Holiday Ideas for the Remote Workplace

October 5, 2022

The holidays have traditionally been a time for gathering, enjoying each other’s company, and a lot of hugging, laughter, and bonding. With many employees working remotely, the holidays pose a new challenge for employers wanting to bring their teams together.

This is especially true for businesses that may have previously hosted a big party at a local venue or prepared small, in-office entertainment, like a holiday gift exchange, an ugly sweater-themed party, potluck team lunches, or other office party game ideas.

However, just because many companies have transitioned to a remote work environment doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy this time of year and participate in the holiday activities we know and love — albeit in a way that remains in line with the new normal.

Take Your Holiday Event Virtual

The trend in 2022 indicates that virtual workplaces might be here to stay. Video conferencing tools like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Meet, and FaceTime — just to name a few — continue to be popular, allowing people to keep in touch with one another no matter where they are.

These applications remain important for some businesses’ survival, too. Video conferencing capabilities continue to make it possible for people to work remotely without sacrificing face-to-face time with co-workers, managers, potential clients, or customers — yet maintain a somewhat normal work routine.

Video conferencing has also influenced creativity, as people have come up with many fun ways to virtually host everything, from baby showers and birthday parties to happy hours and dinner gatherings. It’s as simple as planning a date, time, and all of the details, sending out an invitation, and everyone showing up — the same way you would with an in-person event.

Hosting a virtual office holiday party is a great way to get everyone from your company together, no matter where they work.

Play Virtual Holiday Party Games

Kick things off with a welcome speech from the company CEO, boss, top manager, or whoever organized the virtual event. Invite everyone to pour a glass of eggnog or their preferred beverage and put on an ugly holiday sweater, festive antlers, or a Santa hat. Then, wish everyone a Happy Holidays and toast to success and happiness in the new year.

During this speech, end-of-year employee accolades and awards can be given out, memorable moments in business can be recapped, and other high-energy, mood-improving tidbits can be included. This encourages workplace unity, promotes a positive company culture, and helps boost team morale overall. A happy team equals a productive team, and a productive team equals workplace accomplishment.

There are various office holiday party games you can easily adapt to a virtual environment. Some great games to consider are Pictionary or charades with a holiday-themed list of words. You can even get everyone in the holiday spirit by adding a festive theme, like holiday song karaoke, holiday movie trivia games, or a scavenger hunt with all holiday-related items.

Organizing a scavenger hunt allows for a lot of unique creativity, too. First, decide how many rounds you want to play and create a list of items for each round. Playing five to seven rounds with five items per round is an ideal place to start, especially if there are many people involved. You don’t want the game to go on so long that people start to lose interest.

Players are shown the item list as soon as the timer starts for each round and have a certain amount of time to bring back as many items as possible. If your video conferencing tool has a chat option, include the list there so players can refer back to it if needed.

The first player or team to come back with all five items wins the round and receives an extra point, while everyone gets one point per item after that. Keeping the list short makes it easier for everyone to remember the items, so they don’t waste time returning to the computer too often to check it.

You can make these holiday party games even more fun by raising the stakes with a great prize — just be sure to check your company’s policy on prizes. When choosing potential prizes for the winners, remember that people working from a home office might not have all the desk supplies they normally have in a traditional office. Or maybe they’re working within a much smaller space than a traditional office. You might even consider giving both the first person and last person to finish the game or contest a special prize, as well.

Great prize options include an all-in-one printer, a high-quality webcam or other computer accessories, or a 2-in-1 laptop. If you want to go even bigger, offer prizes like a hotel stay or spa retreat.

As long as you get experimental with these enjoyable office party game ideas, it won’t be difficult to transform them into a unique and memorable office holiday virtual event.

Use a Delivery Service for a Gift Exchange

Office gift exchanges have been a long-time tradition during the holidays. Two main styles of organizing gift-giving extravaganzas are Secret Santa and White Elephant.

Secret Santa works like this: Each team member chooses a person randomly (for example, everyone is assigned a name from a random generator) for whom they purchase a gift. The gift-giver remains anonymous, presenting the gift to their person in a secret manner (e.g., having the gift delivered to their home), and each person tries to guess who their gift came from after all gifts have been received.

On the other hand, the White Elephant game is played a little differently. Everyone brings a wrapped White Elephant gift and chooses a number. The person who chose No. 1 chooses a gift from the pile and unwraps it. The person who chose No. 2 then has the option to steal that gift to keep for themselves or open a new one. Then, whoever has No. 3 can choose to take gift No. 1 or 2 or open a new one, and so forth. There are various twists on these fun holiday office gift exchanges, but ultimately, the idea is always some blind gift-giving.

Although it won’t be possible to replicate the exact concept of a White Elephant gift exchange with a remote workforce, you can still organize a remote Secret Santa activity and keep the gift giver’s identity a secret. That’s the main difference between an in-office Secret Santa and one that’s completely remote.

Since the gifts are being shipped and delivered, a return address will ruin the secret part of Secret Santa! What’s the fix? To make sure that the gift-giver remains anonymous, you can ask that everyone participating use a different return address, like the game organizer’s address. This will keep the mystery alive and well between the gift-giver and the gift-receiver.

Some helpful websites are available that pair people up for the gift exchange, such as Elfster, which simplifies the organization process by letting you add all the details for the gift exchange, matches everyone up, and sends them all the necessary information. There is also DrawNames, a handy site that will save your list year after year so that you never get matched with the same person twice. Meanwhile, Giftster acts very much like a registry where participants can add items to a wish list and things can be marked as they’re purchased. This Secret Santa generator is another option, as well.

You can take the remote gift exchange one step further and arrange for a virtual conference call where everyone can join together to open their gifts and guess who their Santa was among the whole group. Play holiday songs in the background while everyone opens their gifts, encourage people to dress up in festive colors, and keep the holiday cheer loud and proud.

But what happens if you pick a person you don’t know very well? In this situation, you might not be sure what kind of gift to purchase for this particular co-worker because you don’t know much about their hobbies and interests outside the workplace. The trick here is to think about practical gifts, like a wireless mouse, an insulated water bottle, or a planner. Other ideas could be a variety pack of K-Cup® pods, a colorful desktop calendar, a desk lamp, or a set of pens.

Remember that no one is expected to spend a lot of money on these friendly gift exchanges, so don’t get too stressed about it if you end up picking a person you don’t know all that well. In most cases, there’s a mutually agreed-on cap on the dollar amount that each participant can spend on the gift. It’s just supposed to be a fun, light-hearted way to engage with your co-workers during a time when you don’t see each other in the office.

Send a Care Package

As an alternative to a gift exchange, you can send care packages to your colleagues. This is a great idea for a team leader or project manager to send out to their team members. Pre-packaged gift baskets are always a nice gesture for a holiday gift, or you can customize something special for each person with festive wrapping paper.

Here are a few ideas of things you could put together to make a holiday-themed basket:

  • Peppermints (like candy canes), chocolates, and hot cocoa with marshmallows
  • Gourmet Christmas cookies or gingerbread
  • Wine, champagne, cheese and crackers
  • Mini Christmas Trees, wreaths, tree ornaments, and other festive decors

Then, adorn the basket with jingle bells, colorful ribbon, or use holiday-themed gift boxes.

Holiday Ideas for Hybrid Workplaces

If your workplace has adopted a hybrid model, there are also opportunities to get in-office and remote team members involved together. You may have to get a bit creative depending on the size of your team, but the following ideas might be good inspiration.

  • Have a tasting where all employees receive a gift package of specialty treats. Everyone can enjoy their packages together, with remote employees joining in virtually over a screen in the office.
  • Have a viewing party where everyone watches a slideshow or video together, with remote employees on a live call to watch at the same time.
  • Have a fun online game tournament with in-office employees playing in a group and remote employees joining online.

Don't Forget This Is the Digital Age

While it’s very exciting to receive an actual package in the mail, especially during the holidays, there are many ways to send gifts digitally. Gift cards to just about anywhere can be purchased and sent electronically, such as restaurant and retail store gift certificates, movie theater and museum tickets, travel packages, and more.

Digital photo albums can also be shared among colleagues. One thing that many people love about the holidays is the decorations. You can share pictures and videos of your home holiday decorations, your holiday dinner preparations, and even recipes for your favorite holiday dishes, your family’s holiday photos, and anything else you’d like to share with your co-workers. You can do this through Google Docs, Dropbox, or even by creating a private group on social media.

A remote team doesn’t have to skip out on the fun of the holiday season. There are many ways to organize an office holiday celebration that still allow you to share this wonderful time of year with colleagues and friends.

About the Author

Shaina Wizov is a lifestyle blogger and social media influencer with a background in journalism and media studies. Follow her at @takeabiteoutofboca.

All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is,” and neither the author nor Office Depot warrants the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions, or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.