officers we’ve settled on most likely doing a form of online secret santa like this, but more specifically for buying each other games on steam. It sort of has to do with the focus of our club, but that way also gifts are entirely digital and don’t need to be shipped and all the participants can friend each other on steam to see their giftee’s wishlist. If people don’t want to deal with shipping, looking into something like digital gift cards or games etc. might be an option?
      We also set a limit of $15, so no one spends way more than everyone else or feels weird or guilty receiving a more expensive gift. If you do do some sort of secret santa or gift exchange, it’s probably good to set a spending limit for everyone so no one feels weird or out of place or guilty or ashamed about how much they’re spending or receiving.

    5. Momma Bear*

      That sounds like a lot of fun, especially if the price and list of items is specified so you don’t insult someone.

      Our company is trying to do a socially distanced outdoor/open tented event. I plan to skip it because I don’t trust that it will be enough mitigation and our county just lowered allowable group numbers.

      If you are in person, a door or cube decoration contest might be fun. I’ve seen everything from gingerbread cubes to artistic light displays.

    6. Extroverted Bean Counter*

      Why’s the creep always gotta be in Accounting? All my creepy coworkers have always been in Sales! XD

      I love this idea though. I’m a big fan of gift exchanges (not White Elephant/Dirty Santa/Yankee Swap or whatever you call the one that ends up with gag gifts, actual gifts with thought), and Elfster was great the one time I used it.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, this. A bit unfair on the accountants. Most of my friends are accountants! Granted, they’re all women, but still.

    7. Grinchy*

      The last thing I want right now is MORE expenses and pressure to buy for coworkers. That said, in a normal year, I like Secret Santa ideas.

    8. Wearamaskplease*

      Elfster sounds so great! Our organization is very strict about being non-denominational. Does anyone know of a similar site without words like “secret Santa”?

      1. Sian*

        We used drawnames.com.au to organise a secret santa a couple years back – you put in ideas for yourself + the person who gets you can see them, which sounds similar to this elfster thing. – it does call itself a ‘secret santa generator’ but it doesn’t seem too Christmas themed to me.

  2. 867-5309*

    We doing an online quiz game night for an hour or so, and and giving everyone a gift card to use at local restaurants. I think keeping it to an hour is about all people can manage right now with so much time already spend on video/conference calls.

    1. Public Sector Manager*

      For one of my annual conferences (which was canceled this year), we ended the conference with an online quiz with prizes and it was a lot of fun! I’d highly recommend it!

      1. Rachel in NYC*

        My office has an annual conference which I rarely get to go to (since we can’t send everyone) but this year everyone got to to because it was online. They sent all of us goody boxes and on the last day had an online trivia section. Plus did online instant polls throughout. They proved you could successfully do an online conference- everyone was really impressed.

    2. Mbarr*

      I whole heartedly agree with the hour limit… I spend 8 hours a day on my laptop. Even in the name of “fun” I don’t want to spend more time in my office than I need to.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, same here. I’m very selective now in what type of events I’m willing to attend, even virtually. In-person events indoors are currently limited to 10 people at most, and my team is bigger than that. The weather is also fairly unpleasant here this time of year, so I doubt I’ll want to spend hours outdoors just to hang out with my coworkers, even if I haven’t seen any of them in person since March.

        My meeting load is luckily reasonable, 4 meetings a week is a lot and I have 2 standing meetings every week, and one of those is an optional coffee half hour. The other meetings are with internal clients who want to talk about an assignment. Most of the other people in my team have completely different job descriptions and a lot more meetings.

    3. juliebulie*

      We are doing something similar. A trivia contest via Teams and each team communicates via IM, then emails the answers to the moderator.

    4. Veronica Sawyer*

      My team did something similar, and it was actually a lot of fun! And I am someone who usually loathes company outings. The shorter time frame was perfect, and I found out some really interesting things about my colleagues, like who has encyclopedic knowledge of movies or art!

  3. CTT*

    Not a holiday party, but we did this in lieu of the usual mingling for an annual event that went virtual this year: we had a bartender walk us through how to make two cocktails for the event. She did one at the start and one midway through when we needed a break, and talked us through why she used certain ingredients and the origins of the drinks. The event’s sponsor prepared boxes with all the ingredients that we could pick up beforehand so we had everything to make them except glassware. If you had non-alcoholic options as well, that could open it to a wider group.

    1. Dwight Schrute*

      Oh this is fun! I don’t drink and would enjoy learning to make the alcoholic cocktails for family members who do, and would enjoy the event even more if they talked about fun mixes that didn’t have alcohol!

    2. MissGirl*

      I don’t know that this would really work broadly. I don’t drink so I don’t really care about cocktails even with a non-alcoholic option.

      1. Amaranth*

        Maybe there could be a decadent hot chocolate or coffee box as an option, even if that wouldn’t be demonstrated, the employee would get a gift box.

        1. MissGirl*

          Yes, but that leaves employees out of team fun. No one activity will please everyone but centering one around alcohol is really exclusive.

            1. Amaranth*

              I can see if the tutorial is about making a cocktail, actually, that would shut people out of the sharing portion. If there is a large staff maybe there could be a few different options, with limited seating so you aren’t stuck with two people alone in a particular class.

            2. J*

              Except the event is centered around alcohol. Just because folks can get a non-alcoholic gift doesn’t mean the group event isn’t solely about alcohol.

            3. Alice's Rabbit*

              It is centered around alcohol, because the interactive portion is only about the cocktails. Even if they’re given non-alcoholic gifts, they’re still being excluded from the entertainment. And technically, this could be seen as discrimination against religious minorities or the disabled (alcoholics or those with other conditions that bar alcohol), which is dangerous ground for a company to tread.
              Having other options going at the same time would alleviate the discrimination angle, because people could tune into whichever class they wanted. Like say, offer cocktail mixing, wreath making, and a simple holiday baking recipe. Folks sign up ahead of time, get the kit that coordinates with their class, and no awkward explanation needed!

      2. JB (not in Houston)*

        I actually think it *could* work pretty well for a lot of people, depending on the office, keeping in mind that nothing is going to make everyone happy. I don’t really drink alcoholic beverages but I do drink beverages besides water and black coffee/plain tea, so I would be interested in this if they did a version that works well without alcohol. I’m not good at thinking of flavors that go well together, so someone showing me how I can make a nonalcoholic punch or other drink would be fun (and useful for future bridal showers and parties). I have a few friends who don’t drink who like some of those fancy “wellness” type juices you can buy at the grocery store so I think they’d like it, too. Obviously that’s just anecdotal evidence and it’s a matter of knowing your office generally, but I imagine there are a lot of places where this could work nicely.

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          I’m a big fan of mocktails, ie non-alcoholic cocktails.
          Virgin cosmos, for example, are cranberry juice, grenadine, and soda (club, sprite, or ginger ale, your choice).
          Virgin sunrise is OJ and soda, mixed, and poured into a glass. Then you carefully add a shot of grenadine, to get that sunrise color gradient.

      3. Xenia*

        You could do something with optional alcohol. Decadent hot chocolate with optional splash of Bailey’s could make it an all-around drink.

    3. old curmudgeon*

      Oh, I attended a Zoom reading by one of my favorite writers who launched her new book this year, and she did the same thing! You could tell the bartender what you had in your kitchen and what kind of thing you like to drink, and they’d tell you how to make it. It got a lot of very positive feedback from attendees.

      1. Public Sector Manager*

        Or maybe there is a local chef who could do an online demonstration? I think the premise is great, and you could swap out “bartender” for just about anything else that people are interested in.

      1. CTT*

        The person who organized it knew of a bartender who has been doing instructional classes during All This. At least anecdotally, I think more bartenders have been doing things like this to supplement their income; I took a class on the history of gin for an org I’m part of, a friend in another state posted something about taking a rum class, my alumni association did an event like that. It would involve some research, but the nice thing with it being virtual is that it doesn’t necessarily have to be someone local.

      2. Cascadia*

        AirBnB is now offering online virtual experiences. You can sign up individually or you can rent out a private one. They have all sorts of stuff! Cocktail making, pasta making, arts and crafts, photo tours, magic shows, trivia, and more.

      3. Hei Hei, the Chicken from Moana*

        The virtual bartender and chef experience is HUGE in virtual meetings right now!

    4. DataGirl*

      I really cringe at stuff like this- you have no idea who on your staff may be struggling with addiction/alcoholism or have someone in their household whom it would be dangerous to bring alcohol home to. At least people had the option to opt out of picking the ingredients up rather than having them mailed to the house, but for some people that would be an ugly temptation.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        So as a Mormon I’d show them my double malted milk chocolate peanut butter marshmallow milkshake with Nutella, homemade caramel and topped with popcorn, the German way? :D I’m always happy to participate, even as the designated driver so it wouldn’t bug me too much.

        1. HellaAnon*

          There’s a lot less stigma associated with “I don’t drink alcohol because of my religion” than “I am an alcoholic”. Personally I’ve been in recovery 11 years but I don’t tell people I work with that. If an event involves alcohol, I’m “out sick” or “busy”.

          With COVID shutting down AA and other recovery groups, plus people being extra depressed/stressed from the pandemic, income loss, loss of loved ones, isolation- a lot of alcoholics and addicts are struggling way more than before. I just don’t like the idea of tempting anyone who might be struggling with free booze.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              That does not always work. I am a home brewer. One of my non-drinking friends is married to a brewer. I have seen people spend significant time & energy pressuring her to justify her polite refusal, to try something anyway, to “practice and develop a taste for it”…. some people don’t even shut up when third parties interrupt and point out they are being rude. And that’s just someone who doesn’t like the flavor.

            2. Alice's Rabbit*

              I wish people were so accommodating, but they aren’t. I always get asked. Often, the asker then tries to argue with me about it. Like “It’s not really alcoholic; it’s just a tiny bit of rum!”
              Once, I even had a boss try to order me to toast with wine when I held up my water glass. The company lawyer had to step in and tell the boss off.

          1. Grinchy*

            Could not agree more. Long term sobriety here too, and I’d be annoyed to watch cocktails being made. Now, a lovely charcuterie board lesson, I’m in!

          1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

            Aloha, Hei Hei! We can make Hurricane popcorn and Spam Musubis too.. and all the other good stuff I ate when I lived in Hawaii. ;)

        2. allathian*

          I’d love to attend this! I do like the occasional alcoholic drink, but I’m always up for learning to make delicious non-alcoholic alternatives. The older I get, the more I object to employers sponsoring alcoholic drinks. I’m old and experienced enough to know my own limits and to avoid getting drunk in the company of coworkers, and free booze doesn’t tempt me to drink more than I would if I had to pay for it, but one reason why I stopped going to our Christmas parties was that I don’t want to see my coworkers get drunk. In recent years, many of our Christmas parties have been on 6-hour cruises. The problem with those is that you can’t leave when you want to. I want to leave early, before things get too rowdy, so I’ve skipped them.

          1. A*

            I despise any event that is on an undocked boat lasting more than 3 hours. I want an exit plan!

            Same reason I didn’t go to my senior prom a million years ago. No regrets.

      2. Jack Russell Terrier*

        Yes this – some people literally may not be able to participate. Please don’t have group things that include alcahol.

        1. Ann Nonymous*

          Hard agree. I especially do not like the concept of drinking alcohol = fun, or having fun = drinking alcohol.

        2. TechWorker*

          I can understand the objection to alcohol centred activities but ‘please don’t have group things that include alcohol’ would rule out most Christmas parties in Europe and the US… like I totally get it’s problematic for some, but it’s also very much part of ‘celebration’ for a lot of people and I can’t see that changing any time soon.

          1. Tired of Covid-and People*

            Yep, people drink. I am diabetic and indulge very rarely, and then it’s just wine because I must watch carbs. Bars being closed now has no impact on me, but I can appreciate that there are people who miss them. My husband (a former alcoholic) does not drink, and we have great times without it. He never tells me not to drink, but if we’re together, I usually don’t out of consideration.

          2. Alice's Rabbit*

            There is a big difference between offering drinks, alcoholic and non, at a party, vs having the entertainment centered around alcohol.
            What beverage a person chooses to drink is their own business. But when they are either drinking or left out completely, that’s a problem.

      3. Pooper McPoopy*

        Yeah, this is pretty tone-deaf and insensitive. About a third of Americans don’t drink alcohol at all, for a variety of reasons – recovery, religious obligations, or they just don’t like it. The alcohol culture that’s taken over really annoys the hell out of me, and I sure wouldn’t be participating in this type of a thing.

        1. AnonPi*

          me too! One of the work groups I’ve *tried* to be a part of feels the need to schedule every social gathering at a frickin bar! Which yeah, not interested. I’ve commented every year in their survey that they need to hold socials other places, but so far no change >:(

        2. Tired of Covid-and People*

          America has always had an alcohol culture, watch some episodes of Mad Men to see what I am talking about. Day drinking was as acceptable as having coffee. Work-centered drinking actually has become much less of a thing.

          1. allathian*

            Yes, the same thing is true in Europe. Sure, alcohol is still a part of many celebrations both at home and at work for a lot of people, but it’s no longer normal to get a beer or two or a glass of wine with your lunch on a workday.

      4. Kimmy Schmidt*

        I don’t mean this as a snarky or dismissive question, I’m genuinely curious. How does this differ from a company party that serves alcohol? I guess this has the full focus on drinks, but it also sounds like it’s optional and people know ahead of time.

        1. DataGirl*

          This is a bad analogy but it would be like the difference between, here’s a dinner with a ton of different food options you can choose from, and here’s a class where you will be taught how to roast a pig- no other food options. The class leaves out a ton of people- vegetarians, vegans, Jews, Muslims- whereas the party has something for everyone.

          In terms of the availability of free alcohol- I can only speak from personal experience but I would find it easier to pass up a drink at a party than if a bottle were in my home. Like I said, at least the stuff wasn’t mailed to people so they can opt out, but it would be easier at a party to explain away a seltzer with ‘oh, I’m driving’ than explain why I can’t have alcohol in my own home.

        2. Alice's Rabbit*

          Because a party with an open bar is opt-in, while this would be opt-out with no other alternative for participating.
          At a party, I can order a soda, or a mocktail, or just water.
          But when the party itself is all about mixing alcoholic drinks, I cannot participate at all. That’s not cool. Also, if someone wanted to be a pill and really push the issue, they could make a case for discrimination on religious or disability grounds.

    5. Ophelia*

      In a similar vein, we had a “party” earlier this year where there was one big zoom call, and then we broke out into a set of breakout rooms where colleagues had volunteered to teach others how to make their favorite cocktail. You signed up for your preferred one beforehand and received a list of ingredients, then once the drinks were made, people came back to the big room and there were a couple of facilitated games and stuff (like trivia).

      1. Ophelia*

        Also, of the “cocktails” on offer, there were also a few non-alcoholic punch ideas, either for people who don’t drink or who wanted to share with a kid, etc.

    6. LKW*

      We did this for an end of project celebration. They sent everyone a box with liquor, glassware, bar items like shaker/strainer and jigger, and all of the non-alcoholic stuff (e.g. salt for margaritas).

      The point wasn’t to drink – we only made two drinks, but to just chat in a non-work environment. Later the organizing group did superlatives which was more like “Most likely to have donuts handy” or “Most impressive quarantine hair growth”

      If you have a team of 20 or fewer this would work, after that, it’s too hectic.

    7. ThePear8*

      Thought I’d chime in with a few things my company has done to socialize remotely, since a lot of people are disliking this idea due to the alcohol involved – I wasn’t able to attend because I missed the RSVP but we had a virtual coffee tasting where they sent those who RSVP’d a free AeroPress and some coffees and had a coffee expert walk them through the different kinds over Zoom. Doesn’t necessarily have to be alcohol or coffee – you could do a juice tasting, or maybe a food tasting.

      My team also once did an “Among Us happy hour” where after our weekly meeting on Friday we just played Among Us together. That was my first time playing Among Us and it was super fun, some party games like that or Jackbox Party Pack etc. could be fun to do together. Among Us is also free on mobile so people didn’t need to buy anything before hand if they didn’t want to.

    8. TootsNYC*

      this is fun!

      A similar DIY-kit kind of thing might be interesting too.

      Maybe a “how to give a hand massage” lesson, or “how to crochet a potholder” or something?

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        Acrylic pour art is really easy, and kits would be simple to make up. Say, small bottles of paint in the company colors, a cup (to pour paint into and from), a small canvas, and a drop cloth to work on.
        Everyone ends up with a unique souvenir they can put on their desk or hang in their office when they come back to work!

      1. Campfire Raccoon*

        I’ve never enjoyed the pomp and circumstance of holiday parties. One of my first jobs out of college, I worked for a good-ol-boy company. Large, lumbering, privately-owned business rife with nepotism and all those horrible 80s TV tropes. He’d book parties at this decaying country club and they’d have “raffle gifts” regular workers never seemed to win.

        We were expected to contribute to the owner’s xmas gift. One year they bought him a popcorn machine, which he parked outside my office door. He’d stand outside my office, smoking cigars and brewing up popcorn, mixing with the scent of too much wood furniture and cheap cleaning supplies.

        HOWEVER: one particularly good year he rented out a Costco for two hours, gave everyone $1000 gift cards (~$700 after taxes) and told us to go nuts. I had a new baby at the time, so I LOADED up on diapers. Best gift ever. Similar sentiments all around.

        All in all, a very educational place to work. Hit both the “what not to do” and the “what people actually appreciate”.

        1. Just J.*

          I’ve always hated the gifts for bosses thing. Like, I’m supposed to appreciate that you employ me, when really it’s your employees that make you successful.

          Plus it’s 2020. This year is awful. If there are ANY companies out there, do not be tone deaf this year and ask for contributions for gifts for the bosses.

        2. AnonInTheCity*

          I worked for a company that did that in a shoe store one year! We all got taken on a mystery bus tour and one of the stops was a DSW where we were told we could pick out any pair of shoes in the store we wanted. (It sounds odd written out but it was a quirky fun company at the time.)

        3. T. Boone Pickens*

          Wow! What a mix of bleh (country club parties, boss gifts) and ridiculously awesome (Costco gift gards—seriously what a tremendous gift!)

        4. Elizabeth West*

          That is amazing. I would LOVE that.

          At OldExjob, we once got $25 gift cards to Bass Pro. If you’ve ever been to Bass Pro, you know $25 doesn’t go very far. Also, not everyone is interested in outdoor / hunting gear.

          Better: Exjob gave us each a $50 Visa gift card, which allowed me to get a Kindle Fire and a protective case with a built-in stand. Both were on sale, and with the gift card, I paid less than I would have for the Kindle by itself at its regular price. :)

          (Yes, it was for Admin’s Day, which we dislike, but I wasn’t about to turn that card down!)

        5. Not this one, that one*

          This goes back about 20 years, but just after college, a friend had a job at a restaurant. The restaurant’s owner also owned a strip club, which also served food (no idea if that is common/uncommon for strip clubs). The restaurant employees’ holiday gifts were gift certificates . . . to the strip club.

  4. samecoin*

    sounds like this is the best year to just give everyone a bonus or gift card with those designated funds

    1. Anonapots*

      My boss asked me to join the planning committee for our holiday thing this year and I immediately had this thought. I know it will 100% go over like a lead balloon, but depending on how the conversations go, I might actually throw it out there and see if anyone agrees.

    2. Bagpuss*

      I’m not sure if it is the same in the US but in the UK this opens up a can of tax worms, as if you give someone money or the equivalent they get taxed on it as income, and while you can to some extent deal with that by flagging it up and remining them of this, it can really complicate things for anyone who is claiming any form of Tax Credits ( very common if you have part time workers ). I know we looked into it a few years ago when we were considering whether a party was what people wanted.
      Here, it’s also more expensive for the employer – a party (if not too expensive) is anon-taxable benefit but things like bonuses or gift cards aren’t.

      1. AnonXmas*

        Yes, it can be problematic. Every place I’ve worked allowed employees to choose from several options or completely opt out.

        Holiday parties have tax rules that can make things complicated.

        1. Funny Cide*

          As someone who works for a non-profit, we’re basically not allowed to purchase gift cards for pretty much anything because the IRS views it as cash and it’s not trackable. (Or something like that – I do not work in the accounting or legal department!) I’d assume that also applies to giving them to employees.

    3. CRM*

      I don’t think this is necessarily true in all cases. For instance, my team is doing a virtual gingerbread house competition. The competition is optional, and I’m guessing the cost for the company is somewhere between $20 – $30 per person. If this were spent on a gift card instead, it would be a nice gesture, but probably not meaningful for most people (my team is highly skilled and we are well paid). Personally, I’m really excited for the opportunity to spend an afternoon doing a fun activity with my colleagues instead of working, which is what holiday parties are all about!

      1. LoveGingerbread*

        A virtual gingerbread house competition is such a good idea! Anyone can participate, since alcohol isn’t involved, it’s not an overtly religious activity, and the whole family can participate. I could see prizes given (e.g., for most creative, tallest, most industry-relevant, most colorful, etc.), but they don’t have to be for it to be fun. I’m going to recommend this to my company, since our annual holiday party is canceled.

        1. Momma Bear*

          A few jobs back we were allowed to pick teams and each team was given a specific small gingerbread house kit. It was up to us to figure out what to do with that base. People got really creative! If you want people to do it at home, an easy option would be graham cracker houses.

      2. TootsNYC*

        you could also encourage the non-crafty people to participate by being a cheering squad, or just to come and join in on the judging, etc.
        Some of us might find it fun to just chat while someone else was working, or something.

      3. Yorick*

        I love this idea. My husband’s company did cookie decorating in the spring and it was so fun. I was thinking of how nice this would be during the holidays too.

    4. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Except Alison has explicitly asked for suggestions for people who DO want to do something. If your company/group don’t want to, you don’t have to comment…

    5. LQ*

      How much are people’s parties costing that getting a gift card feels like anything other than an insult if you’re paid a living wage? I’m sure that our “parties” would split out to less than $5/person. We don’t have corporate funds, these are all someone in leadership (who do not get paid orders of magnitude more) shell out money for a few pizzas or whatever. But it’s something like $3-4 per person, which if everyone was making minimum wage would be different but everyone’s paid a living wage so it feels shitty. A party doesn’t feel that same way.

      1. CorruptedbyCoffee*

        My husband’s company always insists on a big Christmas party. Last year they booked the most expensive restaurant in town and rounded it out with $100 shots of scotch. It was a lot more than $3-4 per person. On the flip side, I received two hershey’s kisses and a happy holidays card signed by the boss. No party. I guess what I’m saying is, it can really vary.

      2. SC*

        My company does a huge Christmas party at a nice restaurant downtown. There’s an open bar with good alcohol, passed appetizers, and a buffet with expensive seafood and beef. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s $200 per attendee (maybe $150 per employee since not everyone attends).

  5. Colette*

    Online escape rooms are good.

    You could do a zoom call where you play games (such as brightful games, which has things like “would you rather” “Draw it”, trivia, etc.

    Have a video conference with a theme/contest – winter decorating, fancy dress, seasonal beverages.

    1. MusicWithRocksIn*

      I would actually really like to do something this year because I started my Job in February, and was pretty much in the office for a month before we went WFH, so I don’t know many of my coworkers well and would like a chance to get to know them better. However, I am burned out enough not to want to put any effort into anything, especially extra decorating or dressing up, so a contest that requires prep makes me go *ugh*.

      1. Colette*

        Yeah, honestly a contest wouldn’t be my first choice, but it might work if you’re in a team where people like that kind of thing.

        1. Amaranth*

          Maybe an online trivia game and invite people to decorate or wear seasonal attire? It can be fun to put on some antlers but stressful if you’re having to put effort in it to be judged.

    2. Marzipan Dragon*

      Just an FYI, I tried an online escape room and got the worst motion sickness of my life with vomiting and bonus migraine. This was a completely unexpected reaction as I haven’t been motion sick since I was eight years old. The guy with the camera whirling around as people yelled at him to view various items just set me off in an extreme way. Not trying to discourage offering them, just something to consider.

      1. Colette*

        That sounds like an issue with one room in particular – I’ve done several and built one that don’t do that kind of thing.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Migraines and seasick are so incredibly individual you wouldn’t know. Look at me & videogames & IMAX movies. Thousands of people in the world love IMAX and play online video games for hours at a time… I’m one of a handful who get sick after an hour.

          1. Colette*

            Sure, but none of the online escape rooms I’ve done have videos. So unless static web pages cause the problem, I think it’s an issue with the particular room.

            1. MarzipanDragon*

              To clarify, the one that made me sick was a regular escape room that was doing Zoom games since no one could go in. The owner was wearing a camera headset of some type so you could see what he saw. He’d enter a room and look around. Someone on the team would say “Look under the flower pot” and he’d walk over to the flower pot. Something about the constantly moving video made me ill. It’s not something I expected since I’m not particularly susceptible. I guess all I was suggesting was making the teams big enough that if someone had to drop out it wouldn’t unduely handicap them.

  6. OrigCassandra*

    Consider a gift from locavore meal-kit companies or bakeries, maybe? The one I belong to (huge cognitive-load reducer, love it) delivers, is friendly to many different dietary choices, and sends out restaurant-quality food.

    Not available everywhere, but if your area has a strong farmer’s market culture, it’s not unlikely these companies have sprung up, or local restaurants are doing kits to stay afloat. I’m in a moderate-size Midwestern city, and we have, like, three or four of these?

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      I like this! A lot of independent restaurants near me are doing that – they definitely need the business right now too. A similar thing I’ve brought up to my company is a local shop near us that is doing Christmas care packages – they sell gifts, homewares, handmade goods, fancy chocolate etc and you can specify a value and they’ll send out a bundle of stuff. We’re a smallish company so I think it would work, and it would be a nice way to support local businesses; maybe OP could see if any local shops near her are doing anything like that.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        Oh, lol, I’m dumb and forgot the part about it being a multinational by the time I scrolled down. Well, if any smaller companies are looking for something then it could work!

  7. Kitty Cathleen*

    My company is sending everyone a pass to take their family to a drive through holiday light show in our area. People are very excited.

    We usually have a dinner dance for employees and partners as well as a family Christmas party for employees with dependents under 13.

    1. IEanon*

      That is such a good idea. It probably went over best with parents with younger children, so that’s something to keep in mind. Even I (a childfree millennial) would be excited about that, though!

    2. Jay*

      Sigh. All the “holiday” light shows in our area are Christmas-themed. We’re Jewish and we don’t do Christmas.

      1. Not a Christmas person*

        Ugh. As a fellow non-Christian, I was really hoping that a silver lining of this year would be getting to escape all the workplace ‘holiday’ (a.k.a. Christmas) stuff, but it looks like it’s not going to happen.

      2. A*

        That’s such a bummer! One of my favorite things about outdoor lights is that they aren’t holiday specific. So unnecessary to make it affiliated with a specific religion.

        That being said I’m biased because I LOVE outdoor lights (‘holiday lights’) and wish they were a year round staple. The good/pretty/normal kind.. not the dancing santa/flashing lights stuff.

  8. KRM*

    We haven’t settled on anything yet but were considering a food based secret santa–you put in likes/dislikes and allergies, and get a food item shipped to your house. Although gift cards to a local delivery place are also on the table. We never even managed our post-holiday dinner last year as we were waiting till after the board meeting (so people had more time), and by then it was too late. So we definitely want to send something out this season.

    1. Cascadia*

      Just as an aside, when the pandemic first hit my friend group and I were all concerned about our local restaurants. We decided to do a “secret santa” (in April) with a $40 limit and we each bought another person a gift card to one of our favorite restaurants that we wanted to keep in business. It was fun and a way to support the local economy. Obviously a friend group is different from work, but it was a great idea for us.

  9. old curmudgeon*

    My elder kid works for a company that typically does a lot of company-wide employee events (picnics, scavenger hunts, parties, etc.). Since the start of the plague, the company has come up with some creative alternatives that seem to be working really well.

    For the usual picnic, the company sent out an invitation asking employees to decide what type of picnic basket they’d like and for how large a family (up to six people). Then each employee was given a specific time to arrive to pick up their customized picnic basket (customized meaning meat-eaters or vegetarian, beer/wine/non-alcoholic, etc.). The baskets themselves included nice little picnic-type tchotchkes as additions.

    For the scavenger hunt, it was turned into an all-virtual worldwide scavenger hunt, still in teams of three or four people, but each team did a collaborative hunt from their individual homes. Each employee was sent a six-pack of their beverage of choice (like the picnic, the choices were beer, wine or non-alcoholic), and the usual scavenger-hunt t-shirts were also sent to all participants.

    Early in the pandemic, this company also did drop-offs at each employee’s home with a goodie bag containing masks, hand-sanitizer, wipes and I think also chocolate or something like that as a reminder of the importance of good self-care.

    I haven’t heard yet what they’re going to do for the big holiday party but am sure it will be similarly creative.

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        Same! It feels more thoughtful and personalized, even with everyone getting basically the same basket.

    1. Sleepytime Tea*

      This is just really cool. I would actually like to participate in these things, instead of rolling my eyes and forcing a smile to just be a team player.

    2. madge*

      Work holiday festivities usually get a giant eye-roll from me, but I would legitimately appreciate and enjoy these.

  10. Taking the long way round*

    Zoom meeting (I know, I know) with Secret Santa & cards done by post for those who are ok exchanging addresses, a holiday jumper competition, holiday tree condition, festive pets, and best holiday dinner on show.
    We also do “The 12 days of Christmas” game. Get into 4 teams, allocate a line of the song to each team then sing the song. You have to stand and sing, and sit and be silent. It’s quite funny if it goes very fast. You all get to sing the line “5 golden rings” together though. Let people know beforehand so they can opt out if they want as its specifically Christmas-themed. Or find another song!
    Oh and a festive quiz.
    To be honest all of it is very Christmas-themed, which isn’t very inclusive, so it’s something to be aware of depending on your work team and what you do or don’t know of them.

    1. Anononon*

      Yeah, I think this would be really difficult to do in any type of office that’s larger than a handful of people (who you know all celebrate Christmas). Just slapping on the word “holiday” doesn’t make Christmas trees secular/all inclusive.

      1. Taking the long way round*

        I should have clarified that this is what we do in the team I’m in now! I didn’t read the bit about teams across the world until after I’d posted. That will teach me to not pay attention :( sorry OP. Perhaps there are some adaptable ideas there.

        Otherwise, money and time off is always welcome if you can’t get together to eat together even virtually.

    2. anna green*

      My brain hilariously considered what type of jumping could possibly be involved in a holiday jumping competition… is there festive rope involved? is it a type of trust exercise? And then I was like… oh wait, sweater.

    3. HannahS*

      Yeah, really seconding Anononon*. It’s great that you love it, but I’m Jewish and this would be a hard no from me. I wouldn’t attend and would find it all pretty alienating.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this. I’m a non-believer in a historically Christian but nowadays largely secular country. Because we have an official state church (actually two, the Lutheran and Russian Orthodox churches) and I work for the government, we have time off for all of the major Christian holidays including Christmas Eve, because Lutherans celebrate on the 24th. I’m not sure if we currently have any Muslim or Jewish employees, but the ones we’ve had in the past have had to request time off for their religious holidays. Granted, our PTO is very generous by American standards, and if there’s an issue of coverage, the person citing a religious holiday would probably get priority, but I still feel that it’s unfair.

        For me as a secular person, our Christmas celebrations have seemed secular enough. We’ve eaten traditional food and snacks, and the reason why the tradition exists hasn’t really been mentioned at work. That said, I’m not sure how secular the celebrations would feel to a Jewish or Muslim coworker, or for that matter, a Buddhist or Hindu one…

  11. Philly Redhead*

    Our office has an annual internal awards ceremony that serves as our end-of-year party. Each office location would have a camera broadcasting the conference room and have a projector screen set up to see the other locations’ rooms. This year, we’re doing the whole thing virtually.

    Individual departments would usually have holiday potlucks and a white elephant gift swap. We haven’t heard anything yet, but I’m betting we just have a Zoom happy hour or something.

  12. Box of Kittens*

    We usually do an employee dinner, so instead this year we are delivering catered holiday meals to each location for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. (We are essential so very very few of us work from home now.) We had the staff vote on the meal choices, which was a hit. We are also doing an online logo wear store for Christmas and giving everyone a set amount to spend, and will have 4 options of nice, logo outerwear for them to choose from. Honestly, I think this is a nicer spend of our usual budget than a sit down dinner and it still commemorates the holiday.

    1. Cascadia*

      I’d love some free nice outerwear! Especially if there are choices and the set amount to spend would cover the entire cost of one item. If they say here’s $20 off and all the items cost $100 or more, than that’s a no go.

      1. Zephy*

        If I’m dropping a c-note on a jacket it had better be the Greatest Jacket Ever Manufactured. It better fit me like a glove and make me look 30 pounds lighter.

  13. TC*

    I’d love ideas for SMALL global teams– we’re 4 including myself, all remote. I won’t have any budget, but do still think doing something might be fun. We don’t do a lot of team-building given the nature of our work, but hoping to think of something low-key.

    1. old curmudgeon*

      Try an online global scavenger hunt – as noted in a different post, my elder kid’s employer did that and it was a huge hit.

      1. TC*

        I’m looking into the scavenger hunt idea, sounds like it could be fun! I wouldn’t be able to participate as the one making the list, but hopefully it wouldn’t be too silly with only 3 people participating. I’d have to think hard about not making it accidentally American-focused, when only one person is US based.

        1. old curmudgeon*

          If I recall my Elder Kid’s description accurately, they did a kind of a variation of the game “Where in the world is Carmen SanDiego?” so the clues were global, not US-centric.

    2. KS*

      We’re a small team and have been remote for years — last year we did a “craft + fave beverage” gathering. Mailed everyone supplies to make a gingerbread house or snowglobe (I think it was like $15-$20 a person), and then gathered to craft together. We don’t do a lot of team building or casual hanging outside work either, so this worked well in avoiding awkward zoom convos.

      1. ThatGirl*

        My company makes gingerbread houses (among many other things) and in years past there have been tons of extras around for people to have department contests with or take home or whatever. I wonder if they’re gonna mail those out this year.

    3. Marika*

      So, a couple of thoughts depending on budget:

      A) A board game party – try boardgamearena.com – whacks of well-implemented online board games and only one person needs to have a membership for everyone to play ‘premium’ games… And a membership is two bucks a month, and you can buy it for one month! Put everyone in a voice only/video chat and play games for an hour.

      B) Depending on where people are, order kit boxes (we like kiwico for projects, even if they’re geared for kids – the maker ones are darn complicated) and ship them to people. Have a video party while creating together.

      C) Have everyone pick a recipe/drink/instructions for an edible of your choice that’s easy, and potentially representative of where they are. Send them out a week or two in advance. Everyone makes them, gets together for 20-30 min and noshes together.

      Full disclosure: my husband has done all three of these with his larger team (California, NY, London, Tel-Aviv, Tokyo) over the past seven months – but they’re all geeks of varying levels – and technically they’ve done some of them in two gatherings, because finding one time slot for that group is murder!

    4. TiffIf*

      As a team building activity (not a holiday party) my team has played Among Us a few times. Its is free on mobile–desktop version is like $5 on steam. Fun, quick and easy.
      We’ve also done some Jackbox games as well (some games work better than others for accommodating newbies and people who are more familiar and you need to make sure to turn on the family friendly setting for a work event). For Jackbox games only the host needs to purchase-those who join have no cost.

  14. Random Commenter*

    Perhaps a little off topic:

    What does a company do if it’s laid off some people due to the pandemic?
    On the one hand, sending out end of the year gifts could be good for morale.
    On the other hand, people could consider it frivolous if the company was in a state where it couldn’t keep everyone on (even though gifts cost significantly less than a salary)

    1. TimeTravlR*

      Someone else posted the idea of time off? Maybe give everyone a few extra days of vacation time next year? If your company has a use it or lose it policy, consider not taking any unused days (although that might upset people who burned it just to use it already) in addition to giving them more time off next year. We still might not be traveling much next year but with trying to balance family and school and work, it might come in handy!

    2. Alice's Rabbit*

      Free, fun activities on zoom during business hours on one of the last days of work before the holidays, and a couple extra – paid! – days off.

  15. Richard Hershberger*

    My boss usually gives me a Christmas bonus. That certainly is fun! It’s been a rough year, financially. I’m not getting my normal raise. But I am optimistic about at least a modest bonus.

  16. greenius*

    One thing my department did over the summer in lieu of some in-person events that were canceled was to give everyone an extra half day off. We had to schedule it out so we could maintain coverage, but it didn’t count against PTO and we still got paid. If your team would normally shut down phones or production for a holiday event, consider just letting everyone have that time for themselves.

    1. Just J.*

      This is a grand idea.

      I know we normally close a few hours early on the day before holidays, but it’s always a guessing game as to whether or not it will really happen and / or how many hours it would be.

      A pre-announced gift of a half day off for Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve would be awesome.

    2. Fourth and Inches*

      Our end of year celebration is usually a big lunch and then we get the rest of the afternoon off. This year, they’re sending a food related gift to our homes and giving us the afternoon off. We’re all pretty pumped about it.

    1. TC*

      Once thing I always appreciated about my office before I was remote was the holiday party started earlier the afternoon, wasn’t too long, and wrapped up around the time people would normally leave work. I was always so grateful it wasn’t a Friday at 5 thing!

    2. allathian*

      Yikes. I’d definitely skip this if at all possible. I’d be willing to spend some of my social capital at work to do so. YMMV.

  17. MusicWithRocksIn*

    I want to learn more about online escape rooms! Like, is a video game you all play together, or more of a zoom thing. Sign me right up for a group activity that doesn’t involve the camera being on.

    1. Francocaro*

      I just did one last night with my team. It was a zoom meeting and there was someone in the escape room with a camera on her head. We also had a website to view what clues we found in the room. We would tell the person in the room what to do. It was super fun! I’d highly recommend it.

      1. Francocaro*

        They did encourage everyone to keep their cameras on and their line off mute but you absolutely don’t have to. I barely looked at my team because I was so focused on the room and the clues.

    2. Amaranth*

      if you search on ‘virtual escape room’ you can find a lot of companies who have started offering online experiences and articles reviewing them for team building/parties/etc. You usually book a time and there are different fees based on group size and room. Philadelphia has an online version of Operation Bank Heist (also a physical escape room) you can try for $5 if you just want to see if you like it, but I think there are some free ones out there as well.

    3. Colette*

      Some of them are basically websites – you work with your team to figure out the puzzles and progress through the room. (The one I built starts here: https://girlguidestravel.wixsite.com/website/laurasecord). If you’re not in the same location as the people you’re playing with, a zoom room is useful so you can all see the same screen (even if you’re doing things individually).

    4. LDF*

      The one I’ve done was a normal escape rom but navigated like a point-and-click video game where we tell the host with a go pro what to do. From researching online it seems some rooms have various online inventory systems but some are just a hodt with a gopro. Fun either way! I definitely recommend it if you like non-virtual escape rooms.

  18. Belladonna*

    Our company usually has parties at each geographic location. Dinner, drinks, entertainment at a fancy hotel. Obviously, this year’s virtual party will be much less extravagant. So instead, each employee gets to choose one of four charities (local to your workplace) to donate the usual cost per person spent on the in-person event.

    1. nm*

      I love this idea! Yes, it doesn’t really “substitute” a party but doing something for the community certainly does help foster a sense of community among the participants!

      1. Belladonna*

        Definitely. We’re an essential business (not healthcare), so we haven’t experienced the hardships that many other industries have during the pandemic. I think it’s a really self-aware and thoughtful choice. Its important to note that in addition to our party, every year we also receive a bonus and a gift basket (candies, cheese, etc). We’ll still get those.

    2. Alice's Rabbit*

      Ugh, I hate that idea. I have always loathed people or companies that donate to charities in lieu of actually giving a gift.
      I donate quite a bit to charities. But that’s a private matter, and only to organizations I have carefully researched so I know exactly where the money is going.
      But donating on my behalf just feels like they’re being smug and self-righteous.

  19. Llellayena*

    There are team-oriented online escape rooms? Cool! I’ve done some individual ones, but I didn’t know there could be a team version. How do those work, anyone know?

    1. Francocaro*

      I just replied to MusicWithRocksIn with this:
      I just did one last night with my team. It was a zoom meeting and there was someone in the escape room with a camera on her head. We also had a website to view what clues we found in the room. We would tell the person in the room what to do. It was super fun! I’d highly recommend it. they recommended that you keep your video on and stay off mute, but I would say the video was unnecessary.

  20. Ann O'Nemity*

    We’re sending out gifts, hosting a one-hour virtual happy hour, and closing early. The gift bags will include a gift card, locally made candies, and company-branded swag.

    For reference, we usually do an in-person event with a fabulous catered lunch, alcoholic beverages, and a boisterous white elephant gift exchange.

  21. Llama Groomer*

    My large multi-national company usually has our boss take us out to a group lunch. This year instead we get to order our choice of 1 of 4 swag bags. One has some tech items like a Bluetooth speaker and ring light, one has a cool bag, lunch box and ppe, one is a snack box, and the last option is donate your snack box to a food pantry.

    1. Lora*

      Oh, I like the idea of donating your choice to a charity – would totally do this if it was an option for me!

    2. Littorally*

      Oh, that’s a neat way to do it — choose your own swag gives people with different interests some control over the process. I especially like the inclusion of the donation option.

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        I agree with the first part, but the donation option would feel sort of like pressure to me. You know how people sometimes give the “most socially acceptable” option on surveys, instead of answering honestly? I’d feel kind of like that, like I had to pick the donation option or forever be branded as one of those assholes who just want things for themselves. Or something like that. Maybe I’m just weird.

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          Yeah, I really dislike when people give to charities in someone else’s name in lieu of a gift. It just feels so self-righteous and pretentious. They get all the credit of donating to the charity without actually spending any money they wouldn’t have spent otherwise.
          If I want to donate to a charity, I will. Privately. Quietly. After carefully researching them to ensure the money goes to the cause they claim to support, instead of funding political campaigns and massively inflated corporate paychecks.

          1. Spencer Hastings*

            A donation has been made in your name to the Human Fund!

            I would actually mind less if my employer sent out a message saying “instead of a holiday party this year, we’ve decided to donate X dollars to the local food bank” — management here is big on that sort of thing anyway — than posing it as a choice. Because it’s such a loaded choice!

  22. KayDeeAye*

    We are planning several things. A spare conference room (and they are pretty much all “spare” these days since we’re only in the office a couple days a week and aren’t allowing in-person meetings anyway) has already been set up with twinkly lights and decorated boxes labeled with the name of each member of the staff. The boxes are for our traditional Christmas card exchange.

    We’ve also been given a choice of small Christmas gifts – i.e., we can pick between A, B and C, and while small – no diamonds or anything – they are nice choices. The committee (of course there’s a committee) wanted to gift cards, but gift cards from one’s employer apparently count as taxable income.

    And finally, we’ll be doing a virtual party that’s supposed to last about an hour.

    So…not bad, or so it seems to me.

    1. KayDeeAye*

      I can’t imaging any of this working with a multi-national company, though. We’re small potatoes, which is why it will probably work fine here.

  23. Washi*

    This is low cost and higher labor, but I would love to get an individualized note from my manager recognizing specifically my work/what I bring to the team/why she likes working with me. Or maybe peers could write appreciative notes to each other.

    I’m in kind of an unusual job where I’m in healthcare and seeing patients but also our team members rarely see each other since we’re all out in the field, so personal recognition would feel really nice.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Only do this if you actually know what your employees do and what your employee considers their strengths to be. Personally, I’d be horrified to get this note.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        You’d be horrified to get a thoughtful note from your manager thanking you for your contributions?

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          In my last job, I was essentially onsite IT support, application development, and data processing. I was also the first person to the building in the morning and entrusted with a key. (I didn’t want it, but I lived far enough away that being on-time 95% of the time meant being 20-30 minutes early 90% of the time, and I could use that time productively).

          My current employer would follow those instructions to write me a note saying “Thank you for unlocking the door every morning and getting us started” rather than thank me for the nearly $1MM in busywork that I’ve automated away in the last 5 years. Not to mention about half of the errors that were made before I was hired simply aren’t possible to make now.

          Maybe “horrified” wasn’t the right word. But it’d be closer than “appreciated” and “motivated” would be. I’m far happier in the fantasy that I’m appreciated for the impactful things I do than the boxes I check.

          1. Tiny Kong*

            At that point though, is there anything your company could do that would make you feel appreciated?
            This seems like a negative version of “not everyone can eat sandwiches” and not especially helpful to OP or the thread.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              I’m just pointing out how this can backfire if the boss doesn’t have a good understanding of what’s going on at ground zero. I may be unique that I haven’t had a supervisor who can cover for me for 13+ of the last 15 years, but I don’t think I am.

              I think I’ve been consistent that I feel appreciated when I feel listened to. Granted, you’re not going to create that feeling with a simple annual gesture.

      2. LQ*

        Honestly sometimes people are wrong about what their strengths are, or what matters to the company, and if you’re horrified by what your employer says they value about you maybe you need to look for a new job because you’re on such a different page that it horrifies you to get a thank you note from your boss. Either your boss is such a collossal jerk that they can’t even say thank you right, or you are valued for things that are so radically different from what you thoughs you were that you aren’t even doing a job close to what you thought.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I guess my employer will know which vision is closer to the truth when I’m gone; someday, I’ll retire and/or they’ll replace me.

    2. MsMaryMary*

      I suggested a similar idea to my boss last week, and I think leadership is going to do it! They’re going to mail cards to each employee’s home address thanking everyone for all their hard work and perseverance this year. I don’t know how much detail the notes will go into, but I know my manager bought a bunch of cards with a “goodbye and good riddance 2020!” theme.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      I do this every year for my team members and they seem to really like it. I also get them a small gift that aligns with something they like, a hobby, a gift card for coffee, stuff like that. Sure, it’s a little labor-intensive, but I feel good doing it, they seem to like it, and it reminds me of all the great work they’ve done over the past year. I only wish my boss would do the same thing. She’s a good boss, but not really prone to doing things like that.

    4. ErinWV*

      It’s a nice idea, but the person to whom I am administrative assistant has 60 people under her and I’m getting hives just thinking of trying to support her through that process.

  24. Loosey Goosey*

    Whatever you do, schedule it during the last hour or two of the workday. Don’t make people use their personal time for a work function this year.

    1. earl grey aficionado*

      Yeah, the virtual events I’ve seen really succeed with friends/family this year have all been held during the last hour or two of the work day. Maybe hold the (virtual) space for an extra hour or so after the work day ends in case people want to stay late and chat but I’m guessing most people will want to be done on time (or earlier – if you’re able, letting people leave early that day seems like an excellent way to build up warm fuzzy feelings on your team).

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      Yes this absolutely. I really dislike when work events extend past the workday. I’m past the point in my life where fancy food/drinks at work feel worth it to give up my personal time.

      1. allathian*

        Me too. I enjoy working with the vast majority of my coworkers. I’ll happily attend celebratory events at work during the workday, and I’m happy to talk non-work stuff with my coworkers when there’s time to do so. This doesn’t mean that I’m willing to give up time I’d otherwise spend with my family to spend it with them. At least not very often, once a year, maybe. Luckily these things tend to be completely optional at my office. Last time I attended a company Christmas party was 3 years ago. It was held at a fairly remote location with a stated ending time. After that, they had chartered buses to a transport hub. Those who wanted to continued to party and I just took an almost empty bus home. This was way past the time I normally go to bed, and I’m not a night owl… I didn’t drink enough to have a hangover, but I was tired the next day. That’s when I decided that I would only attend our company Christmas parties in future if they’re held downtown so that I can leave when I want to.

    3. Telly Lace*

      My company’s Christmas lunch/party is always on the clock and during the work day (and then we get the last half of the day off) and it is truly the best way to do it!

      I used to work for a company that did, three, yes, THREE after-work Christmas parties (one for just employees, one for employees and partners, one for employees and entire family) every year that weren’t technically mandatory but the owner would not be happy with you if you didn’t show up and bring the people you were supposed to, and so many of us hated it and felt like morale went down after the events. They did all this stuff instead of giving us bonuses because they were cheap as hell and everyone knew it.

    4. Charlotte Lucas*

      Ours is in the middle of the workday. We usually have a potluck, so we’re doing some games & a virtual cookie exchange. (Government agency, so no party budget.) We have a lot of new staff & really wanted to give them a chance to get to know people outside of meetings.

    5. tiny cactus*

      Or in place of a party, I bet most people would enjoy a brief online activity with coworkers, and then an afternoon (or longer) off work. I realize it’s not really in the spirit of a traditional party, but everyone loves time off.

    6. Insert Clever Name Here*

      My team has been doing a virtual happy hour once a month, no work talk allowed, that is scheduled during the last two hours of the work day. It only lasts for the first hour and then our boss tells us we’re free to “leave” an hour early.

  25. Stained Glass Cannon*

    My company has been using Airmeet to hold online parties for a while. People dress up for the camera, someone plays music, there are quizzes and games using a whole lot of different apps, the random chit-chat is sort-of duplicated with a speed networking function and pre-set discussion topics. At one point they tried to send food and drinks to people’s houses, but this hasn’t worked out so well because everyone’s dispersed all over the country and some people went back to their home countries before the borders closed (it’s a very, very remote team right now!) Not sure how we’re going to manage gifts, possibly some kind of online shopping vouchers.

  26. Seven If You Count Bad John*

    Our company has had a couple of drive-through events set up in the parking lot of the main company campus. Instead of the usual tables and activities they had booths set up where treat were handed through the window. Not my cup of tea but a lot of people seemed to like it!

  27. Eternally Tired*

    This year my company is opting not to meet at all — but allowing employees to spend up to $75 at a local restaurant and then reimbursing them. So letting everyone kind of have a treat and a little celebration, but separate from one another.

      1. A*

        Luckily take out is a thing that exists. My company is doing the same – we have a set amount we are authorized to charge to our company credit card, and everyone orders from whatever place they want to. People that are less comfortable going out to pick things up could choose to use a portion of it to cover the delivery fees.

        Not sure why you’d jump to assuming there’s irresponsible behavior going on. This has been a rough year on everyone, I think we should be gentle with each other and at the very least give the benefit of the doubt when there’s zero indication of an issue.

      2. Eternally Tired*

        For the record, they strongly suggested doing takeout and celebrating at home. Obviously they can’t force anyone to do this, but their intent was very clearly for us to celebrate safely at home.

  28. Lora*

    We were sent an email with a link to one of those places that does corporate-logo-embroidered stuff, and it offered a choice of gifts with the company logo on. Supposedly shipping to us next week, no idea what quality it will be though. The options were:
    1. Messenger bag type computer bag, fancy pens, masks
    2. Computer backpack, masks
    3. Beer cooler, towel, masks
    4. Towel, charger thingy for the company provided electronics, chocolate, scented candle, masks

    The usual holiday party is held at a fancy hotel ballroom with a DJ and has what is probably pretty decent food for mass cooking buffet type deals. Pre-Covid that hotel charged about $300/night for rooms, and they would allow us a block of rooms at a 50% discount which generally rented out quickly so people could drink seriously and not have to drive. It was the sort of event where you are Expected to bring a partner of some sort and almost nobody goes by themselves, and then the spouses all make awkward conversations and it’s sort of a toss up whether I, the only woman in my group, will be chatting with the wives or whether the men will talk about work stuff with me. I hate these type of things but it’s very much expected that you’ll attend at most places I’ve worked – at least to put in an appearance. I am happy to have the corporate logo gift even though it’ll likely be thrown in the back of my car and promptly forgotten, because I can escape the awkwardness and travel annoyance of the party.

    Other people enjoyed it though – if you are into staying at fancy hotels by the ocean (at night, when it’s cold) and you’re not much of a foodie or alcoholic drink snob, and you like pop music, then it’s probably great. It’s not my jam and I hate driving three hours to this place just to put in an appearance and then count the minutes before I can bail.

    1. allathian*

      Driving three hours for putting in an appearance? And then driving the same hours back? That’s insane! I’d be willing to spend quite a bit of my capital at an employer like this to avoid it.

  29. JSPA*


    If you find charades torture in person, they’re not going to be more fun over zoom.

    But for those who do enjoy, it’s pretty similar over zoom. Better, in some ways, in that you can zoom in on fingers, if you’d rather act out people and scenes with your fingers, rather than full body acting.

    If you don’t want to be cheap, combine it with a very small box of art/craft supplies (ideally also useful for other home-use purposes–e.g. construction paper, paperclips, ball of string, scissors, double-sided sticky tape, couple of crayons; if you want to get fancy, add a headband or stocking cap) and limit charades costuming to whatever can be made from the contents of the box.

    You can do prizes for “best use of craft,” “best performance with no props,” “best close-up” performance.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      We try to get together with friends online. We have used Steam to play games but this sounds like fun. They are two of the funniest people I know so I have a notion this could be a real hoot!

    2. Cascadia*

      You can also make things a fun crafting challenge. Give everyone a pack of straws and pack of pipe cleaners and then a small plastic animal, and a mini tape measure. It’s a contest to build the tallest tower that can support the animal on top. Other challenges including using toothpicks and marshmallows to build the tallest tower, or a deck of cards and one roll of scotch tape. This would be great because everyone could be on zoom building it together and commenting, but they’re not focused on a screen.

  30. Nicki Name*

    My company is doing something virtual but the details haven’t been disclosed yet. All we know is that we’re supposed to wear ugly sweaters if we have them and we’ll be getting something in the mail ahead of time.

  31. Pretzelgirl*

    I doubt my place will do anything. We typically keep any kind of celebration at department level. In years past, we have gone out to a really nice dinner and drinks. But I doubt that will happen. We are an essential business and have been coming into the office (we can’t be remote) for the entire pandemic. I might offer up the suggestion of have a catered lunch, that people can come grab and take back to their work stations or office.

  32. Victoria, Please*

    We’re in an area with very mild weather so I think we’re going to try an outdoor get-together with our small team, BYOF&D. Bring your kid, your dog, and your SO. I have clear face masks to give everyone. During work hours, we’ll just pick a super slow day.

    This is *if* county regulations allow such a gathering. We’ll assess that closer to the time.

    1. DrSalty*

      My company did this earlier in the year and it was nice. The owner set up a cook out in the parking lot on a Friday afternoon and made burgers for everyone who wanted to stop by.

  33. Khloe*

    If it’s a large group, give people time off or money. If it’s a small/close-knit group, reach out see if there’s something in particular they’d like to do virtually and make it optional. For some it will just be a strange time to celebrate.

  34. Brett*

    Diwali is a pretty big deal for us at end of year. The details are still under wraps, other than a live streaming event and a photo contest.
    I suspect what is going to happen is that the music acts are prerecording and there will be live dance performances streamed from people’s home. The food will be missed, but many employees are organizing orders to local restaurants to eat at home during the celebration.

  35. KiwiApple*

    Someone in my team has found this website: www(dot)officechristmas(dot)co(dot)uk/christmas-party/virtual-christmas-parties

  36. Dust Bunny*

    COMPLETELY OPTIONAL Zoom parties with simple games that win you little prizes. Everybody gets a small gift bag.

  37. earl grey aficionado*

    Throughout the pandemic my wife’s team has been doing virtual happy hours (alcohol extremely optional) as well as occasional blocks of low-key “fun work” time (she’s in a creative field, so people have plenty of pet projects to work on) and both have been a hit. People dip in and out, just like they would at a real happy hour or party, and it seems like it’s been a nice way to meet everyone where they’re at in this incredibly stressful time. Maybe you could add a cash bonus, gift card, or some kind of food/beverage treat for your employees in order to make it a little more celebratory? (Just make sure it’s something everyone can eat!)

    Personally, I would love to do a virtual puzzle room at work, but I also think a lot of people aren’t going to want to do something that involves that much brain power right now. I would tread carefully with that idea.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      … Thank you, a large portion of my Christmas shopping is now within my grasp. I like to do experience gifts and was trying to figure out how I was going to do that this year, but some of these are RIGHT up my husband’s alley!!

    2. Bluebell*

      Not for work, but we did an awesome nachos and dog party. It was so fun. The Drag Queens & Sangria is still on my list.

  38. Classic Rando*

    My company never does holiday parties, but my husband’s usually does. They’re in manufacturing and are essential so the office has been open this whole time just with added cleaning and safely stuff. Their usual holiday parties are pretty extravagant, but since they knew it wouldn’t be possible this year they had a big cookout in the parking lot instead, but still had all the bells and whistles, including swag bags with practical items like branded (and reversible!) masks, high end insulated travel bottles, and so on. They also held their usual raffles which include items like TVs and other things that people would actually want. I’m told a good time was had by all, and they basically only worked a half day before the party started.

  39. HR Lady*

    Get your team together, send them a goodie hamper (food/drinks) or give them a gift card to get their own and then get some entertainment on Zoom, there’s some innovative stuff happening now! Performers are hurting hard this year and will absolutely be willing to work with you and your timings; a lot are now teaching fun skills for a nice 30/60minute session. Examples I’ve seen and/or know personally are:

    – Drag queen teaching knitting (really)
    – Close up magic!
    – Cocktail making classes
    – Stand up comedy
    – Virtual bingo (this is can possibly be a slightly more raucous game here in the UK…)
    – Balloon making
    – Child-friendly improv battle

    I am fairly sure my firm is actually just going to not do anything, mind you. And I’m in a minority but I sort of like the usual Christmas party nonsense, I’m kind of sad to miss it this year.

  40. Keymaster of Gozer*

    We’re planning several (not on public servers) games like Among Us being played online. Also there’s a lot of games like ‘D&D’ and ‘Werewolf’ going on online. Basically we’re just finding what people want to play and going for it.

  41. Managed Chaos*

    Doordash gift cards or similar for a meal on the company and maybe remote gift exchange are two ideas I had. Online parties fall flat for me. We are back in the office, but with concerted efforts to be behind our individual office doors but I have no idea what we will do.

  42. Emby*

    i work for the govt, so i don’t think they can change the usual party to gift cards or bonuses. i’m hoping that if we do something, it’s small and short.
    i’m also worried that this will somehow up the chistmas-ness of the whole thing (note: not everyone celebrates christmas). i heard rumor of holiday decorations contest… which…no. we don’t decorate for hannukah normally (unless you count the menorah and the splatters of grease on the walls from latkes), and now that we have a mobile child, decorations just seem like an invitation for more destruction and mayhem.

    1. DataGirl*

      When I worked for a government org we did cubicle decoration contests- I won second place with my Hanukkah themed cube one year. I wouldn’t want to have to compete with decorations in my house though.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      Also govt. We’re doing a “decorate your pet” contest. We are allowing for inanimate objects, like plants, stuffed animals, and figurines. And no specific holiday being focused on.

  43. Anon4This*

    My employer just announced today they’ll be giving everyone a one time, $1000 appreciation payment as a thank you the day before Thanksgiving. This is unheard of for our organization and the timing is greatly appreciated as it will help people who otherwise might not be able to afford holiday meals/gifts for their families. I know my family was planning on skipping Christmas presents this year, and now I’ll be able to use that money to do online Black Friday shopping and actually give my kids gifts.

  44. Katertot*

    We were able to do family meals for our employees. We’re working with local restaurants (some minority-owned) to provide cold reheatable family meals that our employees will take home to enjoy with their family. It’s a way for us to provide food and a ‘gathering’ without being onsite and in groups.

  45. Firecat*

    My company he
    Ored a virtual magician and invited family to join as we all joined on teams. It was a lot of fun! It also felt nice to give business to an industry that was undoubtedly hit hard by Covid.

    Other things we did: virtual raffles with prizes shipped, team coring on a virtual whiteboard, bingo, jeopardy, etc. It was a lot of fun and a great way to connect with staff. It was 100% voluntary.

  46. Amethystmoon*

    As far as I know, nothing has been announced fir more December. We used to, before the takeover, have a holiday party in the cafeteria and everyone would get a free lunch. The company did hand out free turkeys but I let mine go to charity. Too much for a single person and we don’t even know for sure if travel will be allowed yet.

  47. Malarkey01*

    Our office is planning two option events. One is a gingerbread house session where they’ll send you the kit, walk you through assembly, and then you can decorate with the provided candy and icing or your own. Then there will be a contest with prizes for best house, most creative house, house that looks like the before pic on a HDTV show, etc.

    The second event is a winter wreath demo where again supplies are sent to people’s houses and you can follow along with the demo and put a non-denominational winter wreath together.

    I sort of roll my eyes at these, but they did a pumpkin carving contest earlier in the fall and people got very very VERY into it, and someone offered to lead a “how to make the perfect apple pie” for Thanksgiving and the voluntary sign-up had over 500 people. We’re hearing from some people that while it’s not for everyone, having three hours on a Friday afternoon to do something fun together is really appreciated so we’re providing it for those who like/need it.

    1. Delta Delta*

      These events sound like fun. It’s low key, it’s something to do (which seems more fun than mingling at a party with coworkers), and it lets people be creative or not.

    2. Ms Frizzle*

      Our art teacher is working on putting together simple kits for an easy, inexpensive winter craft that we can opt into doing with her on Zoom for our holiday party.

    3. Alice's Rabbit*

      That sounds ideal. Letting folks sign up who want to, different options to appeal to a wider number of people, and non of them particularly themed to a specific religious holiday or otherwise exclusionary (like some of the alcohol related suggestions I’ve seen up-thread).

  48. AnonCommunicator*

    I actually planned an online team building events couple of months ago. It went really well and people loved it. The group was attorneys and paralegals and their admins. It was through a company whose name I can tell you if you all ask, but I’m not here to advertise for them. My point is, if you still have budget, there are vendors out there who can manage the whole thing. My team did a trivia/photo challenge type thing, but there are more options just with that same company. The cost overall was less than we would have spent for an in person event. I highly recommend paying professionals who have spent 9 months refining their online event capabilities rather than engineering your own!

  49. Holiday Anon*

    Our team has been fully remote for years, and we’ve always done Zoom parties. Here are some of the ideas we’ve done in the past:
    – Everyone finds a few songs on Spotify and sends the links to the organizer. The organizer creates a playlist for the party and for everyone to enjoy afterward.
    – We usually exchange names and have a small gift with a “rule.” For example, last year we had to determine our dream gift and then submit its initials to the giver (e.g., if my dream gift is Yankees season tickets, my initials are YST). Then the giver finds a gift under $10 that has those initials (e.g., a Year’s Supply of Toothpicks). We open them on camera, and it’s a lot of fun.
    – When we had a smaller team, we had a $3 limit and had to buy one identical $3 item for each person on the team. We sent them to the team lead, who created packages for everyone with one of each gift. At the party, they’d say “Everyone open gift #7,” and we’d guess who’d given it. There was a prize for the person who got the most correct.

    1. Cascadia*

      Love these ideas! The song idea especially. Another fun one can be for everyone to think back to their very first concert they went to and pick a song from that concert. Then you make up a playlist of one song from each person and everyone has to guess who’s first concert that was. It’s super fun and generally makes for some fun music listening.

    2. Grinchygrinch*

      I love these ideas (Cascadia’s too, below), and I don’t even like parties. I would participate in any of these. Most useful comment I’ve read so far!

  50. Ferret*

    I did a zoom baking class that was really fun and they have been promoting the option to use it for work events so that or another cooking event might be an option you could look at. I’t nice to end up with something you can enjoy at home, especially a seasonal recipe of some kind.

    To avoid turning it into more work it might be worth checking if there are options that send you the ingredients ahead of time, I know our charity committee held a cocktail-making event where everything was included in the ticket.

    As with any successful work event the key is probably going to be gauging interest and making it truly optional

    PS. Side note but am I the only one really irritated at the dozen or so comments that have already appeared with some variation of ‘just give cash or a gift card!’. Alison specifically addressed the people who always seem to crop up hating on any sort of event. There are actually people like me who enjoy the chance to interact casually with my colleagues, especially when so many opportunities for that have been drastically reduced.

  51. LVB*

    We are sending out Hello Fresh gift cards and little spoons with hot coco on the end with a holiday card. Our monthly town hall will have an ugly sweater contest and some holiday music. Done and done!

    1. No Longer Working*

      Unless I’m reading this incorrectly, according to the HelloFresh website, in order to use the gift card, they have to give a credit card number. I wouldn’t want to do that because of all the breaches happening these days. Are you sure no one has a problem with this?

      “I am redeeming a free box or gift card. Why do I need to enter a payment method?
      …We simply ask for a valid payment method so that you can easily convert your account to a subscription if you wish to continue after receiving your free box.”

      1. Amaranth*

        You make a good point, I don’t like putting my card number on file even for convenience. Also, not everyone has credit cards.

  52. Red*

    My company typically does a holiday luncheon and raffles. This year though they’re providing everyone with pizza vouchers but still doing the raffles at work.

  53. Casey*

    I went to a virtual conference that offered options for the “casual” part — I did the cooking lesson, where they sent the recipe (and a food delivery service gift card) ahead of time, and some of the organizers led us in making it. It worked great, but I think 10-15 people is probably the limit before it gets unmanageable.
    Other options had included: trivia night, CodeNames (a game), Jackbox (a set of online party games — best for 8 people or less, unless you’re willing to take turns), a Powerpoint Party (everyone makes their own short, casual presentation on something fun and lighthearted, like “Why Elementary is Better than Sherlock” or “Breeds of Dog That Are Probably Aliens”), yoga, Drag Night (it was a conference for queer undergrads, so there were a lot of performers and enthusiasts in the crowd– maybe would not recommend for the office, unless you’re like, super cool), a Murder Mystery night, a Paint Along (gift cards were sent out ahead of time for supplies), and a dance lesson.

    I think the most important part is that there is something To Do, if you hold a live event, because mingling on Zoom is excruciating, even moreso than in person.

    1. Fried Eggs*

      With the right team, that PowerPoint party would be amazing. Not sure I have that much faith in my current coworkers’ sense of humor, but my last team would have had each other in tears laughing. Especially if there was a bit of booze involved.

  54. Kimberly*

    We are doing a virtual chocolate tasting with my team. The chocolate tasting person is mailing out the tasting kits to all of us and will lead us through the tasting via zoom. I cannot wait.

  55. mlem*

    When my group has wanted to celebrate milestone achievements this year, we’ve had themed Zoom meetings — one Jackbox party, one round of “work-safe Cards Against Humanity”, a short magic show by the group magician, that kind of thing. One to two hours, during work hours. My larger group has also done just “happy hours” at a time that is later than most of the group work (but still within my work hours, ha), and they’ve even arranged things so that I can join a little late, once all the talk about various forms of alcohol dies down but in time for whatever game is on offer.

    I’m usually a “money or time off” person, and I’ve enjoyed these — they’re fun and low-key and easy to drop out of if they get to be too much.

  56. BeenThere*

    My team just celebrated the successful end of a large project. The boss sent us each a bag that had a small bottle of champagne (or other drink), a cup, some high-end snacks, and a thank you card. She had us wait until a Zoom meeting to open the bag. We opened the bags and the bottles, poured the beverages, and happily chatted for about an hour. It was lovely and worked for our small team of 12. I’m not sure how well this would work with a larger group, but perhaps it could start with a general Zoom meeting and then go to breakout rooms.

  57. A Simple Narwhal*

    Money and/or time off. Bonus if you can do both! I appreciate when my company tries to do a big event, but every time they say “ok we’re all going to leave at X time to go do [thing]” I’ve always felt that I would prefer if I could just go home right then instead. It’s even worse if the big event is after hours, so I have to work a full day and then give up my evening.

    I’d honestly feel pretty holly jolly if they said “Happy holidays! Instead of a party this year everyone can sign off at 3.” Those 2 hours would feel pretty great to have back and be minimally invasive to the work day.

  58. Teache*

    I’m a teacher (we’re doing in person school) and we did a Halloween party over Zoom for the kids! They loved it.

  59. irene adler*

    I’m hoping for c-suite folks to take some time to recognize the efforts of those who went above and beyond the call over this past year. Not just mention them; talk about how such efforts helped the company/employees.

    And cash is good too.

  60. CRM*

    We are doing a virtual gingerbread house contest. Everyone on my team was provided the chance to opt-in, and those who opted in will be sent the necessary materials (we were able to confidentially provide our addresses, unlike the one of the poor LWs in the previous post). Then we will make and display our products in an afternoon over Zoom. I thought it was a creative and fun idea, and the whole family can be involved if they want to!

  61. SummerBee*

    I heard an interesting idea for a virtual team event from one of our agencies – they have been doing “Cook-Along” Zoom meetings on Friday afternoons. They get a list of ingredients in advance, and then they join a virtual meeting where one of their Account Directors leads them through the steps to cook the dish, broadcasting on phone and iPad. They said it has been really fun, and he explains it clearly enough that even non-cooks can get a good result.

  62. HugsAreNotTolerated*

    We’re sending a turkey & a pecan pie to each person’s home and calling it a day. If they don’t want the turkey? Cool, we’ll donate it to a local homeless shelter in your name. Don’t want the pie? When it’s delivered to your home just give it to someone else.

    1. DataGirl*

      And hope they don’t have a deathly nut allergy triggered by having a pie in their home they have to then get rid of.

      1. Belle*

        This was my first thought too. We have a severe nut allergy in our home and this could trigger a severe reaction. And if the turkey is in the same box, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the turkey then in case of cross contamination. I hope you reconsider and ask if anyone has an allergy before sending.

    2. ThatGirl*

      My company used to give out turkeys or hams, then switched to “here’s a $15 ‘grocery check’ that you can use to help buy your meal” – and there’s an option to donate it back to a food bank, which I did. They’ve also given out pies in the past, choice of apple or pumpkin, but I’m not sure that’s happening this year.

    3. Not A Pecan Fan*

      I would also second the option to donate the pie, or at least opt out of having it just at my house. I don’t have an allergy, but I live alone and finding someone else to give it to isn’t just that easy these days. Most of my family/friends aren’t local, and the ones that are are mostly coworkers, who won’t need a second pie.

      Also, it would be nice to give a choice of pie type if you insist on sending them, not just for allergies

    4. HugsAreNotTolerated*

      Decision wasn’t mine and we weren’t asked to provide input. COO’s favorite pie is pecan, so they made the decision that it’s pecan pie. I don’t care for pecan pie either y’all and will be donating it along with my turkey to a food pantry.

  63. WhatAMaroon*

    For my little team spread across the country we’re doing a little lunch so everyone gets up to $30 to get food delivered or buy ingredients and then I asked everyone to prepare one fun question to chat about. We talked favorite tv shows, what was your favorite childhood breakfast, if you could only drink one beverage other than water for the rest of your life what would be, etc. questions were silly and light and helped everyone participate in the conversation and also spurred additional conversations! I learned how to make cast iron pizza during the call!

    So maybe you let team leads do a smaller something like this and you could send a list of idea questions so in case people don’t want to come up with them they don’t have to. And keep it to an hour either middle or end of the day so people don’t have to stay on longer than they need to?

  64. Ginger*

    If taking your team out to a dinner is the usual tradition – send Uber Eats gift cards so folks can order from their favorite, local restaurant.

    This is less fun but give everyone a day off or a half day off. Time back is so precious and everyone can easily participate and enjoy the time.

    1. pancakes*

      Or better yet, make arrangements with a couple restaurants directly—or just pick one—rather than making a point of going through a middleman app that takes a large cut of the proceeds and treats its workers badly. FYI, UberEats fees for restaurateurs are generally “30 percent fee for delivery and a 15 percent fee per order for pick-up,” according to Food & Wine magazine.

  65. Kenilf*

    If your company has deep pockets, they should consider letting ppl select a gift basket from a series of options, confirm the address, and have the baskets sent out to arrive before the event. Each basket has at least one token (card, funny action figure, party hat, noise maker) so that there’s something to talk about and maybe show, if ppl want, during the party Zoom call.

    Non-deep pockets: Mgr and party committee come up with video (or slide show) montage that highlights something fun, wonderful useful that every single member of the team has done – ideally with voice-overs or verbal commentary where the speaker has practiced saying names to be sure to get them right .

    I’m doing the first with friends since I started my own business last year. I used to be @ companies with deep pockets where I had staff in many locations.

    1. Nicki Name*

      One of my past employers did this one year when the venue for the holiday party closed unexpectedly with too little lead time to reschedule.

    2. NGL*

      PLEASE. My company is asking for volunteers to plan whatever our celebration may be. I don’t think it’ll be company-wide this year, just the smaller teams, but still. I hate our Zoom happy hours (I either want to be doing my actual work, or off of my damn computer for a bit!) and don’t want to do more in the name of holiday cheer. Send me a Visa/Starbucks/Target gift card and let me celebrate my own way in peace!

    3. Just J.*

      Yep. My favorite, favorite holiday item in all of my years of working are spot bonuses (cash or visa cards) with a hand written note from my manager.

      In tough years, when spot bonuses couldn’t be handed out, the hand written note was still HUGE and so, so much appreciated.

    4. Luke G*

      Whenever I get sucked into a planning committee for an “appreciation” event, I’m always the one saying “If your budget for this event is $X per person, will they be happier if you just gave them $X directly? Would they be happier if you even gave them 25% of $X directly?”

      Obviously that can’t be the sole decision factor since things like networking/bonding and the tax/finance implications of giving money vs putting on an event, but it’s worth keeping in mind…

      1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        Since the “mingling/socializing/eating/relaxing” facet of the event is gone, I’m giving your “just send a gift card and thanks” a resounding YES! PLEASE DO THIS.

    5. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      You are asking people to spend unpaid time online. At least at a party you are essentially working for food.
      My company did hella parties and as part of the planning committee, I received many “well done” emails, so I’m not just speaking for myself. But this year is different.
      This year we were able to roll the end of year holiday party money into a week long fall event tied to our field. We mailed people things to use for Zoom games if they were interested. We mailed each person a small gift. Most importantly, we gave everyone two gift cards.
      About 10 of the people played the games. They had fun, but this was also during working hours, so it was a break, not time outside of work.
      Just send everyone something with a big old THANK YOU note attached.
      10 years in the party committee

    6. Anononon*

      Alison: Please stay focused on ideas for office parties in this thread.
      Second comment down: Don’t even have one.


      1. WellRed*

        Well, to be fair, it asks what people are doing to celebrate the holidays, not specially asking for party ideas.

        1. BRR*

          I think it’s pretty clear Alison was hoping for people to provide answers other than “don’t do anything and just give them money/gift card.”

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        Lmao right? To be fair it’s not as bad as it usually is when this topic comes up but wow, people really can’t restrain themselves…

      3. Jackalope*

        Yeah, I am totally a fan of such things being optional and people being 100% free not to attend, but…. it’s been a hard year, y’all. Please stop yucking our yum. Let there be something fun for those who want it. I know I’m desperate for something outside of my household and pod. (Including something virtual with people I don’t see all the time; it doesn’t have to be in person.)

    7. Firecat*

      YMMV, but most of my team are starved for non family contact and were really gungho about the virtual get togethers.

      1. UKDancer*

        I have noticed this also. The turnout for the virtual coffee and virtual pub events in my company is significantly higher than the turnout for the physical pub ever was in the before times. I think because people are not getting their usual social activities their appetite for virtual contact time is quite high.

        My company is really surprised by the above average enthusiasm. I think because the physical pubs, theatres, sports clubs etc are shut, people want to do the virtual stuff more. As always peoples’ mileage may vary but that’s my observation of the impact of the lockdown on my company.

  66. Random Commenter*

    My company always invites a children’s choir from a local school to perform, capped off by our CEO’s presentation of a giant novelty check to the school. The employees hate this event because we’re all pressured to go, but it’s off the clock, so we’re basically attending this event in lieu of our own kids’ holiday events at a busy time of year. We were all hoping it would be off this year with all-virtual school and the difficulties of doing a children’s choir performance over Zoom… BUT NO. THE SHOW MUST GO ON. Sigh.

  67. gemski*

    My small team is doing an online escape room, and my local office is doing a virtual party (hosted by wildgoose) and sending out a goodie box (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) to everyone.

  68. Telly Lace*

    My office usually does a fancy lunch at a Country Club on a Friday a week or two before Christmas and then gives us the rest of the day off. It is a lot of fun and most of us are pretty sad we won’t be able to do it this year. This year they’re giving us all of Christmas Eve off (when usually we just close a few hours early).

    For the other things we usually have celebrations in the office for (Halloween, employee appreciation week, etc.) they have had our IT department (which is made up of a bunch of very goofy and fun-loving guys, one of which used to work for Disneyland) put on a webinar where they do drawings, games, and one of those things where everyone logs in on their phone and does a quiz and stuff like that, and it’s not mandatory but a lot of fun. I am assuming they will do something like that at well.

    We also always get a Christmas bonus, so honestly even if there is no party or anything we will be happy as long we get our bonuses, haha!

  69. nnn*

    Consider the possibility of postponing your holiday party to some indefinite point in the future, when it can be a “YAY, the pandemic is over!” party.

    Note: make sure you postpone it until the pandemic is actually over, not just until the next time society collective decides it’s bored of the pandemic and going to pretend it doesn’t exist.

  70. Generic Name*

    My company typically doesn’t do holiday parties even in normal times, but we do get together as a company other times of the year. The annual company party tends to happen in the summer as an outdoor BBQ. But we did do something fun remotely for Halloween. My company is big on pets and folks bring their dogs to the office, so we have an annual pet costume contest. This year everyone sent photos of their pets dressed up and folks voted on winners of different categories. We also had a fun trivia game where folks sent in questions/answers. There’s a feature on Teams (I think it’s an add-in or app or something) where you can administer the quiz and people can select their answer. This worked because we’re a smaller company (less than 75 people), and maybe 20 or so people showed up. I have no idea how well this would work if you’re talking hundreds of people.

  71. Salty*

    I work for a winery and we’ve been getting a lot of requests to set up Virtual Wine Tastings for companies. We’ve been doing them all year to great success. Everyone is sent a set of wines and maybe some wine crackers in advance and then our staff or winemaker logs on at the designated time and guides them through. You get to type questions we answer live.

    It might not be for everyone but for the right type of office it is fun.

  72. Alex*

    I have no idea what my company is doing, but I hope it involves cash money in my pocket. (We don’t usually get any kind of holiday bonus though so I’m not holding my breath.)

  73. Alex*

    My office prudently cancelled our Christmas party. The word just went our two days ago so I’m not sure what all will be done in its place, but our CEO did say they are using some of the party budget for a charity project we do every Christmas. I am big into giving, so I’m really happy to hear that!

  74. Sunglass*

    Love this comment section.

    Alison: Let’s hear from the people who like holiday parties!
    Comment section: Just send cash. Parties are terrible.

    Commenter: Send some food to people’s homes!
    Other commenters: So they DIE from ALLERGIES?

    Bloody hell. If you hate them, don’t go to the holiday party. Don’t go to the virtual party. Just close your computer and enjoy your peace and quiet. The way some people in this comment section like to jump all over any suggestions for having fun with your co-workers is ludicrous.

      1. Anon2*

        The pie though isn’t a bad idea, it is that it doesn’t take into consideration the very real issue of nut allergies. Send a pumpkin pie or apple pie. The point of the comments was to make sure it is inclusive and not just checking off a box.

        1. AY*

          Yes, it certainly would be better to give everyone a choice of pie! My old company did this for Thanksgiving, and it was always appreciated since I loathe pumpkin pie. But I maintain that the tone of the pie comment was hilarious.

        2. anonniemouse*

          There’s a big difference between “oh that’s a nice idea, why not ensure it’s really inclusive by going with something less likely to be allergenic like pumpkin or apple?” and “better hope nobody has a DEATHLY NUT ALLERGY”. One is constructive. The other is sour and accusatory, and serves only to shut down other people’s ideas without providing any alternative suggestions.

          1. Jackalope*

            Yes, this. I think it’s a great idea to point out the allergy issue to the person in charge so they can potentially change course and give other options. But that thread felt so much like not everyone can eat sandwiches territory.

    1. AnonXmas*

      I think the issue is that for so many of us, holiday parties are not voluntary. Even if there is no actual requirement to go, the politics of not attending can negatively impact your career.

      It’s not that we don’t like socializing with our peers, it’s that the forced aspect during an incredibly busy time of year is burdensome. Especially if workers are underpaid/overworked and the party is a gory display of opulence and cash bleeding out in a pile of cheap wine, frozen shrimp, and tinsel.

      I’ve worked for companies that throw their holiday party at a different time of the year with much success. Less griping and better overall attendance. For the purposes of the OP’s question – perhaps postponing the party might be helpful. Then they could do socially-distanced activities when the weather is better. Picnics, drive-in theaters, bumper car racetrack races, golfing and outdoor wine tasting, and so on.

      1. acmx*

        But the question is “Has anyone found a fun way to celebrate without being in-person?” Not, “what should be done instead”?

        Sunglass is just pointing out that so many cannot resist complaining about parties. They must comment and say that instead of providing a suggestion or opting out of commenting at all.

  75. Lady Lyndon*

    My law firm is doing a conventional holiday party. Our managing partner has spent the entire pandemic pretending that it is nothing more than a bothersome business distraction. I am not going and got quite the scowl for declining the invitation.

    1. Von Schmidt*

      Our team lead is trying to schedule an outing to actually meet in person for food and play a certain sporty game. I’ve already opted out but was shocked they would even suggest this during a pandemic while we’ve all been rotating in and out of the office even.

  76. HannahS*

    My colleagues and I are using elfster to do a gift exchange. It’s opt-in, which is nice, and there’s a 25$ limit and a rule of no gift cards, which I appreciate! There won’t be any parties or bonuses due to the nature of our jobs, but at least mailing fun surprises will be nice.

  77. Super Admin*

    LW, are you my US counterpart? :D

    I’m in the UK, and am a massive fan of escape rooms – but they won’t work for large teams, or teams that aren’t too chatty. You can do downloadable puzzle games, like an escape room but more like a series of puzzles to solve a crime, and just have someone take the lead and share their screen on Zoom, or there’s real escape rooms with a member of staff doing the work while your team watches on camera and directs them. Or there’s a few more interactive ones with video puzzles and virtual rooms to go through – it’s pretty much as low-tech or high-tech as you like.

    For those that aren’t a fan of escape rooms, there’s wine tasting (if people on your team drink wine) or cocktail making (again, if people on your team drink alcohol), or I’ve done food hampers this year – deliver an afternoon tea hamper to people, enjoy a scone and a cuppa with your team for an hour, then log off and eat the rest of the goodies with your family.

    If you’re a larger team do not, I beg you, put people into random breakout rooms. I always get stuck with a group of silent people and end up having to do all the talking or nagging people to talk and it’s super awkward and I hate it.

    1. LW*

      Probably not, but if YOU are my UK colleague, why didn’t you suggest the wine tasting? I’d be all over that! ;)

    2. Foxgloves*

      In the UK too. We’re doing a virtual treasure hunt that sounds ridiculous but also hilarious. Normally I scowl at this sort of thing, but I’ve only been in the department six months, so am keen to get involved- though am TERRIFIED of being put into a breakout room to do the treasure hunt with people I don’t know, and who won’t talk! That said, I’m hoping it’s a self selecting group- only people willing to play will have said yes to it.

      My partner is on his (law) firm’s social committee and is going for a hamper delivery (with the option of beer/ wine/ non-alcoholic)! They’ve “postponed the 2020 party to December 2021” so everyone is now asking whethr they’re having two parties next December, or if they’re having one party with double the budget haha.

  78. DrSalty*

    My company is taking the money that would be used for the holiday party (usually a sit down dinner with open bar) and is donating it instead to a local charity. They’ve asked us what charities we’d recommend. Honestly I’m really pleased with this decision over trying to make a Zoom party happen.

  79. Von Schmidt*

    Our team lead is trying to schedule an outing to actually meet in person for food and play a certain sporty game. I’ve already opted out but was shocked they would even suggest this during a pandemic while we’ve all been rotating in and out of the office even.

    1. iHeardItBothWays*

      we have been having socially distances meet ups once a month. we go to a park, sit at least 6 feet apart, wear a mask when not sitting, eat and talk and then go home. it’s been working for us.

      1. JSPA*

        While that’s probably fairly safe, I feel obliged to toss in the automatic caution that,

        “it’s worked so far” and “it’s safe” are two different things.

        Confusing those two things is one of the most deep-rooted malfunctions of the human brain.

        I direct you to Feynman’s dissection of the thinking about protruding o-rings, that led to the space shuttle Challenger disaster.


        1. iHeardItBothWays*

          as the weather is getting colder and the cases are getting worse we are stopping the gatherings. Noone wants to catch it.

        2. Anon Lawyer*

          . . . . They didn’t say it was 100% safe and nothing bad could ever happen from it. Not sure why you need to lecture them about human brain malfunctions.

  80. iHeardItBothWays*

    Usually we do lunch at a local restaurant and then everyone gets the rest of the day off. This year they are doing a zoom meeting for an hour or so and then I assume the rest of the day off. The food was really good at the restaurant so i will miss that but the rest of the day off is the best part.

  81. Lady Lyndon*

    Mine isn’t even doing it outdoors. It’s literally the same event as last year. Same restaurant with no outdoor seating. Same Secret Santa stuff. No acknowledgement of any potential exposure.

  82. MysteryGal*

    We did a virtual murder mystery party with friends recently and it was really fun. I am sure that it could easily be used for a work function, especially if you had a smaller office (15-20 people). People can get dressed up and use backgrounds on zoom. It took about 2-2.5 hours and even the person who ran it had no idea who the murderer was.

  83. Emma L*

    We are having a virtual holiday party! They are sending everyone a food delivery service coupon, and we will be meeting on Zoom with a series of breakout rooms to play games online, chat, or whatever.

  84. NewYork*

    Ugh, New Boss took over my unit, required 100% attendance at stupid game (think pictogam) at 5 PM. Way to get people to hate you

  85. Empress Matilda*

    We’re lucky to have a very large – and very empty – indoor space, with plenty of ventilation and room for our whole team to distance themselves. So I’ve invited them all to come for lunch, making it clear that this is entirely optional and that we will be following very strict Covid procedures.

    It’s not going to be anything fancy, but given that none of us have seen each other in person for several months, I think even a simple get together will be enough for now.

  86. Bumblebee*

    My company having zoom ugly sweater party with zoom wine-tasting with a sommelier and sending people 3 bottles of wine. If you don’t drink or want wine you get a $40 grubhub gift card. It’s a nice pretty nice idea, I think

  87. anonymous slug*

    Our office managers asked the regions this very questions – overwhelmingly we all voted to donate to a cause vs trying to have someone organize something. However there will still be an optional company-wide Elfster gift exchange.

    If you still want to do something, I suggest offering multiple AirBNB Experiences so it’s less onerous to organize one event to rule them all. There are so many cool things to do and are fairly inexpensive so it’s a great option (especially if you give people choices).

  88. WorkingGirl*

    We’re doing a Zoom holiday chat. It’d be nice if my boss decides to send us all UberEats giftcards to pick up dinner, but I’m not expecting he will. Our normal “holiday party” was dinner at a nearby restaurant and I didn’t mind it!

  89. judyjudyjudy*

    My office is still in-person because of the nature of the work we do. We have axed the holiday party and are doing a “Secret Santa” gift exchange instead (voluntary participation). Gift giving — especially with work acquaintances — can be pretty challenging but I think a lot of people are looking forward to it, including me. Not perfectly socially distanced though.

  90. introverted af*

    For Thanksgiving they’re providing a box meal (you can pick it up if you’re WFH that day) and a short presentation and then a virtual game. I don’t know yet what we’ll be doing in replacement of our typical winter party, but I really like the opportunity for a free meal.

    My church also recently did their annual gala and you ordered food and drinks in advance and watched a presentation with announcements for the big raffle prizes, with silent bidding lasting the whole week leading up to it. Again, I loved the chance to get the food and enjoy the drinks while hanging out at home in my comfy clothes.

    These may not work for everyone, and these are the only two such events I’ve participated in thus far so I’m not burnt out on them. I also would really really appreciate some cash though, absolutely would not be anything to sneeze at.

  91. Maggie*

    We’re senting winter-y stay-at-home gift boxes. Wool socks, very plushy fleece blankets, playing cards, mugs, etc. I also hired a local small business to make some custom iced cookies for us. She had such a creative way for putting a holiday spin on our corporate branding, and they’re going to be a big hit!

    We do a champagne toast at our hoilday party every year, and there’s some rumors about mini bottles being shipped out for a Zoom toast, but I’m not sure!

  92. Kaylee*

    A friend’s work is doing a gift baskets of fancy food and an optional meet up so if people want to hang out and eat fancy cheese and crackers they can and others still get the fancy food for themselves whenever they want.

  93. Sarra N. Dipity*

    I’m actually on the events committee at work. We tend to have fabulous holiday celebrations; our summer parties have been legendary. Everyone looks forward to them all year.

    Right now we’re focusing on really low-key, kind of “comfort food” style events. Last month we had a “show and tell”, where everyone was asked to bring something that means something to them to our Teams meeting, with the guideline that the item had to start with the first letter of their first name. It was really chill and fun.

    For Thanksgiving this year, we have two parts – we’re going to have an “activity” meeting, where people can just drop in whenever they want during the morning. The activity we have planned is making hand turkeys, like everyone did in grade school. Then we’ll have our official gathering in the afternoon where we can all show them off and vote for the best.

    We’re probably going to do some kind of secret santa, but haven’t figured out the details yet.

    Like I said, the goal is chill, no pressure (so no escape rooms or trivia competitions). We we have a lot of demanding clients and tight deadlines, so the last thing we all need is more stress.

  94. Delta Delta*

    I went to an organization annual meeting at a distillery. It was outdoors and appropriately distanced. There was a food truck, and the distillery had a special drinks window for the group (serving alcohol and non alcohol) Everyone wore masks except for when eating or drinking. I felt okay about it because it was outdoors, and the group as a whole were incredibly conscious of distancing/masking. There were about 20 people there and it seemed to work. It was low-key and nice. Depending on the size of the group, available venues, people’s comfort level with an in-person event, and outbreak statistics, something like this might work.

  95. Fried Eggs*

    My company couldn’t find an online activity that worked for 40 people, so they’re offering a few different options. Everybody got to sign up for whichever they liked best:

    – Online beer tasting (they ship the beer to your house, and then you taste it on Zoom with an expert telling you what you’re tasting)
    – Online tea tasting (same)
    – Smartphone Photography Class
    – Escape Room
    – Holiday Themed Quiz

    I’m pretty meh on all of these, but I still appreciate the gesture and attempt to get us together to do something fun that isn’t work.

    If they’d just put an extra $100 in my paycheck and said we can’t have a party this year, so get yourself a nice treat, I’d have appreciated that too.

  96. Gaia*

    My organization usually does a catered holiday party for in office workers and time off and a small sum to buy a meal for remote workers. This year since we’re all remote, we’re going to receive the small sum to buy a meal and spend half a day in social/interest activities. They’re setting up Zoom and Team “rooms with different themes (crafting, quiet reading, general socializing, different games, etc) and we can pick which ones we want to join and come and go as we like.

  97. Anon for this*

    Gift cards for people to buy a meal of their choice and some sort of team oriented online game or escape room. Do this DURING the workday – the half day off will be part of the perk.

  98. Katepreach*

    Following my having raised this question at a senior manager meeting, all 2000 of us are getting two extra days off, in lieu of parties! Very well received and I am proud of myself

  99. Krabby*

    Instead of a larger party, our leadership team is sending out a holiday video with the usual speeches and awards, plus an allowance to each team to do something remote together on a smaller scale. Our team is doing a virtual murder mystery dinner party.

    Some other things I’ve heard of people doing:
    – Secret Santa
    – Cocktail Making Class
    – Watching a movie together online (requires everyone to have the same streaming service)
    – Pub Quiz
    – Jackbox Games Tournament

  100. Product Person*

    We had a celebration that even I (a person averse to holiday parties and Zoom calls) liked.

    In advance were all given a link to a store that sells cocktail making kits. They had a selection that included non-alcoholic mixes too (like a ginger lemonade). At checkout the price was zero and you couldn’t even enter a tip. The packages were delivered to our doors in the afternoon of our event. We had a zoom meeting were a bartender showed how to mix each drink using the provided measuring cup, and answered questions about how to make a good martini, what to substitute for white eggs in pisco sour, etc. After the bartender presentation (which was short) everybody got to chat and enjoy their drinks for some time before saying goodbye. The cups were all the same so no one could tell what you were drinking unless you commented on it. I didn’t even stay until the end and used half the amount of tequilla in my margarita because I’m not used to drinking, but it was a lot of fun, we all learned something and had a good laugh.

  101. JSPA*

    Scavenger or treasure hunt using google maps / Streetview…

    “Guess the author” of a paragraph of off-the-cuff writing…

    Who has (and can display on the screen) the most disreputable pair of sneakers….

    White sock decorating contest with fabric pens (on feet, or as a sock puppet)…

  102. Slugbug*

    Our office is doing something great and reserving a few hours at our local zoo which happens to set up Christmas lights around the holidays. We’ll be wearing masks and following the zoo’s protocol for social distancing and one-way zoo viewing. It’s also 100% optional.

  103. Drowning Not Waving*

    I believe we’re doing some online trivia game. But we’ve also done online bartending/cocktail making… which is really fun. (Non-alcoholic recipes are also made). So maybe something like that would work… along with a gift card to use either on supplies or whatever.

    Cash cash cash is always appreciated -especially now. So whatever budget you have, spend most of it on your employees to use as they see fit. You don’t know how folks are struggling and even a small bonus will go a long way in minimizing stress. (Especially if you’ve already had to cut bonuses/raises).

    Also highly recommend sending out a survey (anonymous) with options to see what folks feel like doing this year. Nothing worse than forced fun (especially via zoom). You won’t please everyone, but you can at least test waters and see if you’re completely tone deaf.

  104. zebra*

    We actually did do a virtual escape room a few weeks ago, and it worked surprisingly well. The escape room people sent one person inside the room with a GoPro camera on their head, and the rest of us directed her where to go and what to do via Zoom. It sounds goofy but it worked great and we had a good time. (It was optional, of course!)

    I’m not sure what my company plans to do for the holiday party but a couple of ideas we’ve been talking about are:
    – Having everybody order a nice meal delivered so you can eat ‘together’ — depending on your team you could give out gift cards to a food delivery service or just ask people to submit receipts for reimbursement up to $X
    – Sending out materials for a project that everyone can do together — someone I know did a mixology class, where they mailed everybody a kit with the ingredients and had a bartender on zoom lead them through the drink creation. Someone has also suggested watercolor paintings or a simple craft.
    – Just give everyone money! (And if you’re planning on doing one of those optional “fun” activities, do it IN ADDITION TO money, not instead of)

  105. Amanda*

    I’m a trainer/facilitator and a friend sent me an offer she got for an afternoon virtual event with pub quiz type stuff, a design thinking kind of game, and a corresponding real life gift box they’d mail via post with some props and snacks and stuff. It looked quite fun, actually, I’m thinking of pitching something similar to a client now :)

  106. RebeccaToo*

    I typically lurk. But I just wanted to say how much I appreciate the constructive suggestions. Many of them are helpful for families and social groups too! And to comment that at all of the organizations I have worked in over the years folks have appreciated and enjoyed the opportunity to spend some time together in a fun, casual, or celebratory way (appropriately, sensitively, etc). I work for manufacturing companies that have everyone from top to bottom in the same facility. Most folks spend their days in their own departments or work units. And, sure, some folks would rather have the hour off or the money – but the greater majority really do want to spend time with their coworkers having a laugh or sharing a meal a couple of times a year.

  107. Maxie*

    In the spirit of inclusion, I wonder how other non-Christian people feel about secret Santas. I’m Jewish and anything Christmas based in a work environment always makes me feel left out,. Another holiday is being made a big deal of and my holidays are always ignored. If the company then calls it holiday presents or holiday party or something like that but Christmassy I don’t like it at all. How do other non-Christian people feel about things like this?

    1. Coco*

      I’m non-Christian and I’m fine with it. I find Christmas to be more commercial than religious at work so it doesn’t bother me. I appreciate when work calls them ‘end of the year’ or ‘winter holiday’ parties/ events than explicitly ‘Christmas’. But I am not bothered by the thought of Santa or the mention of Christmas at work. I think if there was a nativity scene or something along those lines I would nope out of it but I’ve never worked at a place that sang carols or seemed overtly religious.

      Sorry you feel left out

    2. PizzaBagel*

      I don’t mind white elephants, but the other stuff usually bugs me. My company did an “ugly holiday sweater” event and folks were pretty nasty to me for wearing a Hanukkah sweater. Now the receptionist aggressively calls everything a CHRISTMAS blah blah blah, I guess to ward me off?

      Diversity doesn’t disappear in December.

    3. Sarra N. Dipity*

      I’m not Christian, but I grew up in a household that was. I try to look at Christmas as a secular holiday, like Flag Day or Arbor Day, albeit a huge one.

      When I’m involved in “Secret Santas” they’re usually branded as “Holiday Gift Exchange”… but when you use a site like elfster to run one, that kind of implies Christmas. I don’t mind too much, because it’s fun to give and receive presents, and we’re a close-knit office, and tend to put a lot of thought into the gifts.

    4. Sylvan*

      I’m an atheist and it bugs me. Things being Christian by default sends a message to everyone else, right? On the other hand, I really do like giving gifts and I enjoy having an annual event. Just wish we could shift it to a New Year theme instead of a Christmas theme.

      1. A*

        THIS! I am an atheist as well, and I also LOVE end of year holiday stuff – everything from Christmas trees, light, menorahs, holiday music (in very small doses), and I hate that it’s still considered to be religious based holidays. While Hanukkah and Christmas are certainly religious holidays historically, and still celebrated by many as such – there are also a lot of people that celebrate without any religious influences coming into play.

        I wish we could all focus more on ‘end of year’ as a celebratory time, and then people can also celebrate their religious holidays separately as they see fit. But then again, I also wish that outdoor holiday lights were year round… so I think I might be the odd one out here :)

        1. Maxie*

          Another perspective A: December is not The Holiday Season for many cultures and religions, so calling it The Holiday Season excludes a great many people. Hanukkah is not a major Jewish holiday. People make a bigger deal out of it in defense. Christmas is a celebration of the (not actual) birth of Christ, which makes it religious holiday regardless of how people celebrate it. In people’s homes, they get to do whatever they want. But if businesses do not put equal time, effort, focus and money into Diwali, Ramaadan, Rosh Hashanah and the major holidays of many, many other traditions, it is unbalanced and exclusionary.

    5. Gumby*

      I’ve heard them called Secret Snowflakes in at least one context and Equally Attractive Non-Religious Alms Bearers, or EANRABS, in another (which was both appropriate and hilarious for reasons specific to that context).

  108. Brain the Brian*

    I’m sure that lots of people in my office would LOVE to do something remotely, but management informed those of us who used to plan in-person gatherings that they had “zeroed-out” our staff events budget (a measly $2,000 at a $70 million company, so not very large in the first place) to find cost savings for the pandemic. So anything that would have a cost, like a virtual escape room, is a no-go. Sigh…

  109. Emi*

    Instead of gathering in the auditorium for food and conversation with intermittent live presentations (awards, accomplishments/highlights, etc), we are having a WebEx presentation, the end. Not even a Teams meeting with participant video or chat.

  110. cash works*

    Extra PTO day/half day. A zoom trivia event during work hours where the office closes early and we just hang out for the last hour to do something like that together. Plus a giftcard or cash.

    Honestly, as someone who has been living on 15-35% less income this year because of covid reductions when the company lost money, if the company spent money on ANYTHING that wasn’t my salary or bonus right now, it would feel like a ginormous, read the room, tone deaf slap in the face.

  111. Pam Adams*

    I was just at an event set up by writers- it was a Regency event, as if you were in a mansion with various breakout rooms- a kitchen, where you could get recipes and demos, a library, music rooms, online dancing, a bar, for the cocktail/mocktail demos, and lots of space for people to gather and chat.

    Lots of fun for the participants, and dressing up ws enouraged.

  112. Lady Rhyall*

    I’m in HR, so we get the pleasant task of planning this stuff every year, even though we’re the people who’d least like to participate in any of it. That said, we usually do a bang-up job: fun activities the week before Christmas, BIG party that includes a fancy dinner and prize raffle, some cash giveaways, and then the execs like to give everyone a tech gift of some sort. Tickets to the drawings and the cash giveaways are earned by donating to Toys for Tots.

    This year we’re going to do 3 virtual giveaways each day the week before the holiday – things like Roombas, InstantPots, Kindles, gift cards. We’re encouraging employees to donate to a local food pantry this year instead of Toys for Tots, and we will give them a giveaway ticket for every $10 spent, and the company is also going to match all employee donations. (All employees will be given one entry regardless of donations.) We’re sending out a schedule for the prize drawings and people will be mailed their prizes.

    It sounds like gift baskets are going to be sent and the execs are also considering giving everyone up to $100 for a fancy meal to replace the party meal.

    I’m in the same camp as many here – I’d much rather get the cash equivalent of what will be spent on each person, but it is what it is, and it’s very generous either way. My antisocial self is just thrilled that we’re not forcing people into a party, virtual or not. No one likes to hang out with HR on party night, haha.

  113. Funny Cide*

    In lieu of bonuses and parties and all sorts of things, my employer is just closing for the week in between Christmas and New Year’s and giving everyone the time off – it’s been a hit, because that’s usually a huge use of vacation days for folks.

  114. SDSmith82*

    Our company is on the large side- so it’s up to the divisions- but our Division is doing a Holiday Drive In Movie and renting out a Drive in for the evening. I won’t be able to attend as Covid-19 gave me the chance to move out of state and go full time remote, but I actually think it’s a great idea. People are encouraged to bring family (which is not something we typically can do with these events) and I would have loved this even before the “new norm”. I’m kind of bummed I’m going to be missing out on this one actually.

  115. smseldom*

    Large food manufacturing plant here: Our #1 goal is actually to NOT have any drastic changes this year, for morale purposes. Obviously nothing shut down for us and we were essential this whole time (production and demand skyrocketed, chances are you’ve stockpiled our product during quarantines, we’re THAT essential). But also since we follow SQF practices at all times, we’ve had very few cases of the plague. Holiday bonus is a profit-share, which will be excellent this year – they considered changing it over the summer to a performance base – not a bad idea but not the right time – and the pushback was a success!

    Our usual holiday buffet meal for the 600+ employees is now switched to a pre-packaged hot lunch provided by the catering company, served in small waves of people to ensure proper distancing in the lunchroom, and we still plan to raffle off a ridiculous amount of fun gifts, ensuring that everyone walks away with some sort of prize (one year I won a $25 card to a tattoo parlor). We also did a virtual Halloween costume contest and are thinking of adapting this for the whole winter – best snowman (real or cotton!), tree contests, gingerbread houses, take a picture of your holiday meal, submit a recipe, etc – hopefully something for everyone. Votes collected via Google Forms, anyone can participate. Prize was a $100 gift card!

    1. Ampersand*

      This is awesome! So glad you are finding so many ways to show appreciation for people who work so hard for the rest of us.

      1. smseldom*

        Thank you! We’ve also been donating heavily in the community, and have a special bulletin with thank you notes that we are hoping help raise people’s spirits. Always reading threads like this for new ideas :)

  116. Anonne*

    week of optional activities: secret santa via elfster, ugly sweater day (everyone wears in their remote meetings), recipe swap (via intranet), virtual holiday music concert (we have lots of talented musicians)

  117. Lalaroo*

    I haven’t read all the comments so apologies if this is a repeat, but both GrubHub and Uber Eats have ways that companies can authorize a certain amount of spending for employees who can then choose the restaurant and food they like. Using that could be an option, then everyone can eat together from their homes and eat whatever they like best.

  118. Elizabeth West*

    I think time off or cash would be good. Especially in the US where we’re dealing with a contentious election, people are exhausted and they’d probably welcome the chance to take a couple of extra days or would appreciate the extra $$. Or both.

  119. MBeanz*

    My company recently did a really thoughtfully-planned happy hour celebration via Discord, where there were different rooms for different activities, like games (Among Us, online Codenames, etc.), karaoke, and just chatting. I spent most of the time in the general chatting rooms, because I wanted to meet and chat with people as I’m relatively new to the company and have met very few folks in person. You could move freely between activities, and folks would announce in the general channel when a new round of a game was starting. It’s the closest I’ve seen to mimicking a real social event where you can wander around and do different activities, and also people were able to fully go nuts at karaoke without anyone else feeling trapped and obligated to be there if they aren’t into that sort of thing.

  120. AliceBD*

    Instead of a fancy formal holiday party, they are sending a “nice” branded jacket to every employee. You had the opportunity to log in and select your size, with a size chart clearly spelling out the measurements for the sizes, so that there is no guessing. It went from women’s XS to men’s 4X or 5X I think, so a fairly broad range of sizes. I think the ordering was well done and as a plus-size woman I was able to order what size worked for me without any judginess.

    I don’t drink much so have never enjoyed formal work holiday parties, which seem to mostly be attractive to people for the free alcohol. (This is true across multiple companies.) I’ve gone because I’ve felt like I had to, but I would have always preferred if they had just brought in lunch some day (which would have been a lot cheaper anyway!) These jackets aren’t my idea of fun either but a lot of our employees like branded items since many of them have roles where wearing the branded clothing to work is appropriate. I’m planning on just saving the jacket for times when I might need to attend a work event outside, which can occasionally happen in my role.

  121. Ina Lummick*

    Normally we have big Christmas dinner the week before shutdown where we have a long lunch (at least 90 minutes) and pull crackers, serve food, open secret Santa’s, etc.

    This year I have no idea – I don’t have any reason to be in the office unless I have a meeting where it’d be improved by attending in person. But I know that the shutdown is cancelled, even without the pandemic (finance is bad enough without pandemic – 2 separate redundancy consultations this year) – I’ve used my leave to re-create a shutdown for me as many clients are closed at this time so I wouldnt have much to do.

    It would be a shame as Christmas is one of my favourite holidays – but I think anything would be really difficult to hold anything (basically it’s the equivalent of Thanksgiving in the US for me – I’m in the UK). I might just send some baked goodies to my co-workers!

  122. Trip Tucker*

    A majority of us voted back in June that if the pandemic was the same in December, we wouldn’t come to the Christmas party. So they canceled it. Usually we have a big party with Santa and presents for people’s kids (our president just really loves Christmas) and also food, music etc. I don’t know if we’re going to do anything at work instead. I very much doubt we’d do anything virtual.

    As long as we still get our bonuses (and we probably will, our industry hasn’t been affected at all because… well we’re microbiologists) I’ll be happy.

  123. Jessica Fletcher*

    My department had a Zoom Halloween party at lunch the Friday before Halloween. I really liked it! A lot of people wore costumes, which we can’t do in the office. We played a Halloween movie trivia game with a powerpoint on a screenshare. (I won! They mailed me a company water bottle filled with candy.)

    I hope they do the holiday party this way. It was so nice to have it during the day, and it was so fun. During a normal year, we can’t have a party during work hours because we have a mix of salaried and hourly employees, and they won’t pay the hourly workers for the normal 3-4 hour party. (I think another department does pay their hourly workers for parties, so this sucks.)

  124. Ellie*

    My office has had a quite a few virtual celebrations this year, as we are a small company that had them often in person. For context, our business is doing decently well, we’ve had no layoffs, and recently thawed our hiring freeze.

    This includes summer party, completion of a major company milestone, virtual health fair, Halloween, coming up winter party), and they’ve done some or all of the following:
    – Brief intro on main channel
    – For small celebrations where we’d previously brought in an ice-cream truck or other treat, they sent out gift cards of equivalent value
    – Breakout rooms for simultaneous optional activities or games (really, they are truly optional; about 15% of the company is a participant and another 30% spectate) such as charades and name that tune or desk stretches. The audience engages a lot in the chat, and folks who really miss group activities get to do some.
    – Contests that sorta replicate our previous in-office contests but include your family or allow for people who can’t attend: send in picture of your pumpkin, send in a holiday photo of your kids or you as a kid, kids costume parade, etc.
    – Lots of small prizes ($25 gift card) instead of our usual 1-2 bigger prizes. I really like this because people who can only participate a little can still have a chance to win, and there are more people who end the event with a reward
    – Wrap up with something fun with the execs. As in, they do something silly like “two truths and a lie” (with answers prescreened by HR) and we all get to watch. The execs are mostly social people, so they enjoy a chance to connect, and the employees get a kick out of it.

    For the summer party, the company gave us the rest of the day off after as they usually do in person and noted that it was OK to have a drink or two at home (no one got sloppy drunk).

    Why I’ve enjoyed the events (I haven’t attended them all)
    – They keep each event short with scheduled breaks, and the whole thing is under 2 hours. You can pop in and out, and move between “rooms”
    – People who are both quiet and introverted folks actually seem to enjoy them (based on IMs I get)
    – Social folks get a chance to reconnect with people in other departments over video
    – People who win gift cards get to pick from several generic options, so you can decide if it’s “fun treat” or “I need to buy X” money

    Finally, the company has otherwise been incredibly supportive of going remote, so having a light-hearted hour or two of fun feels like a break instead of denial, especially given zero consequences for not attending. I haven’t attended every one, but those I’ve attended, I’ve enjoyed.

    Things like: adding a flat rate increase to everyone’s paycheck to cover the cost of quality internet from home — no application necessary; clearly communicating COVID updates weeks or months in advance; allowing flexible employee schedules; adding a stipend (small, but enough for a decent desk or a decent chair) for your WFH setup; being understanding of parents and of caretakers who *aren’t* parents; encouraging employees to take vacation/breaks; etc.

  125. ML*

    If anyone is still reading, there is a company called teambuilding.com that does virtual trivia, murder mysteries, holiday parties, etc. They plan them all and have facilitators so you don’t have to do anything yourself, and they’re a lot of fun!

  126. Ananda*

    Our office decided to skip the parties this year and gave us an extra large Christmas bonus, and they gave it early. No complaints here.

  127. Rose*

    Our company (in a country that is doing much better with Covid than the US) is not doing its traditional breakfast but is giving all staff Christmas Eve off paid as bonus which is very nice.

  128. Robyn*

    We are sending all employees food hampers this year. Of course, we are in the UK so I think hampers are a bit more usual than in the US. At least when I lived in the US (I’m American but I live in the UK) I don’t remember ever even seeing such a thing!

  129. ACM*

    My husband’s large firm often does big blow-out parties, one Christmas one and one summer one, and plus each team in the office (each of which is as large as a smallish firm) has their own big dinner and evening out each season as well. Obviously none of those have happened this year. I think this year they’ve largely diverted their (I imagine) sizable party fund to keeping the business healthy, ensuring that nobody got laid off and even that bonuses were paid out…the company seems generally healthy but the industry is construction so of course a huge question mark going into 2021 and a possibly lengthy recession.

    But, there have still been small things and I really do think they make a difference in morale. Individual teams have organized pub quizzes on Zooms and such. They’ve also sent out on occasion a small JustEat gift certificate for a delivery/take-out dinner, with the idea that you can dine together with some of your coworkers but no obligation to. One fun thing they’re doing this week is “paint-and-pints” – normally it’d probably be learning how to paint something locally with beer on hand, but because of COVID, it’s happening over Zoom, and included in the mailed package with the canvas and the paint was a can of Guinness. There’s also a team (larger team) meeting for which the team leader has sent everyone on his team (who wants it I suppose) two cocktails by mail. I think a lot of local businesses might be pivoting to get creative in offering other businesses fun alternatives to parties. I know of a bar in NYC that has take-out cocktails and also DIY okonomiyaki kits.

    *This is pretty alcohol-heavy I realize, which is pretty in-keeping with normal social culture at the firm, and to be honest social culture in the country I live in at large. I do recognize that this is likely problematic for a few. But in keeping with their usual social culture, I think my husband and others of his colleagues have enjoyed these occasional treats. The key is that the events are optional and that they go along with nobody getting a pay cut or laid off.

  130. legobitar*

    We’re ditching the Christmas party altogether this year, and focusing on maximising the Christmas gift instead (end of year bonuses are not at all a thing at my company. Possibly not even in my country? Idk). We’re going with a “cozy/care/support-your-local” theme, and we’re also putting together a booklet with recipes, music tips, movie tips, etc from different employees. We hope people will like it, and if they don’t, it’s all stuff that’s easy to re-gift (nothing company-branded). And, word from the CEO is that we’ll splurge a bit on the company-wide summer party next year instead. It’s a bit sad, but everyone also understands & supports this decision. Team managers are also encouraged (and have been since March) to do social events where the whole team has a theoretical possibility to attend (either do it outside, or have it virtual) and my team at least have been pretty good at doing one event a month.

  131. Catherine*

    I’m in Melbourne, Australia, where we are just coming out of a really strict lockdown, and while numbers are good, there are still limits in group size and some people are nervous about those.
    For my group, I’ve organised everyone to get a picnic hamper delivered to their home, and I’ve designated a handful of local parks which people can sign up to picnic at, with numbers strictly limited. We have an online after party on Zoom to connect people together and to include those who aren’t comfortable/able to meet in person. (I also considered getting each picnic group to do a bit of a scavenger hunt and comparing our findings at the after party, but that felt excessively complicated in a year when everyone is pretty tired.)
    If it rains, everyone picnics at home, and I’ll organise Zoom trivia, which I’ve done before with a lot of success. And the after party is still there for less formalised interaction.

  132. Kels*

    Escape room is a TERRIBLE idea! I got sicker than a dog last year in one of those closed off rooms, handling all the junk clues other people are touching in a stuffy room. Worse flu of my life. COVID would love it in there. Don’t do it.

  133. Anonymous Pregnant Person*

    I am 12 weeks pregnant and received two lovely bottles of wine today with a card from my employer. I have not told anyone at work that I’m pregnant yet so I’m not offended, but also would have been more excited to receive a similarly-priced basket of treats.

    That said, I do appreciate the gesture … and am already looking forward to the funny story this will be if the pregnancy continues as planned and I eventually *do* tell my boss and coworkers in a few weeks.

  134. Chloe*

    I don’t mean to shamelessly self-promote but my company just wrote a blog post around this exact topic, as we found it was something a lot of people were wondering about. Link is here [https://www.rewardgateway.com/blog/alternatives-to-the-office-christmas-party] but on top of this, we are holding a virtual holiday party during the hours of work (I think 3-5 pm) for our Boston office, and in the past we’ve done things like have a virtual candle-making class to prepare for the holiday season or do a Secret santa (using Elfster for my friends and I this year and so far it’s super simple!). I think the 121 connections this year are going to be be critically important, so anything offices can do to make a memorable, personal experience is a plus. In the past, we’ve had specific ornaments (when we were much smaller) for our satellite office and then we all decorated a holiday tree. Maybe sending out a specific ornament to employees or something with the company logo, etc. on it would be a nice reminder.

  135. Catherine from Canada*

    I know I’m late to this but …

    My daughter and I own a small (well, medium sized now) fabric store. Normally, we take the staff out to dinner or a fun activity (a pottery class or the like) as a post-Christmas party and “Thanks!” for being great all year. “Staff” used to be four hourly employees. All in all, the evening would cost about $300.

    This year, after surviving being laid off on March 17th, hired back in early May, welcoming 5 new staff over the summer (so we’re now up to 9, four of whom are now on salary rather than hourly), dealing with the Great Elastic Famine of May and June, and now the Polypropylene Famine of November, floods of online orders (when they’re accustomed to taking their time with a customer in-store), handling virtual shopping appointments, countless customers who can’t/won’t read signs and freak out on them, covering for each other when a kid is exposed in school, in addition to the normal sh*t of retail, my partner and I decided that we needed to REALLY step up this year.

    We have ordered really nice personalized $100+ gift boxes for each, including the ones who worked for us while laid off from their “real” job and have gone back to said real job, and will have a Zoom party in early January to open the boxes and raise a glass to survival.

    As an example of what our staff have helped us achieve this year: our gross revenue is already twice that of last year, our customer base is twice what it was last year, we renovated our store to replace classroom space with more inventory space, and I’ve paid off one of the loans (3 years early) I opened to start the business. My staff are fantastic and I am so happy I could give back to them in this way.

    1. RebeccaToo*

      Wow! Such good news and so nice to hear you speak of your employees so appreciatively. Your celebration ideas sound very nice.

  136. Foxgloves*

    We’re having some Zoom events- virtual treasure hunts, Secret Santas, etc- during working hours, all totally optional. But the most exciting thing is that where we normally close at lunchtime on Christmas Eve and reopen the first working day after New Years Day, this year the entire organisation is shut from 18th December to 4th January. No one has to take any leave during that time. Everyone is ECSTATIC!

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