How to celebrate a socially distanced Christmas at work
Despite all of the negativity to come from this year, it doesn’t mean that we can’t have our end of year celebrations which employees look forward to in equal measures of delight and scepticism.
While this year we won’t be able to celebrate with our colleagues in person, it doesn’t mean that we have to cancel our end of year plans altogether.
Why is it still important for companies to celebrate the end of the year?
There’s a quote which Saurav, Co-Founder of Perkbox, shared at the beginning of the March lockdown and it’s stuck with me since then:
"Conversations will not be cancelled.
Relationships will not be cancelled.
Love will not be cancelled.
Songs will not be cancelled.
Reading will not be cancelled.
Self-care will not be cancelled.
Hope will not be cancelled.
May we lean into the good stuff that remains."
I’ve traced the quote back to here and it’s still valid for this time of year. Even though we’re limited to meetings of up to 6 people, we shouldn’t cancel our end of year traditions.
This year hasn’t been the greatest one, negatively affecting employment and employee happiness across the company. That’s why it’s important to keep up your traditions. We all still need to celebrate what makes our companies special, exciting and vibrant.
We’re human after all and enjoy being in our tribes – whether friends, families or colleagues – so don’t cancel your end of year company celebrations, please. It will close employees into their boxes at a time when we most need contact with others. This is a time to bring everyone together and celebrate the things we used to do.
How are we celebrating at Perkbox?
We’re all a long way away from being able to hire out a bar and celebrate the end of the year on a dance floor. This year we’ve had to think of new ways to connect which keep us socially distanced and don’t require huge amounts of budget.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the popular carol ‘12 Days of Christmas’, well we’re going to do our own 12 days of Perkbox Christmas – and each day we’ve planned an activity which will connect people together.
A few examples include:
1st Day of Perkbox Christmas
Everyone receives a Christmas Box full of festive goodies, such as chocolate, wine, snacks, advent calendar, and a gingerbread house. We’ll send these to their home with a thank you note for their hard work during this crazy year.
7th Day of Perkbox Christmas
Using the gingerbread house in the Christmas Box, we’ll hold a gingerbread house decorating competition. Those who want to enter – and managed to resist eating their house – will be asked to decorate their gingerbread house and share the results on our We Are Perkbox Slack channel. And to encourage participation, winners will be chosen at random rather than me judging who's the best!
9th Day of Perkbox Christmas
I’ll send a Google Form around asking everyone to write a Christmas message to share with a colleague. The catch here is that when writing the messages, we won’t know who will receive it. This is a great way to spread cheers across the company, connecting people with colleagues they might not usually speak to – and the best part, it’s free!
What are the challenges of celebrating Christmas at work in 2020?
The biggest challenge might just be reminding people of the importance of celebrating with their colleagues. It’s easy for people to say they’re going to delete 2020 from their mind and wake up when all of this is over. And I’m not knocking that – people cope in their own ways.
But when it comes to the end of year celebrations, you can’t have that mindset. You need to do the best with what you’ve got and help everyone in the business to appreciate that too.
As the quote says at the beginning of the article, nothing is cancelled – and that includes celebrating the end of the year! What can we do to make this time of year as traditional as possible?
I’ll admit, despite the stress of planning a big party, it’s much simpler to book a venue and provide people with food, drink and music. We’ve now got to really flex our creative muscles to provide a celebration which puts our people first.
Your employees probably need you more than you realise at this time of year. Whether we relish them or not, work Christmas traditions keep us going as the winter months begin to draw in. Finding creative ways to keep your traditions alive will go a long way to keeping employees motivated until the new year.
How can you overcome the challenges of celebrating Christmas at work in 2020?
Lack of budget
It’s been tight this year and unfortunately, social budgets are the easiest things to scale back on when you’re looking to cut costs. This isn’t all bad though. I often find that the most fun ideas come when you’re forced to find them with a limited budget.
There are so many free activities you can do. You could invite people to add a song to a festive playlist with a message of why it’s an important song to them. Share the playlist and messages across the company and you immediately bring people a little closer together. You could also do similar with people sharing photos of how they’ve decorated their homes for Christmas.
The great thing is, participation is also free and so is recognition. Many of the activities which involve a competitive element in the 12 Days of Perkbox Christmas celebration I’m running, don’t have a physical prize. The winners will be celebrated across our internal channels, giving people something to talk about rather than a little plastic trophy.
If your internal teams are small enough, and the rules still allow, you can of course give teams a budget to meet so long as they don’t exceed six people. This does then depend on the willingness of people to want to meet in person and could get a bit political if employees start to feel left out.
Celebrating the end of 2020 is the time when we really have to embrace technology. This doesn’t need to be a company-wide Zoom call – I can already imagine the chaos of trying to do Christmas drinks with 100+ people like that – but by using email, text messages and digital cards, you can reach everyone in your business without them needing to be tech-savvy.
As employees will struggle to meet each other, it doesn’t mean you can’t give them the means to celebrate with their friends and family. If they’ve got children, send them an activity pack they can do together. Maybe they’re in a house with friends, I’m sure they’d appreciate a few beers which they can share together. Think of ways which you can help people get together with people outside of work whilst still reminding them of what it means to be part of your business.
Let’s be honest, many of us are no doubt fed up with digital celebrations by now. And although the heart may be in the right place, another Zoom call could be the last thing your employees actually want.
We’re all feeling more isolated right now, right? Our recent research even showed that more than half of employees are struggling with their social wellbeing. I know for me, the more isolated I feel, the less energy I then have to psyche myself up for an activity which you might consider as being forced fun.
Knowing this in myself is what helped me to plan the 12 Days of Perkbox Christmas celebrations. I’ve tried to break them up as much as possible so people can choose when they want to take part. This helps to build the enthusiasm from within the individual as opposed to trying to force it upon them – helping your celebrations to feel much more natural.
What’s one thing you can do to ensure a successful end of year celebration?
First of all, the one metric I’d say we should all measure the success of our end of year celebrations is that we don’t cancel them. We give our people something to hang their Santa hats on at the end of 2020 which brings them together and shows their employer is there for them. And I think the best way to do this is by finding out from employees how they’d most like to celebrate.
This doesn’t need to be a formal conversation, and you can probably pick up details from people here and there. For example, from talking to people across Perkbox I know that there isn’t a huge appetite to do a Zoom quiz or try and arrange digital drinks one evening.
It’s true that they might not know what they want to do, but by knowing what they don’t want to do, I was able to plan a calendar of events which better matched the current mood of our people.
What have I learned from planning our Christmas celebrations?
If you’re reading this article, it’s highly likely that you haven’t finished your end of year celebration plans. I can’t stress enough: the earlier you start, the better – and now is as good a time as any!
I found that I was able to draw most of my inspiration from talking with various people across the business. Have conversations with employees from different backgrounds, seniority levels and tenure to really find the diverse ways in which people may prefer to celebrate.
From there, you can put the budget anxiety to one side and get creative. Remember, there are so many free activities you can plan, just make sure they bring people together and reflect the personality of your business.
Thanks for reading. Hopefully this article has sparked some exciting ideas which you can use to bring your employees together at the end of 2020!