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How to Plan a Work Holiday Celebration in 2020

October 16, 2020
Written by Nextdoor Editorial Team
October 16, 2020 | Written by Nextdoor Editorial Team

This year has been a rollercoaster, hasn’t it? 

As this monumental year is winding down, the holiday season is winding up. Which means it’s time to celebrate, create some memories, and share some laughs.

Normally, this would include a company-wide celebration. But for small businesses who have experienced financial hardship this year, a holiday office party—remote or not—might not seem feasible. That said, there are important reasons to celebrate this year. Instead of only considering the expense-side, think about the boost to employee morale and team-building in an age of social isolation.

Don’t worry, this doesn’t have to be an expensive, elaborate party. With some simple, low-cost holiday party ideas, you can bring the cheer without bringing the price tag.

Oh, The Party Possibilities 

A virtual holiday party can be so much more engaging than a typical Zoom meeting. There’s a whole industry out there doing the hard work for you and figuring out how to make virtual gatherings a lot of fun. All you have to do is figure out which form of remote revelry is right for you and your team.

Socially-Distanced Shenanigans 

Who doesn’t love shenanigans, whether in person or not? The internet has you covered with lots of options for co-worker-friendly activities. For your remote holiday office party, try out some of these winning activities:

  • Virtual Game Night – Yes, virtual party game nights exist! In many forms too. Some of the easiest for online parties are card game apps like the free Mafia-style game, Werewolf. Formatted just like an in-person card-based table game, you and other employees split into two teams while engaging in strategy, plotting, and a bit of cunning. Participants square off until all werewolves are eradicated or townspeople and werewolves reach equal numbers.

    Other party game options include We Didn’t Start the Fire, where teams have 15 minutes to write new lyrics to the Billy Joel classic, Virtual Risk (a remote twist on the classic board game), and many more

  • Virtual Team Challenge – If you’re looking for activities that lean toward problem-solving rather than subterfuge, virtual team challenges are a perfect way to get your holiday office party started. Think murder mysteries, escape rooms, and trivia all from the safety of your laptop screen.

    Unlike app-based games, these party options can cost $30 per participant, involve reservations, and include a remote host. If planned accordingly, however, and it’s in your party budget, this can be a stellar way to bond and make memories. 

  • Group Creations – Yes, paint nights have been around for a while, but virtual paint nights are designed to offer the same experience without the stress of COVID-19. Logistics can be tricky when canvases, paint, and other materials are needed, but there are plenty of paint night options out there that will take care of it for you.

    Painting isn’t your company’s jam? Why not try something a bit more free-spirited? Check out at-home virtual beer brewing or online cooking classes instead to get into the holiday spirit. Then award prizes for holiday brewmaster or best virtual office chef (or worst, if you want to keep the laughs going!). 

Eat, Drink and Be Merry

Whether you’re celebrating Halloween or Christmas, it’s not a holiday event without delicious food. That means bonding over baked goods and mingling over munchies. With a global pandemic affecting most social gatherings this year, plenty of companies have shifted gears and come up with some innovative ways to make virtual parties palatable. 

Here are a few to try this holiday season:

  • Team Tastings – Even when you’re not in the same room, eating the same food can help make everyone feel like they’re truly together at a holiday event. Consider arranging group tasting boxes. Each team member gets a box of wine, cider, or beer along with pairings like dried fruits or cheeses to enjoy and share thoughts about.

    If tastings aren’t on the menu (or in the budget), try sending out a recipe for everyone to make. Cakes, entrees, hors d'oeuvres—nothing is off-limits. Plus, comparing notes (and results) can encourage lots of laughs and learning about each other. 

  • Dessert – Like the tasting and curated boxes, there are plenty of dessert options to add to your holiday party. From hot chocolate kits to themed snack boxes, the possibilities are endless. Don’t have the budget for pre-boxed goodies? Bake some cookies, brownies, or your signature dessert. You can get baggies or food-grade boxes in bulk online and either send them to your team through the mail or provide curbside celebration delivery. 

  • Decoration – Decorations make anything feel festive. If you’re looking for small office holiday party ideas, sending out decoration kits is a fun option. Streamers, balloons, confetti, paper hats are all lightweight and easy to fit into small packages and send through the mail.

    Consider holding a contest with prizes for best, worst, and most unusual use of the provided frills. Or, challenge everyone to decorate on their own and see who joins the party with the most festive background. This party idea is sure to get everyone into the holiday spirit.

  • Gift Exchange – Gift exchanges like Secret Santa are perfect for virtual settings. An easy way to incorporate them into your holiday celebrations is via email.

    Send out name assignments around Thanksgiving to give everyone plenty of time to find the right gift for your Secret Santa. You can set a maximum gift price to keep things comfortable and determine whether gifts will be physically delivered curbside ahead of the party or be required to be sent online (like virtual gift cards). Watching each other open gifts is an easy way to incorporate those festive feels at your holiday office party.

Party Alternatives

Not every office size or make-up is ideal for partying—holidays or not. That’s okay! There are still several ways to celebrate together. Start by thinking outside the box and outside the screen. Check local sources for ideas and see if and where a small event might work out. Even when facing unusual circumstances, there are still plenty of ways to give back and get together. 

Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

  • Volunteer – Meet (six feet apart, of course) for a bit of merriment and to give the gift of time. The holidays will provide plenty of opportunities for helping in your community and you can decide as a team which causes you’d like to work for. Spending time in service together doesn’t only feel good, but provides perspective and an amazing way to bring the office together. Not sure where to find these ideas? Look to Nextdoor for volunteering ideas! Neighbors may be posting about them and local businesses can crowdsource ideas by posting directly into the Nextdoor neighborhood with free Business Posts.

  • Donate – Hold a virtual charity drive leading up to the holiday break. Send out festive-themed updates and celebrate with gift cards, goody bags, or a paid day off when you reach your donation goal. Employees can vote for which organization to give to or a monetary target can be set with funds split between several charities, non-profits, or organizations. The more say employees have, the more involved they’ll be. 

  • Movie Night – Movie nights make it easy to keep a safe distance while still enjoying each other’s company. Set up viewing areas six feet apart in a park, on a rooftop, in a backyard, or even in a rented theater. Projector kits can be found online and come in a variety of price points. 

  • Drive-By Local Cookie Exchange – You’ve probably seen examples of drive-by birthday parties and baby showers, but why not adapt the concept for a holiday office cookie exchange? Pick a home base where employees can drop off cookies and pick up others in return. You can incorporate fun decorations, plastic flutes of cider (since everyone is driving), and honk along to a holiday playlist.

    Or, give it a Halloween twist and have participants arrive in costume and with goody bags ready to be filled.

Build Up the Event for Better Buy-In

Employees might be wary of spending even more time on a screen, but providing some excitement like a countdown ticker or fun email reminders is a great way to get them looking forward to some fun. You can also ask for drink recipes in group chats or take polls to see what kind of food or games everyone is interested in. Encourage employees to include their families and ask significant others to join as well.

To put it simply, focus on making the holiday feel like a celebration to look forward to and your team will enjoy themselves all the more.

Just Have Fun

No matter how you choose to get together this holiday season, as long as you plan with enthusiasm, you’re bound to have a fantastic time. Send out food, fun, and activities, mix drinks together on Zoom, or just hang out and reminisce about holiday parties gone by. The most important thing is that your employees feel appreciated no matter how strange the year has been. 

For more ideas on local businesses and vendors providing socially-distanced holiday party services, don’t forget Nextdoor. Nextdoor gives you instant access to all the holiday goings-on in your neighborhood. Check out what nearby restaurants, bakeries, and more are doing in your area—it might just spark an idea for your own work holiday celebration.

Happy Holidays!



Snack Nation. 23 Virtual Holiday Party Ideas For Spirited Festive Fun In 2020. 29 Free Online Team Building Games for Remote Teams (+1 Bonus).

Yapsody. COVID Christmas Party Ideas 2020 For Event Organizers. 

The Escape Game. Remote Adventures Virtual Escape Rooms.



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Claim your free Business Page to get started on Nextdoor. For resources on how to use Nextdoor to stay connected with your local customers, pertinent news affecting business, and more, follow us at @nextdoorbusiness on Facebook

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