How to Celebrate the Holidays Safely with Your Staff

The annual Holiday party is a beloved tradition that unfortunately fell by the wayside due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While some companies chose to gather virtually to celebrate the season, many skipped 2020 entirely, waiting for a time when public health concerns could be addressed. Thanks to the widespread availability and uptake in COVID-19 vaccinations, that point has finally arrived.

Navigating the Realities of the Pandemic

Pandemic fatigue is something we’re all dealing with together, and it’s understandable to want to rush back toward normality. The reality is, any Holiday celebration you hold this year will require a level of planning above and beyond previous years. For starters, it’s not enough to pick a venue and send out invites. Considerations such as staff comfort level, vaccine status, and logistics are all aspects that must be addressed.

With so much to consider, we asked Small Business BC’s Human Resources Manager, Shubhangi Jain, to share her best practices and tips for celebrating the Holiday season safely with your staff.

How to Ensure You’re Being Inclusive

Understanding and navigating the comfort levels of your team members should be the first priority in your planning. At this stage of the pandemic, each individual has their own view on comfort and risk tolerance, and there’s no right or wrong answer. Here are some key aspects to consider:

  • Do a survey to identify comfortable levels of your team to meet in person vs virtually
  • FOMO can get the best of us, make attendance voluntary and let folks know it is ok to not attend in person event if they are not comfortable. No pressure or obligations
  • Arrange alternative ways of participation for hybrid events, this can be tough but possible in some cases. Example: if you’re doing a team gathering where you’re going wine tasting, maybe you can have the same wine bottles sent to folks who chose to participate remotely instead.
  • Have your activities and celebration of holidays reflect your team diversity/acknowledging all faiths, opt for a mix of cuisines or try something entirely new as a team
  • Be clear about expectations of masks, vaccines, good respiratory etiquettes, and physical distancing ahead of time for in person events, be available for questions regarding vaccine requirements etc.
  • Involve your teams in planning and execution of the activities, collaborative effort reflects organization’s values

Selecting a Suitable Activity

Any activity you host this winter must be respectful of the current provincial health orders in British Columbia. For starters, masks are mandatory in public indoor spaces, and many non-essential venues such as restaurants, bars, theatres and halls have a mandatory vaccine policy for entry. Here are some pointers for selecting an activity that’s suitable for a COVID world:

  • Many venues currently require attendees to be vaccinated. Holding an event in these kind of spaces massively reduces the risk of COVID-19 transmission
  • While we all love having our partners attend, consider restricting attendees to staff only to cut down on numbers and risk of transmission
  • Outdoor gatherings could include winter activities (tubing, snowboarding, skiing), golfing, snowshoeing, snow mobile tours, Christmas Markets etc.
  • For larger teams (over 50), consider opting for virtual activities – virtual games, have food and drinks delivered to their homes, virtual cooking or mixology classes
  • Let your employees choose – pick a few different activities and have your crew sign up for the ones they’d like to participate in/comfortable with. This option works well for larger teams
  • Virtual karaoke and new year gift giving/wishes and prize raffles rather than a secret Santa
  • If a company is spread out through the province or across the nation, avoid folks travelling and opt for virtual

Alternatives to the “Traditional” Holiday Party

After conducting your research, you might come to the conclusion a Holiday party isn’t right for your business at this time. That’s totally fair. There are other ways to celebrate the season that don’t involve gathering in person.

  • Consider waiting until the spring to host a get together
  • Individual teams can host potlucks among themselves
  • A virtual stand-up comedy show, Ted Talk or external speaker can act as an inspiring and refreshing get together
  • Flexibility in working hours around the Holidays
  • Additional time off for staff in lieu of a celebration

Bringing a Remote Workforce Back Together

Another challenge facing many organizations this Holiday season is how to bring a remote workforce back together. While remote work has brought many benefits for individuals and companies, it’s undoubtedly led to teams working in silos, and individuals losing that daily connection with fellow team members. This can lead to increased hesitancy regarding group gatherings, and that’s a totally normal reaction. Here are some pointers and ideas for bringing a remote team back together this Holiday season.

  • Keep a pulse on comfort levels for in-person gatherings. Consider creating a communication channel to source ideas, increase participation, anticipation and excitement
  • Instead of holding one big event, consider a few smaller team events to encourage organic, intimate conversations between individuals that don’t often work together
  • Consider a remote or in-person token of appreciation card/gift exchange to show gratitude that might not otherwise come across in a remote setting
  • Create donation options for charities that your teams may be passionate about – circulate and raise awareness within the team, empower your other team members.
  • Have themed parties with fun dress codes that are not necessarily Christmas or ugly sweater – eg: 80s/90s/00s party, couples costumes, reality tv stars, fav movie characters costumes, fiesta/tropical vibes etc.
  • Play a Guess Who or Jeopardy game for people to connect and get to know each other better

Prepare for the Holidays with Small Business BC

Is your business ready to make the most of the busy Holiday sales period? At Small Business BC, we’ve got a range of live business webinars, free resource downloads, and one-on-one business advice to help optimize every aspect of your small business.