There is no question that the holidays are going to be challenging for everyone this year, given the need to remain socially distant from our friends and family members in order to minimize the risk of turning our usual holiday get-togethers into COVID-19 “super spreader” events.  The same is true for the annual, in-person holiday parties that most employers typically host.  But some employers are coming up with clever alternatives that will allow them to share some holiday cheer with their employees in a safe and responsible way.

Here are a few ideas that employers have shared and that may work for your organization as well:

  • Distribute Butterball turkey gift certificates or supermarket gifts cards to purchase food for holiday meals.
  • Provide Amazon (or other store) gift cards and give employees a few hours of paid shopping time.
  • Hold virtual, holiday-themed contests with prizes, such as best home decorations or ugliest holiday sweater.
  • Throw a virtual party with entertainment, like a comedian or improv troupe. There are companies, such as Preciate Social (, that will help you organize such an event and provide entertainment.  Their platform is set up to mimic an in-person social gathering by allowing for multiple conversations to take place at the same time and for people to “mingle” among different groups.
  • Schedule a virtual holiday cooking or baking demonstration with companies such as Rouxbe (, an online culinary school, which allows workplace teams to gather for a virtual dinner-making event. The employer can choose the menu and arrange for delivery of the needed ingredients on the day of the event or provide employees with supermarket gift cards in advance to cover the cost of purchasing the ingredients on their own.
  • Similarly, you can find many companies offering virtual group craft or painting projects, where everyone receives the materials ahead of time and then an instructor leads everyone through the process together online.
  • Do a virtual “Secret Santa” gift exchange where employees mail their gifts to their chosen recipient (the employer can provide prepaid shipping labels or reimburse for postage) and then everyone opens their gifts together on a Zoom or Teams call.

There are also many websites offering ideas for virtual holiday parties, here is one:, but you can find others with a simple Google search.  You may be surprised to learn that some of these virtual options are less expensive than the in-person holiday event that your organization normally hosts.

Or you may choose to forego a fancy, virtual get-together and instead use the funds that you are saving to purchase gifts for your employees that are more expensive and luxurious than those you normally buy, such as electronics (e.g., Apple watches or AirPods); gourmet food or wine baskets; fun kitchen gadgets like a juicer, soda maker, ice cream machine; or luxurious home items like a cashmere throw blanket.

Of course, it is not about how much money you spend, but how you ensure that your employees know that your organization cares about and appreciates them.  It is also important to remember that the feelings of anxiety, isolation and sadness that many people have been experiencing during the pandemic (and especially if they are working remotely) may be exacerbated during the holiday season, and as the days get colder and shorter.  That is why it is crucial that your managers support the employees on their teams by scheduling regular 1:1 check-ins with them and taking the time during those meetings to ask them how they are doing personally.

Hopefully some of these ideas will get your creative juices flowing and serve as a jumping off point for planning alternative holiday celebrations for your organization this year, and hopefully we can all get back to celebrating the holidays in person next year!!

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