How to inspire holiday joy from a distance

Holiday parties, home-baked treats at the coffee shop, and booths full of holly branches are some of the workplace amenities that make it fun to go to the office this time of year. Unfortunately, most of us are going to celebrate the weather remotely.

However, we’ve had a lot of time learning how to make the distributed workplace more humane, so I turned to my network on Qwoted to see what companies are doing to give their pandemic-weary colleagues a boost. You might get some ideas from their comments.

Most respondents held holiday-themed events. On-demand staffing platform Wonolo teamed up with virtual reality company Remio to send Oculus glasses to its 300 employees for a company-wide virtual dance party. It is also conducting a scavenger hunt to help its many new hires “put a name with a face and a bond over a shared activity,” said Rachel Kim, vice president of Employee Experience. The company’s virtual holiday party includes crafts, Secret Santa, and gifts for everyone from their employer.

Software development automation company Bitrise extended the festivities to employees’ families with virtual visits to Santa Claus. “The kids love it,” said Rik Haandrikman, vice president of growth.

Global theme

Articulate, which makes course writing tools, has been completely remote since 2002. This year it used the virtual event platform Weve to offer a variety of holiday parties themed for different parts of the world. Executives were given a budget to choose one gift to give to everyone (such as New Orleans chocolates) and package them together as a sample.

Just in time for the holidays comes a new product from venerable greeting card maker Hallmark. The video greeting cards allow people to record short video messages that the service automatically stitches together into a multimedia greeting that can be accessed via a QR link on the card.

Kansas City, Missouri-based VideoFizz was the lucky company to choose Hallmark for its back-end technology. “It’s a dream come true for me because I created this technology to connect families,” said CEO Laura Steward. “And Hallmark has the best artists in the world.” Steward said some greeting compilations take an hour or more, which isn’t a bad deal at $5.99.

Automated messaging technology company Eveve is holding a trivia event via Zoom, with the winning team receiving $1,000 to donate to a charity of their choice. To encourage interaction, teams were deliberately composed of people from different departments. Allego used its own sales enablement platform for a holiday sing-along that everyone could join.

Tips from a veteran

Virtual event provider has hosted thousands of virtual holiday parties and CEO Michael Alexis provided some tips. Don’t try to mimic physical events too closely, he said. “You need to provide more structured games and activities,” he said. Start with icebreaker questions about things like people’s first Christmas memory or favorite holiday movie (check out a full list here). Search Google for “holiday trivia questions” and run a contest.

“Secret Santa adapts pretty well” to a virtual format, Alexis said. Give employees a budget to buy something for each other, then use the company’s return address to keep the package origin anonymous. You can also host a bingo party using themed cues like “still believes in Santa” or “got a present” instead of numbers. Here are 21 more ideas from

Quicken, the financial management software giant, recently planned a two-day virtual offsite to a resort on the Amalfi Coast, a destination selected by employees. “Employees were each delivered gift boxes with trinkets and snacks specific to the Amalfi Coast and were able to meet virtually at a tourist destination through a shared meeting room,” said Chief Marketing Officer Linda Itskovitz.

Loom asked employees to use his platform to record short videos about something they are grateful for. A man shared his gratitude for his family and then surprised his son with the gift of a Playstation 5 in front of the camera. “Encouraging our team to share something about themselves – whether work-related or not – builds affinity between time zones and teams,” said CEO Joe Thomas.

Just before Thanksgiving, Calendly, a meeting scheduling platform, hosted a virtual potluck and recipe exchange using recipes submitted by employees and compiled into an e-book. At a virtual holiday mixology class early this month, people learned how to make two holiday drinks from an expert bartender and sipped their creations at a virtual cocktail party, said Julia Betts, head of employee engagement. Owl Labs took a similar approach with virtual wreath-making classes and charcuterie board lessons, as well as a Biscotti-making session led by an Italian chef.

If you’re considering a virtual holiday event this year, Sammy Courtright has some advice. The co-founder and chief brand officer of the employee engagement platform Ten Spot recommends limiting any activity to less than an hour. “That not only increases engagement, but keeps Zoom fatigue to a minimum,” she said.

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