Company Culture

RfH Insights: 3 Creative Ways HR Teams Are Celebrating the Holidays Virtually

October 27, 2020
November 7, 2023
Grace Cheung
Lattice Team

With the way 2020 has played out, it’s easy to head into the holiday season just wanting to get through to the other side.

But amid a pandemic, social unrest, and political uncertainty, it’s critical to support employees’ mental health and morale. That’s especially important as we head into winter and seasonal affective disorder starts wearing on millions of workers. Concerned about their teams, HR leaders are already thinking about how to finish the year with some (socially-distant) cheer.

We asked HR professionals in the Resources for Humans Slack community to share how they’re marking the holidays this year. From friendly competitions to show-and-tell events, take inspiration from our members’ advice and avoid ending the year with a “Bah, Humbug.”

1. Make it competitive (and involve the kids).

Tap into your employees’ competitive spirits and make the virtual holiday season interactive and fun with contests. Using tools like Zoom and Slack, HR teams are hosting pumpkin carving parties, gingerbread house bake-offs, and more.

“We're doing a week-long fall festival at the end of the month. Each day has a different contest and theme. The first day is a desk or house decorating contest. Day five is a costume contest with prizes for best employee costume, best kid costume, and best dog costume,” said Jenna Brown, VP of HR at ParkMobile.

Employees can engage with each other in real-time over video or by sharing their photos on Slack. Members recommended “gamifying” events with simple prizes like Bonusly points and gift certificates. If you want to tap into that community spirit, ask employees to vote for their favorite contest entries.

Invoca, a call-tracking and intelligence software company, holds virtual Halloween costume contests every year. “Employees post a photo in a special Slack channel, then I put together a form with the photos so everyone can vote,” said Zoë Georgakis, the company’s Head of People Operations. “We've also had contests for desk decorating, house decorating, and best family costume.”

2. Bring the party to your employees.

From monster mashes to holiday formals, this time of year is known for parties. But with in-person meetings mostly out of the question, HR teams have had to get creative with their planned get-togethers. In some cases, they’re simply transforming their existing traditions into virtual-friendly events.

“We’re doing what we've done in the past but making it pandemic friendly,” said Ana Consuelo Castillo, People Operations Analyst at Nuxeo, “We’re doing a virtual cocoa bar, ugly sweater hangout, and potentially a white elephant gift exchange.”

If you have a holiday party budget, members also suggested complementing these events with thoughtful gift boxes. HR leaders in the community had plenty of recommendations for swag vendors and gift boxes curators, including Confetti and Knack.

At a time when vacation days are being underused by employees, some HR teams are also giving the gift of additional paid time off. “We’re also planning to use some of our holiday party budget in January, February, and March for our ‘Winter Wellness Days’ where we’re encouraging employees to take at least one additional day off per month to take care of themselves,” said Caroline Ellis, Human Resources Director at Homebot.

3. Give back to the community.

In the spirit of the holidays, some HR teams are also thinking of keeping employees engaged through charitable work. Ideas include sending holiday cards to children’s hospitals, contributing to a “toy mountain,” or volunteering with organizations that help the less fortunate in their local communities.

“In December, we’re going to ‘adopt’ a couple of families this year. I’m going to create a digital holiday tree where employees can pull sticky notes from the tree with families’ wish list items,”  said Cynthia Patterson, Director of People & Culture at MachineMetrics. “I’ll then create an ornament with the employee’s name to go on the tree to replace the sticky note. The goal will be to have a tree full of ornaments.”

When organizing initiatives like these, HR leaders advised that companies could introduce a competitive element by recognizing the departments contribute the most.

For those looking to give the gift of their time, volunteering is also an option. You could even take it to the next level by offering incentives for employees to participate. “We are rolling out a volunteer time off policy that sends swag to anyone who takes a day to volunteer in their local community,” said Ashley Bommarito, Human Resources Administrator at Offensive Security, said.

What’s your team doing to keep holiday spirits up? Share your experiences and see what others are saying by joining the Resources for Humans Slack community.