Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh, what fun it is to Zoom Zoom Zoom Zoom Zoom. Hey!

Not nearly as catchy as the original—I know. But in this weird world of sweatpants and all Zoom everything, we need to redesign the holiday season to fit our social distanced reality.

Let’s look at this as an opportunity to reimagine the holiday season and spirit. How can we make our company celebrations more inclusive for everyone? The boozy Christmas parties of seasons past were fun, sure, but for those who don’t celebrate Christmas and/or drink alcohol, they were a nightmare of nightmares.

We’ve all been talking about the new normal—the hybrid workplace, the renewed importance of HR, the long-term impact of fully-distributed teams. Here are some of our ideas for inclusive holiday celebrations that we hope will become part of your company’s post-COVID normal.

Secret Santa, but inclusive

‘Secret Santa’ is a lovely holiday tradition, but in today’s modern workplaces, it can be problematic in its traditional form. The name of the game, Secret Santa, leaves out the many people who don’t celebrate Christmas, and the cash burden on employees can be difficult for many—especially with high rates of unemployment and salary cuts that many are still dealing with.

By renaming Secret Santa to something more inclusive, you’ll invite more employees to participate wholeheartedly, without leaving their identities and traditions behind. We suggest names like:

  • Gift pals
  • Twin teammates
  • Secret gifties
  • Gifts for friends

To remove the financial burden on employees, we recommend taking the money you’re saving on traditional office parties and distributing it to employees for gift-giving. Give each employee a budget and an allowance, so they can give freely without pressure.

To make sure each employee gets a gift they love, ask them to share something about their interests before you pair them up! Send a survey to employees (may we suggest using the survey feature in bob?) to ask about their interests, relieving the burden of guessing from their gifters and helping them get a gift they’ll love.

Virtual cooking classes

The holidays often revolve around family and company meals—something that many of us are sorely missing. To recreate that spirit, try an at-home virtual cooking class.

You can divide classes by teams or, even better, dietary choices. Allowing employees to sign up for classes that fit their lifestyles—vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, kosher, halal, etc—will help employees with similar views to meet each other and enjoy shared experiences.

Send employees baskets of ingredients before the class begins and let the teacher do the rest. Hopefully, your employees will come out of this experience with a delicious meal and great memories!

An at-home movie night

Holiday movies are a definite reason to be jolly. With an abundance of classics to choose from—check out this list of holiday streaming movies for ideas—you can find something that’s a good fit for everyone in your organization (and even family-friendly for the parents among your people).

Teleparty is a Google Chrome extension that synchronizes video playback and adds group chat to Netflix, Disney, Hulu, and HBO, so your people can stay connected, just like if you were sitting in the same room.

To really get into the movie spirit, you can send your people popcorn and blankets before movie night starts. This will help them stay team-oriented, even during the plot twists.

A note about alcohol-free fun

‘Tis the season to be smarter. Tra la la la la.

Work parties are often seen as a time to get loose with your work pals but that can come at a price. While companies choosing not to serve alcohol at their events—or to ban alcohol entirely—may get pushback from employees, they may be saving themselves a lot of post-party headaches.

Companies choosing to serve booze need to be aware of, and account for, the risks of facilitating employee drinking: drunk driving, increased risk of sexual harassment, employee binge drinking/relapse, injuries, underage drinking, and numerous others. According to HRDive, in 2019 45% of 1,010 employees surveyed reported that their employers discouraged drinking at company events.

In this new world of remote celebrations, we invite you to reconsider how your company defines “fun.” If you choose to send gifts to your employees at home, don’t just think about what they’re used to getting—think about what’s best for them and the season. Instead of sugary snacks and liquor, how about decorations, candles, and art from local craftspeople? Think thoughtful, not typical.

‘Tis the season to be jolly, no matter what

This has been a tough year. We’ve all experienced change and upheaval—but we can embrace that change and develop more inclusive traditions.

Holiday traditions are so ingrained in our cultures that it can be hard to spot where they’re problematic and develop inclusive solutions. Now that we’re forced to rethink everything we know about, well, everything, we’re free to create holiday experiences that are better and friendlier than what used to be a given.


From Shayna Hodkin

Shayna lives in south Tel Aviv with two dogs and a lot of plants. She writes poems and reads tarot.