Human Resources Blog - Spark Hire

Hosting a Jolly Virtual Holiday Party – Pandemic Edition

As you round the corner to the new year, your employees look forward to holiday festivities where they can unwind and celebrate year-end wins with their peers. However, most in-person holiday parties have been put on hold this year due to social distancing, a continuous and conscious focus on employee health and safety. 

Traditionally, these parties are a great way to acknowledge team and personal accomplishments and reconnect on a human level. You are probably wondering, is it possible to plan a holiday party that is still fun and rewarding for your team when you’re limited to virtual options? 

It sure is! Of course, it will look and feel different, but it has much of the same potential to raise spirits. There are plenty of virtual holiday party ideas that offer a festive and joyful alternative. We’ve compiled a few to inspire your remote-work party planning:

Carefully time your company gift 

A good practice during the holiday season is to distribute a gift from the company. This small act of appreciation can go a long way in employee satisfaction and retention

To continue this tradition with a remote team, plan for everyone to receive the company gift before the virtual holiday party. Don’t leave your team wondering if they will receive a hefty bonus or jelly of the year subscription.

Some great ideas for gifts this year could be a virtual gift card, a bottle of wine or cider, a holiday care package to encourage stress relief or a donation to each team member’s charity of choice. 

Hold a virtual decorating contest

Decorating contests have always been a holiday favorite. This year, instead of decorating a door or a desk space, you and your team can decorate your video backgrounds! Between virtual backgrounds and changes to one’s physical location, there are innumerable options. 

This contest is a great way to change things up and encourage your team to get into the holiday spirit. The competition brings excitement, the new backgrounds spice things up in the virtual meetings, and it’s something familiar team members can look forward to. 

Change up the gift exchange

When brainstorming your virtual holiday party ideas, you may be tempted to cross out the white elephant. There’s no way to do an actual white elephant with a remote team, but you can still do a gift exchange. 

By adjusting to a Secret Santa approach, employees can mail their assigned person a small gift, and the team can still enjoy the excitement of a gift exchange. To get started, use the website Elfster to designate who gets who for the Secret Santa.

You could even use your holiday party budget to allot a dollar amount per employee to select gift cards online for their gift recipient.

Use breakout rooms

Whichever virtual holiday ideas stand out most to you, keep in mind the size of your team. 

At traditional holiday work parties, team members can mingle and meander throughout the group without getting overwhelmed. In the virtual setting, individuals have less opportunity to share meaningful conversations in a small group if the whole team is on the screen the entire time. 

For larger groups, be sure to use breakout rooms throughout the party. The whole point is to celebrate and heighten connections, and that’s difficult when too many people are in the same virtual space at one time.

Play online games

It’s hard to go wrong with games. They are high-energy ways to get employees out of work-mode and engaging with each other as human beings. 

If you don’t want to go the Jackbox route with your team, there are still many games out there that are cheap and easy to put together. 

  • Prepare a holiday trivia game. Using breakout rooms, you can even split everyone up into teams. 
  • Hold a virtual scavenger hunt. It’s especially engaging to make the necessary items be something easily found in any home. 
  • Play workday bingo. This game extends the fun throughout the day and can make the mundane exciting when it’s something the team can cross off on their bingo board. 
  • Create a virtual escape room challenge. Escape rooms are a great team-building activity. You can find a rundown of great virtual escape rooms here, or come up with clues your team can work through on a timer in a video meeting.

Inspire a crafting session  

Sharing an experience during the virtual party is a great way to bond with your team. It keeps the atmosphere festive, creates a memory, and takes the pressure off finding positive conversation topics when many are in a stressful place. 

Crafts like sip and paint, coloring, or creating seasonal decor can be solid options for a shared experience. Alternatively, you can offer a shared learning experience like how to make balloon animals or best practices for bullet journaling. Just remember to include the necessary supplies with the company gift.

This is an activity employees’ family members can get involved in as well, especially if they have children who are likely to be in their shared space. This keeps the focus on the fun for everyone.

Develop resolutions together

While deciding on New Year’s resolutions tends to be a personal endeavor, discussing 2021 goals with your team is a stellar addition to your virtual holiday party ideas. 

These can be fun and lighthearted, like declaring that the team should strive to pick out a theme song for each week throughout the year. But you can also take this as an opportunity to have an open conversation with your team about what is and isn’t effective for working remotely, how you all might better embrace company values, and what progress they want to make as a team moving forward.


Josh Tolan

Josh Tolan is the Founder and CEO of Spark Hire, a video interviewing platform used by 6,000+ customers in over 100 countries.