No Party, No Problem: 6 Ways to Celebrate Employees This Holiday Season


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Employees look forward to celebrating major holidays with co-workers at in-office or off-site events. To be sure, this year’s festivities might look a little different due to the current climate. But don’t strike the idea of practicing employee appreciation at the holidays just because this year’s been rocky. Even if you can’t get your workforce together, you can still find clever ways to support, honor, and thank workers for their tremendous contributions.

So why is now an unmatched opportunity to add a little fun into everyone’s working routine and emphasize employee recognition? Most employees have adapted to professional and personal changes over the past 12 months. Many are working from home. Others have extended their hours to meet changing customer behaviors. Plenty have had to juggle helping their kids with online schooling while trying to focus on important Zoom meetings.

Put simply, without your team’s unparalleled dedication and unwavering loyalty, your business couldn’t remain disruptive, leading-edge, or competitive.

Hosting a Holiday Work Party When You Can’t Be Together

Of course, you’re not going to be able to arrange a party that mirrors previous get-togethers (at least for most companies). Nevertheless, you can always find creative ways to say “thank you” to employees who’ve shown dependability and positive attitudes — particularly during bumpy weeks.

Try these heartwarming, jolly ways to express your gratitude and foster a spirit of psychological togetherness among everyone on the payroll:

1. Hand staffers unexpected “get out of work free” cards. Even if your employees are planning to do most of their shopping online, they’re still going to be super busy during the holidays. One simple way to delight them is by giving them a little time back in their days.

Giving team members just a few extra hours will allow them to leave early, come in late, or stretch their lunch break, allowing them to breathe a little easier.

2. Consider individual surprise gift boxes for remote workers. Has Zoom become your watercooler? Ask employees to save a date and time for an important teleconferencing call, such as 11:30 a.m. on the last day before the holiday break. Then, mail each of them a special package filled with a variety of sweet and savory treats that will arrive before that date (bonus points if you can accommodate by offering up kosher, vegan, and gluten-free options in the mix).

The package should contain an important note: “Do not open before our meeting.” Your workers will wonder what you’re up to, but they’ll probably comply. When you get on the virtual call, ask everyone to open their gifts at once. At that point, they can feast and chat.

3. Initiate a remote-based secret Santa. Many offices make secret Santa gift-giving a major part of their holiday celebrations, and this year doesn’t have to spell the end of this sweet-meets-silly tradition. Have someone organize the secret Santa drive and exchange addresses as well as names. Then, pay for everyone to mail gifts to one another.

You can open your secret Santa gifts on your department’s last remote meetings before New Year’s. As a helpful hint, this works best with close-knit, very small pods (given that you have to factor in postal service delivery times).

4. Ask workers to contribute to an end-of-year video. Do you have a budding filmmaker on staff? Task your in-house amateur filmmaker with putting together a video collage. The collage can be a mixture of self-created employee images and videos, and you can encourage your workers to be as goofy or sincere as they’d like.

Then, show a “screening” of your end-of-year video at a Zoom party or, if it’s safe to hang out in one large room, an in-office event. Bonus points if you can snag thank-you messages from customers to buoy the spirits of client service and sales representatives.

5. Take time to promote acts of kindness. As a leader, you’ve had a lot on your plate — but you might not have been able to express your gratitude as routinely as you’d like. Take December as an opportunity to practice intentional acts of kindness, and encourage your staffers to do likewise.

For instance, send everyone an unexpected employee appreciation-themed holiday card thanking them for their optimism and dependability. While you’re at it, also send something to employees’ partners or children to show families how grateful you are for everyone’s commitment. Alternatively, mail out gift cards to teams and partners whose jobs are integral but who might not be recognized: This includes folks like nurses, first responders, grocery store employees, and other essential workers. You could even distribute thoughtful awards and honors during upcoming staff meetings.

To create more accountability here, request marketing and HR help you draft up a formal communication plan and assist in carrying it out. Vow to express gratitude with every note you send out, and be sure to stick to this schedule.

6. Give back together. Our marketing team here at Hallmark has decided that we’ll adopt a family together through Operation Breakthrough. Someone shops for the parents or caregivers, and then everyone else shops for one of the children. We love this activity, as it reminds us of how lucky we are to be employed by Hallmark and to have weathered the last year with luck and grace.

With a bit of careful planning and effort, you can make sure you show an appropriate amount of employee appreciation during the holidays. In fact, the employee recognition methods you choose this year can help set a merry tone going into 2021.

Rhonda Basler
With more than two decades of marketing and operations experience, Rhonda Basler is currently the Head of Operations & Agent Experience for Compass in St. Louis, Kansas City, and Nashville. Throughout her career, Rhonda has held the customer in the highest esteem and intimately understands the relationship between employee satisfaction and customer experience. Rhonda's career has spanned both B2B and B2C companies including Dot Foods, H & R Block, Hallmark, and Compass Realty Group.


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