Company holiday parties were a loaded topic before Covid-19. Now, questions like, “Should we serve alcohol?” and “Should we allow guests” are replaced by, “Should we even have a party at all?”

Two HR thoughts on the matter:

Company culture is important to many, which makes canceling risky.

But also, office holiday parties don’t have to take place in-person. There are other ways to invoke cheer, and some celebration is generally better than no celebration – especially now, when employees might be more starved for interaction than ever before.

So even if 2021’s holiday party needs to look different than it did pre-pandemic, don’t let it deter you. A great first step? Ask employees what they want.  Send out anonymous surveys asking:

  • Is there interest in a holiday party?
  • If so, would they prefer an in-person gathering or a hybrid or virtual event?
  • What are their thoughts on guests, dining, and a venue versus an office-based gathering (if applicable), as well as other factors related to safety? Is there anything else that’s important to them? Welcome input and remind everyone that holiday parties are always optional.

Let’s celebrate in person!”

If the resounding response is “Yes, let’s jingle and mingle like we did in 2019!” a few rules of thumb to guide planning:

  • Hopefully it goes without saying: This isn’t 2019! Health & safety need to drive every move. Be sure to monitor and follow all CDC, state, and local guidelines. Let COVID numbers in your area drive key decisions.
  • Make health guidelines and expectations clear to all attendees before the in-person event.
  • Make it clear to employees that attendance is not required if they’re not comfortable joining.
  • Avoid buffet-style dining.
  • Encourage mask-wearing even if it’s not mandated by guidelines or the venue.
  • Plan for the unexpected! With COVID numbers still in flux, a Plan B is essential. Hold plans loosely and be prepared to pivot in needed. Which leads us to:


Hybrid holiday parties

If some employees have misgivings about mingling in-person, there are other options to make the event more cheerful for all. Hybrid parties take a little finagling and creativity, but can be a fun way to split the difference.

An example of a hybrid party is one where employees gather in a large, well-ventilated space that allows ample distancing (covered outdoor venues with heat lamps are an option). Bring in entertainment (a magician or comedian, for example) for employees to enjoy, then sending them home with take-out boxes of food to avoid shared dining. To-go meals for an employee’s entire household is a nice way to extend the cheer to significant others and guests who would typically attend an in-person holiday party.


Virtual holiday parties

By now we all know how hard it can be to drum up enthusiasm virtually! Virtual holiday parties are the hardest to plan and execute for another reason: They’re the easiest for employees to skip!

If your holiday gathering is going virtual, add some appealing structure to the event so employees aren’t sitting silently, talking over top of each other, or itching to sign off after five minutes. A few ideas:


  • Host trivia or another game that’s easy for everyone to play.
  • Make the main event a cooking demonstration, a painting class, or another “how-to” led by a pro. Send all necessary ingredients or materials to each employee’s home in advance.
  • Ask employees to show up virtually dressed (or decorated!) in holiday garb. Keep in mind: Most will only be visible from the waist up – a reality that can make ugly holiday sweater or pajama pant judging awkward and inappropriate! Work-safe, video conference-friendly costume and clothing contest ideas include “Funniest holiday hat” or “Most original holiday backdrop.”


A little social distance doesn’t have to dim holiday spirits, but COVID sure can. Whether you choose to hold your company holiday party in-person, virtually, or somewhere in-between, prioritize safety and employee comfort at all costs. myHR Partner can guide you. Schedule a call. We’ll help you and your human resources department safely and impactfully navigate this year’s holiday party and other traditionally in-person corporate events.