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Deck the Halls with Festive Backgrounds, Fa la la


Celebrating a work holiday party from home
Image: Angelov -
Many employees often look forward to this time of year for one reason: the company holiday party. Whether big formal banquets or just drinks among closest coworkers, these occasions not only provide a moment to celebrate a year of hard work but also create an opportunity to boost the employee experience and allow team members to connect in a way they can’t in the office.
But like we’ve had to do with so many things in 2020, we’ve had to do our holiday celebrating virtually this year — no more bashes requiring HR's guidance, IT's multimedia finesse in putting together year-in-review highlight reels, or facilities' know-how in turning the company cafeteria into a winter wonderland. While we might be burnt out on virtual everything (graduations, birthdays, bad movie nights, etc.), we can hope for our collaboration technology vendors to serve up some holiday cheer with festive backgrounds and ways to enhance virtual parties.
To that end, Microsoft last week revealed a holiday-themed update in a blog post to its team collaboration app, Teams, and provided some tips for creating a virtual party. The update includes a series of downloadable video meeting backgrounds featuring ornaments, reindeers, and poinsettias. Similarly, Zoom offers the option of creating and uploading festive backgrounds for virtual holiday parties held with its video meeting app.
Festive backgrounds might be a nice start, but party hosts will need some activities to keep the party going. In the blog post, Microsoft shared a couple of simple ways to add team-building activities or just some fun into a Teams-hosted company party. An integration with Kahoot! allows teams to host trivia competitions, and Teams supports a host of games from Jackbox Games, including a drawing game called Drawful and a party game called Quiplash, which requires participants to provide quick and witty responses to absurd questions. Microsoft even makes it easy to share a last-minute gift for that special team member, thanks to an app integration that lets Teams users buy and send Starbuck gift cards.
While it’s great that collaboration providers are helping promote the holiday spirit, employees and HR departments don’t have to rely on those means alone. Plenty of sites offer various ecards, and for that personal touch, nothing beats getting a personalized, handwritten card in the mail when you least expect it. And, HR resources and articles with more ideas on creating the perfect virtual holiday party abound. I stumbled upon this recent Forbes article about the subject, and several ideas caught my eye, namely a gingerbread war and an award show.
While the virtual celebrations of 2020 won’t replace holiday office parties of years’ past (my favorite being an ax throwing event), virtual parties and digital (or physical) thank-yous provide simple ways to give back to employees after a year filled with frustration, new working models, and record burnout. In many ways, this is the last opportunity to enhance the employee experience in 2020. So, I say make it count and pass the eggnog.