In the year of virtual – virtual birthday parties, virtual happy hours, and virtual concerts – logging on to yet another video call doesn’t exactly feel like a special occasion. But as the holidays descend upon us, and most employees continue to work from home, companies are forced to think beyond the traditional arrangements that are essential to in person events.

Team leaders are now saddled with the difficult task of creating a fun and engaging program that’s worthy of people’s time and participation, regardless of the format. But before you stash those champagne glasses and party hats, consider this list of creative and interactive workarounds that will be sure to bring your team together, and ultimately, close the year out on a high note.  


Send the Party to the Team

Just because the party is virtual, or not everyone on your team can make it in person to the hybrid gathering, doesn’t mean you can’t send the merriment to your virtual guests. Send your team a nice bottle of wine or spirits to their homes to toast the occasion together from afar. You might also consider sending decorations or holiday mementos to your team in advance of the party. Reallocating your usual per person party budget to send a care package or cover their meal for the evening recreates some of the holiday party elements for virtual participants. Most food delivery services have easy gift cards you can purchase online and send straight to their email, or you can order physical gift cards and mail them out prior to the get together. 

Gift Exchange

While the last idea focused on recreating the menu and ambiance of the party for virtual goers, this idea explores how to recreate your holiday gift traditions for a virtual or hybrid party. Consider sending all employees a present from the company to demonstrate your gratitude for their contributions. These presents can be sent in advance to all employees, or given out in-person at the event, and mailed to the virtual attendants.

If your office is used to doing a Secret Santa, you can have a team member oversee who gets paired with who, or use an online generator to have everyone participate.  Ask all participants to mail their wrapped gift to their recipient one week prior to your party and consider covering the cost of postage for the gift exchange, if possible. You can ask participants to open their gifts during the party and make a game of guessing the Secret Santa responsible for each gift.

Another fun interactive gift exchange is the White Elephant gift game. While this game is usually played with a large group in-person, so participants can “steal” each other’s gifts, the experience can also be recreated for a hybrid event. Ask all guests to send in a photo of the gift they will be contributing and use this online platform to host the white elephant gift exchange.

Virtual Class

If you’re wondering what should be on the agenda for your event, beyond eating, drinking, and gifting, you might want to consider organizing a virtual class for your group to enjoy. Some ideas for employee engagement include beer or wine tastings (with or without food pairings), mixology or cooking classes, or even paint and craft sessions. Your team can plan a more DIY-approach to be budget friendly by providing a shopping list to guests or use a partner to send out the kits in advance. These virtual classes can be led by someone on the team or by an expert.  To stay on holiday theme, send your employees kits to make gingerbread houses, walk through how to assemble and decorate together, and have the team showcase their designs during the party.

Employees Got Talent

Celebrate your employees’ achievements and strengths both in and out of the workplace by planning an employee talent show. You can consider a themed event, like a karaoke or lipsync contest, or keep it open ended to see what your team is comfortable sharing.  Consider opening the competition to your team’s family, as well, to give everyone a chance to know each other better. Another fun idea is to host a pet talent show, or costume contest, as light-hearted ways for your employees to show off and learn more about each other while having fun at home and incorporating their new, furry coworkers.

Game Night

To continue the friendly competition, create cheer through a series of hybrid or virtual game nights. Simpler options include trivia or bingo, which can be led by one or two individuals, and played by each employee separately. A team building approach can be taken with games like escape rooms, scavenger hunts, murder mystery, charades, Pictionary, virtual werewolf, and mafia.  By using a platform like Convene Virtual Meetings, your participants can compete in breakout rooms, or interact with each other using features such as polls and Q&As throughout the competition. No matter what kind of game you choose, a game night can provide a fun way to build team comradery virtually, with lots of laughs along the way. 

Celebrating the Team

Spend some time during the party to celebrate your team. You might want to have guests submit their shoutouts for their teammates in advance, or consider creating your own nominations, superlatives, and awards program. This can include both serious categories, such as “Most Supportive Manager” and “Customer Service Award”, and/or fun categories, such as or “Best Zoom Background” and “Office Comedian”. The focus should be on highlighting the strengths of your  team members and emphasizing gratitude for their hard work so your employees feel appreciated. Awards can be shared via a presentation, with official trophies or plaques, through an email, or verbal mention during the event, celebrating each team and their successes.

Bring in the Talent

Produce a show for your team to enjoy, and let them sit back and relax, while they consume hired entertainment. Magicians, mentalists, psychics, comedians, and caricaturists are just some examples of the many talented interactive entertainers that are available for your virtual or hybrid events. Another approach might be more geared to setting the party stage, by hiring a DJ, band, or other musicians to provide custom background music and elevate your event, as your team mingles and takes part in other elements of your holiday party.

Ending on a High Note

Closing out an unexpected year with a twist on an expected celebration, will be a gesture your team is sure to appreciate. By planning ahead, companies can still plan an exciting holiday party and a great way to show your employees appreciation with a safe, fun, and engaging event. More than just a video chat, these ideas allow your virtual holiday party to set the tone for a bright new year. And no matter which format or agenda you choose, aim to create a positive atmosphere focused on celebrating each other and you’ll have a successful event on your hands.