The office holiday party goes

Online murder mystery. Opera arias on the subject of law. Snowman lifting competition.

With unlicensed dancing, drinking and flexible dinners due to virus concerns, companies are getting creative about their holiday office parties this year. The challenge is how to organize a show that doesn’t feel like another Zoom meeting.

Many take away parties altogether and instead give staff gift baskets, extra time off or donations to favorite charities. Just 23% of companies designed celebrations, down from 76% last year, in a survey of 189 companies by global exporter Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Nearly three-quarters of parties this year will be significant.

The on-going companies are finding that their pandemic-weary employees want some sort of bash to break the confusion and loneliness that goes through the free-radicals. days.

“People find it hard to see each other in person, but I also don’t feel completely comfortable keeping a normal dinner and bar open,” said John Ross, president of Test Prep Insight, an education company. small online with 10 employees based in Sacramento, California. “And I know some meaningful Zoom-style party won’t just cut it.”

He came up with an idea for a snowy day at a resort near Lake Tahoe, with sledding, snowmobiles and a snowman building competition. Lunch will be, but no alcohol. Oh, and nothing more.

However, “people are very happy that he is back,” said Ross.

Demand has been high for off-the-wall virtual parties, said Jonathan Como, founder of Offsyte, a marketplace for corporate team events, which has organized online holiday events for companies. the introduction of health insurance giant Blue Shield, the riding company Lyft, and the Tinder app.

Most popular treats involve sending food and drink to employees for online cocktail or chocolate making classes, Como said. Also large are virtual escape rooms where employees can play games.

That’s the path marketing company Rank Fuse is taking on, bringing its employees together for a virtual murder mystery through Red Herring Games, said Chelsea Roller, culture manager at the Overland Park, Kansas company usually arranges a holiday dinner or a bowling party.

“It’s very likely to be silly because every employee gets a character to play with,” Roller said. “In reality, we almost had a company party. However, a lot of people started asking about one, so we decided this was the least we could do.”

Many companies are using meaningful celebrations to offer something that people are missing out on throughout the pandemic: live entertainment.

HireSpace, the UK’s event recording site, is organizing 50 virtual office parties in December, according to co-founder Edward Poland. The party’s “rooms” include live jazz, cabaret games, magic shows and stand-up comedy.

On Site Opera, a New York City group that performs at non – traditional venues, received an unusual request to make an arias for a team of lawyers at a California firm. The numbers include an aria from Carmen in which the title character tries to negotiate out of jail – the favorite of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was famous in the opera, said Artistic Director Eric Einhorn.

“It’s just a chance for the attendees to go out with us, for a great time,” said Einhorn.

Some large companies spread out events over several weeks and allow employees to choose between ugly sweater contests, cooking lessons or pet clothing contests. Others share celebrations between teams.

A team of social media managers at PC maker Dell organized a Secret Santa gift exchange and a meaningful display-and-tell for employees to share a meaningful memory or thing. The team is new and has only met in person once before the pandemic erupted in the spring.

“The year has been fantastic, and as a new team we have had to work hard – and in new and different ways – to build a community,” said Susie Gidseg, the team’s senior manager.

The warning is in the private sector compared to the White House, which has been holding a series of indoor holiday celebrations. With the growing incidence of virus, the Centers for Disease Control has urged Americans to avoid large gatherings during the holidays, especially indoors, where the virus spreads more easily. .

President Donald Trump defended the parties in remarks to reporters on Monday, saying the number of attendees has been reduced and that he has “seen a lot of people at the parties wearing masks.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also caused a stir after the Washington Post reported that he had invited hundreds of people to indoor parties hosted by him and his wife. The American Foreign Service Association, a U.S. diplomatic union, called on Pompeo to suspend the parties, raising concerns that State Department employees would be obliged to attend.

A statement released by the State Department said all incidents followed the department’s own “Strong Diplomacy” virus protocols. That included a mask requirement for all attendants and a temperature check at the doors.

“We have taken every step to reduce the number of people,” the statement said. “We don’t expect any problems in tracking the number of people in those indoor areas. ”

The report noted that the large number of State Department events was partly a reflection of that diligence, as large events were typically broken down into several smaller gatherings to limit the population.

(Image credit: AP)

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