Corporate holiday parties, both virtual and personal, are back this year

People either love or hate corporate holiday parties. Almost everyone hates virtual office holiday parties. As we enter the second season of pandemic holidays, both types of events – honoring employees and humanizing bosses – are making a comeback. But they are probably different from what you remember.

Virtual partying continues this year, although thankfully companies have learned some lessons from the past year about what employees will carry. And after last year’s hiatus, in-person parties are making a comeback as vaccination rates and appetite for companionship rise, though those activities will also be more subdued. We are also seeing the rise of a third category: no parties at all. Rather than cool food, bad DJs, and awkward coworkers, some companies opt for gifts, money, or extra vacations instead. One company is even planning a group trip to heaven – of course, if you’re cynical, you can count it as a never-ending corporate holiday party.

Notably, the companies’ plans for this year are missing the so-called hybrid holiday parties, to which some guests come in person and some online. It turns out they just don’t work. It’s hard to program to suit both groups, so for the most part, companies have stopped trying.

Which party you go to – or skip – depends a lot on your specific company, industry, and region. But one thing is clear: the pandemic has had a lasting impact on the holiday party as we know it.

Virtual celebrations, continued

For many companies, this will be the second year of the virtual holiday. Do not despair! They should be better or at least shorter than in 2020.

In the past year, many companies made the mistake that everyone makes when moving something to a virtual environment: they were trying to get closer to a real event. For some, that meant Zoom calls that lasted several hours and included everything from games to music to performances — all carried better with drink in hand in a bar or swanky event venue than on the couch at home.

“They were too intense in terms of how much was going on on the Internet,” said Tal Brodsky, director of product marketing and business development for the company. Prosperity– said Recode.

“I think most companies this year are focusing on short and sweet but effective things on the Internet,” said Brodsky, who estimates that 60-70 percent of Thriver’s holiday parties this year will be virtual.

This year at Muck Rack, a media database company, is a magician and mentalist. Kobe Elimelech going to read the minds of some remote employees. The virtual event includes a $ 60 food and drink scholarship, toast, and will conclude in an hour and a half.

Facebook is shrinking a lot. After hosting a 6,000-person holiday party in 2019 for its New York office at Pier 94, which included a DJ, two Mister Softee trucks and thousands of waffles for guests, the company decided to host a virtual variety show for its second year. Employees will watch performances by Broadway musicians and actors and donate Broadway cares

Many of this year’s virtual holiday parties include a box of food, cocktails, or crafts that are shipped to employees in advance and assembled by instructor during a Zoom event. These events are often held with smaller groups than last year, and any corporate events have mostly been cut back.

Credit: Chocolate Noise

Chocolate noise, a handicraft chocolate event company, sends visitors several bars of chocolate, as well as pairs of tea and wine, and then takes them through an online chocolate tasting. Company founder Megan Giller offered virtual events ahead of the pandemic, but says they didn’t catch on with corporate clients until last year.

“We really view each one as good wine or cheese, and where we talk about where the beans come from and how chocolate is made and what people taste in those particular bars,” said Giller, who wrote a book about chocolate, judges chocolate contests and teaches people to “taste like a connoisseur.”

While Giller prefers to host small-group tastings, the huge growth in virtual corporate holiday parties has led her to learn how to host these events for over 100 people at once. For the event to run smoothly, a host must be involved in addition to a few chocolate sommeliers.

Popular events at Thriver this year include watercolor holiday cards, mocha mochas and cocktail sets, and detective Christmas murder.

Image of the Thriver website with the best holiday activities, including a wreath workshop, a Christmas murder detective, and a mocha.

Credit: Thriver

Amanda Ma, Principal Experience Specialist at an Event Management Agency in Los Angeles Innovate Marketing Groupusually hosts large-scale events for large corporate clients such as YouTube and TikTok, as well as for large banks. Before the pandemic, she said she would “build the entire experience by touching the five senses, from food to entertainment and the things they touch and feel.” This year, 90 percent of the holiday parties she works on are virtual. However, she does her best to provide guests with a multi-sensory experience at home.

“Typical wine and dinner are very last year,” Ma said. “All expectations this year are higher because they have almost two years of virtual games.”

Popular activities for her clients this year are making sausage boards, teaching calligraphy and making holiday wreaths. Overall, Ma says she sees a lot more thoughts on events this year because they had more time to plan, and most companies figure it out this summer, not at the last minute like last year. She also notes that virtual events are cheaper than personal ones, with cost savings, she says, between 30 and 50 percent.

The return of the IRL holiday party

For many businesses, 2021 heralds the return of the corporate holiday party, but the size, location and timing have changed. Companies – and especially leaders those in charge are looking to get people back to the office after many employees have spent nearly two years working from home. Bosses see personal holiday parties as a way to calm people down. It is also a way to meet new colleagues who may have never worked together in person.

Typically, there are fewer events this year than before, which is achieved by banning pros, splitting into teams or hosting parties for several days.

For a corporate client who, before the pandemic, organized holiday celebrations for 1,500 people, Experimental tinsel design New York instead organized three separate events with two different concepts. The client, which the company did not report, also hosted a series of events earlier in the year at the Central Park Zoo so guests can be outdoors.

“The format is under the microscope,” Alexa Jensen, head of creative production at Tinsel, told Recode.

In general, companies are thinking more about where and when to hold holiday parties. They choose outdoor seating and sometimes move the event to fall or spring to take advantage of the warmer weather. They also need to be more agile in all aspects of the event.

“It’s not just a plan B anymore – it’s a rain plan,” Jensen said. “It’s like plan B, if another delta comes – I don’t want to put it into words – what is this plan B, C, D”.

This means planning for possible last minute changes to the venue. Companies hosting personal events also often choose to host events in their own offices rather than external venues, Triver said, so they have more control over security.

There has also been an increase in holiday dinners or early happy hours, rather than evening gatherings.

“I think people just value their time more,” says Rosa Hardesty, knowledge advisor at Human Resource Management Society, said. She added that while most of the parties she hears about are hosted in person again, they are wasting less staff time. “Maybe they get it, let’s do it in the afternoon while the employer pays them and honors them so they can go home to their families.”

But aside from size, time and place, these events are not much different from what they used to be. There is food with service, bartenders and music. However, there are also restrictions on the number of external providers and the vaccination requirements for those providers. Many employees must provide proof of vaccination themselves in advance, although some companies offer testing for Covid-19 at the event.

Some companies are doing something completely different.

The pandemic has also prompted companies to completely rethink the idea of ​​holiday parties. Perhaps because they think holiday party budgets could be better spent, some companies are finding new ways to support their employees with both their colleagues and their families.

PR firm VSC changes the office – and the office they left in the summer of 2020 – for the entire company trip to Hawaii. In early December, about 50 employees embark on a five-day trip to Oahu to zig zag, surf and spend time on the beach.

“When we have personal events, they have to be social,” said company founder Vijay Chatta, “and not get together to sit in front of laptops and send emails.”

Extra weekends, gift cards and other perks are also becoming a popular alternative to holiday parties, according to Hardesty of the Society for Human Resource Management. If the goal of the job is to provide for your family, she says, companies think they should allow you to spend more time with them. Recode’s parent company, Vox Media, is ditching the holiday party again this year, although many teams are hosting their own small in-person events. also gives its employees a full week of vacation for the holidays.

While they may have virtual gatherings at the end of the year, some companies also offer more intimate personal events for small groups that serve more as team building exercises than holiday parties. This includes yoga classes, cooking classes, and even quests.

But despite the rise in the number of holiday party alternatives, event planners are at least optimistic about a more active return to the actual holiday party. This year is a kind of test.

“Everyone’s just trying to get their toes back. I don’t think anyone is trying to challenge the controversy right now, ”said Tinsel’s Jensen. “We’re just happy to go back to the site and see all the familiar faces and see everything come to life again.”

She added: “I think 2022 is going to be a crazy year. I’m already girdling my loins. “

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