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This Year, the Office Party Is Going Online

November 13th, 2020

Like so many other things this year, the annual office holiday party is in danger of becoming yet another COVID casualty.

But it doesn't have to be. There are alternatives, says the Society for Human Resource Management.

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“Managers are finding other ways to help their workers celebrate this year,” reports an article on the SHRM website. Virtual parties and gift exchanges, online team cooking experiences, wine tastings and corporate gift-giving, are some of the ways companies are showing their appreciation for making it through a challenging year.

“While nothing can entirely replace an in-person experience,” says Taylor Paone, senior manager of employee experience and culture at DailyPay, speaking to SHRM, “These initiatives give employees the chance to bond and have a little fun."

According to the promotional products firm IPromo there’s been a surge in corporate holiday gift orders. Instead of spending on the traditional office party, companies are opting for more expensive gifts employees will use all year.

“Employees may appreciate a high-value gift that they will use often,” more so even than “a once-a-year party," says iPromo CEO Leo Friedman.

Another option is to host a virtual holiday party. Preciate Social built a platform especially for parties and social events. Different from virtual meeting platforms like Zoom, Preciate Social enables multiple conversations to take place simultaneously. Participants can circulate among others attending the event, striking up conversations similar to how they would in person. There's even the background murmur of other conversations. Musicians and other performers can provide entertainment.

You can also use Zoom to throw a virtual party. Since the pandemic, YouTube and Instagram have seen hundreds of virtual event how-tos uploaded. This one, explaining how to host a virtual happy hour or party, has been seen 64,000 times and has more than 100 complimentary comments.

Rouxbe, an online culinary school, provides recipes and video instructions for a virtual dinner-making event. Coordinators select a menu from the hundreds of recipes for a three-course meal. Companies can opt to mail the ingredients to each employee or send them a supermarket gift card. At party time, everyone gathers on Zoom to cook together and even enjoy a cocktail.

For companies that have been holding regular Zoom meetings and hosting virtual social events, a holiday gift employees might value even more is time off. Paone says, “Zoom fatigue and the solitude of working remotely is an ongoing challenge and we must encourage staff to step back from the computer and spend time doing activities that re-energize and recharge them."

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