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Get planning – it’s virtually Christmas!

With office Christmas parties a non-starter this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, lots of employers will be looking for virtual alternatives to entertain their staff and boost morale – especially when so many have been working in isolation at home for long periods.

The traditional office Christmas party is an opportunity to mix with colleagues in an informal environment, let your hair down (too much in some cases!) and celebrate the end of another working year.

Trying to achieve something similar in the virtual world poses a few problems, but cloud-based video conferencing services such as Zoom and networking apps like Houseparty open up all sorts of opportunities to ‘get together’ even when you can’t physically be in the same room.

Companies that traditionally host and organise festive celebrations have been quick to convert them into virtual events, with the offer of wine tastings, cocktail making and cooking classes where ingredients are delivered to the participants’ homes in preparation for the online shared experience.

There are also virtual escape rooms, murder mysteries and themed events, with price-per-head charges starting from as little as £12. If you’d rather get creative and organise your own online party or festive entertainment, here are a few ideas using video conferencing to get you thinking:

GET QUIZZICAL: Nominate a question master to create a bespoke quiz, with rounds specifically aimed at your employees. Questions can be a mixture of high-brow and light-hearted, such as guessing staff members from baby photos and asking “who said that?” If you are running a quiz for a larger number of participants I can thoroughly recommend SpeedQuizzing which is a live app used with a Zoom call to provide interactive fun!

HAPPY HOUR: Choose a handful of cocktail recipes – they can be alcoholic or virgin, or a mixture of both – and circulate a list of ingredients to buy in advance. Opt for things that people might have lurking at the back of the cupboard, and remember lots of spirits can be bought as miniatures to save on cost. Nominate a bartender to call out instructions as you make each drink, and sample them together. You can add fun elements, such as cocktail dress and party games. The same concept can be used to make festive cookies or decorate a Christmas cake together under one person’s instruction.

SECRET SANTA LIVE: The office Secret Santa is always a Christmas highlight, but you don’t have to miss out just because you’re not in the office. Staff can opt in and agree to share their addresses so presents can be sent direct, and the gift opening can take place ‘live’ during a video conference call with all the usual hilarity

PARTY ON: Recreate the traditional office Christmas party in everyone’s home – with a little imagination! Choose a DJ to compile a playlist, with staff nominating their favourite songs, and dance the night away in your best party outfit. You can include party games such as charades, challenges such as ‘who can eat the most mice pies in a minute?’ and even karaoke to add to the fun!

Depending on government COVID restrictions at the time, it may be possible for small groups of employees who live near each other to join together for virtual celebrations, creating a more authentic party atmosphere.

And team rather than individual quizzes would then also be possible, with each group setting a round of questions for a more interactive experience.

It’s worth bearing in mind that personal circumstances and home tech limitations might prevent some employees from taking part in a virtual office Christmas party, so try to include them by sending a goody box or making a personal call instead.

There are endless possibilities for creative and unique virtual celebrations to suit all budgets and tastes, so if you need a hand coming up with ideas and getting things organised please get in touch with me