In this upcoming second holiday season of Covid-19, the drycleaning industry needs to consider the options for in-person, virtual and hybrid parties, or the possibility of not having a celebration at all.
Sarah Koller, SHRM-CP & People Operations Manager @ GoCo, explains in her article How to Plan a Company Holiday Party During Covid-19 that “in-person parties are not completely off the table this year, but companies will have extra precautions and challenges to consider. Given how Covid-19 has reshaped so much of the way we interact, companies should consider the following when hosting in-person this holiday season.”
Find Out Whether a Holiday Party is Important to the Employees. There are a lot of things you can do to mitigate your health risk, but there is no way you can get your risk down to zero when you are meeting in person. At our company, we decided on an in-person but socially distant event because we received feedback that our employees were Zoom-fatigued and could truly use a boost in morale and mental health. We did not make attendance mandatory.
Gauge Employee Interest. We started planning with an anonymous survey to gauge interest. It was acceptable when some people said they did not want to attend the event under any circumstances. For those who said they were comfortable with some level of interaction, we asked what precautions mattered most to them, such as being outdoors, wearing masks, cleaning protocols, etc.
Safety oriented pandemic precautions. Safety was our number one goal. There is no amount of morale-boosting and team-building that could outweigh risks to personal health and safety. We focused on how to create special moments that reflected the things that mattered to our employees, then figured out how to make those moments safe. For example, we have a lot of singers in our company, so we knew that having karaoke would be a hit. To do this safely, we thought about all the hazards of singing and found solutions like individual microphone covers.
Create a sense of normalcy during the event. We wanted to do some team-building activities in groups without people having to be physically close to each other. We thought of organizing a sport activity but wearing masks and staying six feet apart was not practical. We opted instead to bring in a trivia game that was customized to our company and culture, which was a lot of fun. It helped to foster camaraderie in answering the trivia questions and allowed us to work in teams and have fun.
Choosing a Location and Vendors. The pandemic created a number of logistical challenges, many of which were unforeseen until the planning started. Choosing a location was the biggest challenge of all. Finding a place that had plenty of outdoor space to accommodate social distancing, had a fun party atmosphere to create a sense of normalcy and a venue that we could rent and host privately so as not to expose employees to people outside of our group, not even in the restrooms or at the bar.
Affordable venue to accommodate budget. We had to put a lot more effort into planning because, for example, in our case, out of ten vendors we called, only one responded. That was true for food trucks, entertainment and just about anything else needed for an in-person event. Many vendors are doing virtual-only, so it takes some creativity to plan an in-person event. We finally booked a venue that was some distance from our office just to accommodate what we wanted. It is important to be flexible.
Following CDC Guidelines. This list includes: enforcing and respecting social-distancing of six foot distance from others, requiring a face-covering unless actively eating or drinking, providing hand-sanitizing stations throughout the event space and sanitizing hands upon entry. Conducting health-screenings for symptoms must be a condition for entering the event as well requiring attendees to sign and acknowledge a Covid-19 safety waiver (e.g. wear a mask, disclose symptoms, provide a negative Covid test, etc.).
Virtual and Hybrid Gatherings. Although many business owners are re-opening their offices, they are giving their employees the option of continuing to work from home. Since these employees may not be able to travel to an in-person party, virtual and hybrid gatherings have become a new normal due to the pandemic. There are many ways to make them appealing, enjoyable and fun. The goal is for the party to not be just another Zoom meeting. An interesting party idea hosted by Paypal that unfortunately probably does not apply to anyone reading this article seemed fun to describe. Last year Paypal hosted a global 29-hour virtual party where participants could join in virtually at their hour of choosing. Eight managers around the globe were assigned a time-slot to arrange virtual entertainment.
Michele Laufik, Staff Writer @The Vendry Memo, in her article 15 Corporate Holiday Party Entertainment Ideas for 2021 and Beyond, states that “as we have all learned, digital shindigs do not have to be boring. You can arrange for the festive feast to be sent to at-home attendees, plan a wine-tasting for some holiday cheer, or present end-of-year awards. Whether gathering in person or online, plan your holiday party around a fun theme, such as a winter wonderland or a favorite decade of your choice. Of course, some planners and hosts are looking back to the roaring ‘20s—a popular choice. We are seeing that some are going to invest in sending gifts and kits to these employees’ homes that will allow them either to celebrate at home while virtually attending, or just provide them with a gift so they feel included even from afar.” Laufik specifically offers these additional party suggestions:
Scavenger Hunt. A tried-and-true corporate party idea for any occasion, scavenger hunts are a fun, interactive way to keep attendees engaged. Also, consider awarding a seasonal gift to the winners. If you are hosting a virtual gathering, consider including things that folks would have around the house such as festive décor items.
Bring in an impersonator/magician. Capture the magic of the season with the help of a magician or a quirky impersonator. These performers will provide entertainment while interacting with the guests. Inviting a special guest to encourage engagement is especially helpful when a team is a mix of hybrid, remote and in-person employees.
Office talent show. Allow employees to show off their hidden (or not-so-hidden) talents with an end-of-year talent show, which can be conducted in person or over Zoom. Ask attendees to sign up ahead of time and assign a host to keep the show flowing.
Madeline Raithel, Communications Specialist @ Entire Productions, said that “it is likely that not all of your team will have returned to the office 100% by this holiday season, for a variety of reasons. Health concerns, distance and responsibilities at home limit employees from meeting in person. Leaving those remote workers out is not an option, so consider a faster-paced, more engaging hybrid meeting event with your message, education and team-building segments seasoned with a scintillating musical performance, master mentalist, celebrity appearances, giveaways and more.”
Skipping the Party All Together Koller further suggests that skipping the party is a viable option, you want your employees to continue to feel connected to the company and their fellow co-workers, but you do not always need a lavish party to do this. You might just not want to add yet another Zoom call to the calendar. I expect a lot of holiday parties to be canceled this year. If you are considering this option, think about what you would have spent on a holiday party. Now take that budget and reinvest it in holiday bonuses or care packages for your employees. A big selling point of a party is to give back to your employees and a bonus or gift can achieve the same purpose — perhaps even exceed it for the introverts at your business. Remember that all of your employees will benefit from the gesture. Corporate-branded care packages chosen by you are a wonderful gift to send to employees at home. Check out MerchBox by Merchology and Spoonful of Comfort for great suggestions to send to employees working from home. Whatever you choose, the most important thing is that you think about what makes your employees special and what they like to do and tailor your gift or bonus to them.
Koller sums it up beautifully by stating, “In short, your options for planning a holiday party will vary depending on your local conditions, the size of your workforce and the opinions of your employees. The most important thing you can do is to be open-minded in thinking outside the traditional party to ensure employees stay safe and feel appreciated.”