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Celebrating the holidays safely: What businesses need to consider

December 10, 2020
By Kristina Vassilieva/Peninsula Canada

The majority of 2020 holiday workplace celebrations were held remotely.(insta_photos/Adobe Stock)

Many employers might not know whether to have a holiday party this year with remote working, social distancing, indoor capacity limits and other restrictions in place.

Some might even be thinking that this year they should skip end-of-year celebrations.

However, it is important that employers show appreciation for their workers.

This year has been a difficult one for many, and workers deserve recognition for carrying on with their jobs.


Although some businesses may be unsure of how to celebrate the holidays, there are ways to show gratitude that are both safe and meaningful, according to Kiljon Shukullari, HR advisory team lead at Peninsula Canada in Toronto.

Why are workplace holiday celebrations important?

Employers should consider their options for the holiday season this year and still arrange some sort of celebration for their workers.

Not only will this make workers feel appreciated, but it will also boost morale, said Shukullari.

Making holiday plans is also a good way to engage remote workers who might have been feeling isolated, by giving them an opportunity to reconnect with their colleagues.

Virtual holiday parties are a popular option for businesses this year as they involve minimal expenses and are safe and convenient for everyone.

By now, video conferencing will be familiar to most workers and employers can use platforms like Zoom to host social events.

An end-of-the-year celebration is a great opportunity to facilitate team bonding with group activities and to recognize achievements.

With virtual holiday parties, there are several things employers should consider:

“When creating an itinerary for the event, employers should arrange activities that are inclusive and in which all workers are able to participate,” said Shukullari.

“For example, a wine-tasting activity would leave out employees who don’t drink from participating. To ensure everyone is interested, employers can conduct a poll offering several different options for activities in advance.”

To protect their business, employers should also set expectations for appropriate behaviour as they would for a regular workplace holiday party.

“Reminding workers of social media policies prior to the event will also help ensure that employees keep their personal use of social platforms appropriate during work events, and that the business’s reputation is not affected.”

Some employees might not be in the mood for celebrations this year, or they might prefer to spend their free time with their families.

“Employers should make virtual holiday parties optional and find out if this is even something their workers would be interested in prior to making plans,” advised Shukullari.

“As alternatives to holiday parties, employers can give their workers thoughtful gifts to show appreciation or give them extra time off.”

Supporting mental health and well-being

Mental health is a big concern due to the pandemic and the holidays can also be a stressful time of the year for many.

Employers should keep this in mind, create company plans according to the general mood of staff and ensure employees don’t feel any additional pressure to participate in workplace activities, said Shukullari.

To get a sense of how employees are doing, employers should be regularly checking-in, especially with remote workers, and considering their workloads in relation to the holidays, he said.

When establishing deadlines, employers should check workers’ schedules, which days they have taken off and whether they will realistically be able to complete their work.

It might be good idea to give employees some extra breathing room this year by reducing workloads, extending deadlines and lowering targets around the holiday season, said Shukullari.

To ensure that workers get an opportunity to regenerate over the holidays and get some rest, they can be encouraged to make use of their vacation entitlements.

Employers should think of this holiday season as an investment into their workforce and as an opportunity to show gratitude for their hard work and perseverance this year.

Kristina Vassilieva is an HR writer for Peninsula Canada in Toronto.


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