Office Holiday Party Ideas to Engage Virtual and In-Office Employees

Take a cue from classic holiday songs as you think through your hybrid holiday planning.

7 min read
Salad bowl flanked by present, french fries and laptop

The holiday season is upon us, and with it, employers have started to think about how they will show their appreciation this year. In years past, the standard approach was to throw an office holiday party. But with many dispersed around the world, employers will need to take an unorthodox approach to the office holiday party.

Here are some corporate party ideas you can use for in-office and virtual employees.  

In-Office and Virtual Team Celebration Ideas 

What are the best holiday party ideas and how do you put a modern spin on them? Whether a virtual holiday party, or hybrid celebration, these are some creative ideas to include

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

For thousands of years, food has been a primary way we show care for other people. Whether it was hunting, gathering, cooking or sharing, the connection people build through food cannot be denied. Things are no different today and it carries over into food benefits in the workplace. 78% of employees surveyed believe food benefits would have a positive impact on the overall culture at their companies. It's not just about nourishment either. 

By giving someone food, the ability to have food delivered, or funds to make the food-buying and cooking processes easier, you are giving them the gift of time. You're reducing the time they normally spend handling those tasks. Instead, you are gifting them more time to enjoy those meals with family and friends. You may also be freeing up time for the employee or team member to devote to their own wellness, to help someone else, to do a hobby or sport they like, etc. It's a win-win situation.

The gift of food benefits, such as the DashPass for Employees or DoorDash gift cards, gives your leaders the opportunity to help employees in other ways. 82% of those surveyed said they’d feel more satisfied at work if their company offered free food delivery cards. If you're considering a gift that gives all year long,  provides employees year-round access to delivery of meals and groceries. You'll be saving your employees time shopping, time cooking and in the end, it will ease their stress. 

If you're looking for specific holiday party support, using DoorDash Group Orders fits that bill. It provides a way to have each employee fed with delicious, nutritious food that you can request delivery using non-contact delivery safety measures. This provides a sense of security for employees because they know the food was handled in a safe, appropriate way before delivery.

No Place Like Home for the Holidays 

Workplaces everywhere participate in gift exchanges, "Secret Santa'' assignments in departments, or gift giving contests. So, how do you pull that off in a hybrid world?Make the most of it! From movies like The Wizard of Oz to songs like the one above, we grow up knowing there is no place like home. Now, even while at home or in the office, there are so many ways you can use technology to connect and make memories.

If you're ready to plan a virtual Secret Santa or gift exchange, look to technologies like Elfster and Giftster. Each tool enables the organizer to invite multiple participants. Once a participant accepts, they create a wishlist of various items within a set price point. The tool then randomly assigns the matches. 

The administrator can even create questions for participants so they get to know each other better. Ask about their family traditions, which holiday they celebrate, how they celebrate and what they like best about this time of year. And the best part: you can do this with your employees in the office or at home.. 

Underneath the Tree 

In this song, Kelly Clarkson sings about being alone on Christmas. Some employees may feel the same way as the holidays approachOne way to prevent that is by sending holiday decorations. No matter what holiday you celebrate, decorating your home or the office is a way of declaring the traditions you hold dear. There are ways you can make employees feel special during the season by sending a box of decorations for their home before the office holiday party. 

Make sure the decorations are inclusive and align with what’s being hung in the office. That way you can create a sense of belonging among the virtual and in-office employees. 

And So This is Christmas 

The holidays are a season about giving to others. Many workplaces have selected families in need to "adopt" during the holiday season. You can work with your local Red Cross, Salvation Army, churches, or other charities to identify families who need a little extra help during the winter season. Having everyone donate items that a family needs brings everyone together with one goal. It gives employees a sense of accomplishment and wellbeing by enabling them to help make someone else's life a little better.

Be sure to share pictures and stories at the office holiday party. Even if it is a hybrid party, employees can feel part of something larger than themselves. They will be proud they were able to spread kindness and holiday cheer too!

The Ugly Christmas Sweater Song

When thinking about ways to bring people together to celebrate a hybrid office holiday party, you can’t go wrong with an ugly sweater contest. We've seen them worn in holiday movies like Deck the Halls or The Santa Clause 2. We've heard songs about them. But the real fun is finding them and wearing them.

There are a couple ways to handle this in a hybrid environment. You can have employees submit photos or come on zoom wearing their favorite ugly sweater. You could also send different ugly sweaters to employees from each department, then have the departments compete. Either way, putting on funny holiday sweaters and voting is a great morale booster. As for prizes, send a new ugly sweater and a DoorDash gift card of course!

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Personal acts of service are a wonderful way we show someone they are important to us. As we prepare for the holiday season, we know that office holiday parties and celebrations are not always about giving a physical thing. Sometimes, the best gifts and recognition comes when we do acts of service in support of other people. Finding ways to lend a hand and take on a task for someone is often the best gift.

Whether you are a leader or an employee on a team, find a colleague and offer to help lighten his or her load. Take on a bit of extra work. When you do that, you not only actually reduce their stress, you show the person that you value them. It is a small gesture that creates a huge impact. If you are the leader of the team, find one thing you can do for each person to lighten their work responsibilities. You will validate that the work they do is important and simultaneously spread holiday cheer.

Run, Run Rudolph 

With the intense focus on wellbeing, more employees are participating in physical fitness. One way to build camaraderie, create a challenge and promote wellness  by hosting a race or physical competition. Not only will employees feel closer to each other, it can be a way to help them achieve their own personal health goals.

Hosting a holiday race, for example, is a great way to bring employees together whether they are working in the office or still working remotely. You can hold an in-person race event for those who are comfortable doing so. For those at home, or who are less comfortable participating in larger group activities at this time, you can have employees submit photos or fun videos from their run. Have each employee track their time to completion and use the honor system to self report. In the end, give out fun holiday rewards like a DoorDash employee gift card for participating. 

Oh, Why Can't Every Day Be Like Christmas 

One way to get creative with the traditional approach to a party is to schedule it over time. Instead of hosting a party on one day for a few hours, consider hosting a party week. Set aside a few minutes each day to celebrate. Consider these mini parties as ways to bring in many of the components from what we've already suggested. Mix up having celebration days, competition days, and days that focus on inclusion of many belief systems. The overarching goal of the week should be bringing people together, engaging conversation and inclusion.

In fact, you could make the whole month of December your hybrid office holiday party! Get creative and ask employees for their ideas too. You may find that by focusing on the employee, service to others, wellness, and holiday cheer, you'll get more involvement and engagement than ever before. As the future of the office and work evolves, we must continue to use creativity and innovation to keep our teams engaged. 


Trish McFarlane

Trish McFarlane

CEO, H3 HR Advisors