The holiday season this year will look different from anything we’ve ever seen before. Social distancing and remote work remain a necessary part of our lives, even as we enter the season when we’re supposed to come together and connect with our family and friends. This season will present many personal challenges—as well as some professional ones. While this is supposed to be the time of the year for celebrating accomplishments and attending company holiday parties, the pandemic has all but halted these moments for businesses across the globe. However, just because you can’t host your typical holiday party or seasonal event doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take this time to show appreciation to your staff. Celebrate the end of the year and thank your employees for their hard work with these 7 virtual activities. 1. Schedule a Virtual Party When Most People Can Attend Virtual holiday parties are going to be part of the “new normal” this year, and even though they aren’t as exciting as an in-person event, there are ways to make them fun for everyone. To start, choose a time that works for everyone—preferably in the afternoon during a workday. Scheduling a virtual office party during regular work hours is the best way to ensure that the most people can attend. If you host an event after work hours, it presents more challenges and inconveniences—especially if your staff has other responsibilities and commitments. Also, be mindful of employees working in different time zones (if applicable) and consider scheduling the party at a time they can attend. For example, you could host a breakfast party if it means an employee in England or Korea can join you. 2. ‘Cater’ Lunch for Your Holiday Party Many holiday parties involve an employer bringing in food for team members to enjoy while workers chat over lunch or snack on holiday treats. This might seem impossible to do virtually, but you can find creative ways to cover the food costs for your team. For example, consider giving each employee a $25 credit to DoorDash or UberEats—this way, they can have a meal delivered as a treat from you. A team member can snack on sushi while the other dives into a pie from their favorite pizza place. You can also give employees gift cards so they can pick up pre-party food for themselves. 3. Challenge Employees to Decorate Their Desks 2020 has allowed employees to get creative with their Zoom backgrounds and workspace setups—and you can keep this creativity going during the holiday season. Hold a contest to see which employees decorate their workspaces the best ahead of the virtual holiday party. You can set rules (like only decorating the area shown on Zoom) and give your team members time to point out their favorite elements, just like a door decoration contest in a school or office building. 4. Incorporate Optional Games During the holiday party, give employees time to “mingle” with each other virtually by chatting and sharing updates from the past few weeks. You can also incorporate group games and activities for your team to get them in the (competitive) holiday spirit. Bingo, trivia, and Pictionary are all games that translate well over Zoom and can scale up for a big group. Try to make these games optional—that way, less-eager employees don’t feel pressured to participate. 5. Host Team and Company-Wide Events Depending on the size of your company, it might not be feasible to host a whole team party to celebrate the holiday season. Instead, consider breaking up the festivities into departments or teams. For example, your HR team can meet up for a social lunch on their own while your marketing department enjoys a team breakfast party. You don’t have to choose between these options, either. Let small teams enjoy their parties alone and then invite them to a big company gathering for end-of-year speeches and activities. 6. Be Inclusive With Your Holiday Celebrations There are dozens of holidays to celebrate in December, from the heavy-hitters like Christmas and New Year’s Eve to the lesser-known Maple Syrup Day and Jay-Z’s birthday. While most holiday parties are held at the end of December, allow your employees to celebrate whatever festivities they enjoy and are important to them. Not everyone celebrates Christmas or Hanukkah, but they’ll still want to enjoy the events with your team. 7. Take Time to Share Your Appreciation Holiday parties are a time to eat an absurd amount of cookies and joke about the past year. While there are likely to be plenty of “2020 Dumpster Fire” memes, take time to really address the past 12 months with your team. Let your employees know how much their hard work and flexibility means to you and share your appreciation for their presence in the year ahead. An earnest thank-you goes a long way—and it’s doubly important to hear during stressful times. This holiday season might not be as bright as years past, but it can still be full of warmth and light. From all of us at Lendio, we wish you a happy holiday season and hope you find time to relax through the end of this year.