How to celebrate your end of year work party during COVID-19

2020 has been a year of change, with everything from the way we socialise to the way we work turned on its head. It seems only natural to conclude then, that the traditional end-of-year work party will also look very different to previous years. But this doesn’t mean a celebration can’t happen, and there are many ways that organisations can treat their employees and thank them for their hard work in a year that has been filled with uncertainty and challenges.

It’s important to remember that each state currently has its own restrictions in place, and gatherings may be dependent on the size of a venue with group bookings capped at a certain number of people. Remember too that even when allowed out in a group, people are not allowed to stand, mingle or dance. In other instances, some businesses may be experiencing significant financial hardship as a result of the pandemic, and therefore hosting a party or purchasing gifts for everyone might not be possible.

With so many restrictions in place, it can be challenging to think of ways to finish up this year, so we’ve looked at what employers are implementing to mark the end of 2020 while keeping staff safe and adhering to regulations.

Virtual events

For many organisations, meeting in person just might not be possible at this time with certain rules and regulations in place in some states. And even if in-person gatherings are allowed, employers might prefer to mitigate any risks and instead take the end-of-year celebration online. After all, we’ve all become well acquainted with Zoom meetings and Microsoft Teams, it seems only fitting to celebrate in a similar fashion.

A virtual event doesn’t have to be a typical Zoom meeting however, and organisations can get creative in the ways they engage their employees. Online trivia is a good way to energise teams and add some friendly competition, or to dial up the festive spirit you can organise Christmas cupcake decorating, a Secret Santa or even a gingerbread house-making competition or cooking class. While it will feel very different to the traditional end-of-year work party, employees will likely be grateful for their employees’ effort in facilitating some fun and interaction with colleagues they may not have seen in months.

Hybrid events

Though some employers may have no choice but to hold virtual events, others may be able to have in-person gatherings depending on state restrictions. This opens up the opportunity for a ‘hybrid’ party, where some employees are physically on-site while others dial in virtually from remote locations.

This could be a good option if an organisation is limited in the number of people it can have on its premises at a time, and also gives those who might feel uncomfortable about attending in-person the option to attend virtually.

Outdoor gatherings

If you do intend to have an in-person event to celebrate the end of the year, having one in an outdoors location is recommended as the safest way to do so, as long as employers and employees adhere to safety protocols.

Outdoor picnics or events in a public park or garden are popular choices, as they allow you to make the most of the beautiful summer weather, and also provide ample space for social distancing. Employers can get creative when thinking about where to hold an outdoor party, with golf clubs, a beach BBQ or wineries all potential options depending on your location. In some states, if you’re wanting to host in a public park or garden, you may need to apply for a permit. Make sure you book in advance and check the rules surrounding this.

Keep physical events small

Most states have restrictions on the number of people who can gather indoors and outdoors, but just because you may be able to host 50 people inside, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Though large, workplace-wide parties may have been the norm in previous years, seeing 100 plus employees gathered together, many companies are choosing to break their workforce down into smaller parties.

Managers from departments can be given a budget with which to hold a party for their team, which might only consist of 10 employees or less. This could see them book a restaurant that has correct hygiene and safety protocols in place, or else host an outdoor gathering taking the company’s COVID-safe plan into account. Whatever you choose to do, keeping numbers small will help to mitigate risk.

Stay safe

If hosting a physical gathering, it is imperative to follow your state’s guidelines and rules when it comes to matters of safety. Before anything else, this should be your priority, and if you question whether it can be done safely, then consider if a virtual event might be a better option.

Most companies will by now have a COVID-safe plan in place, and all protocols laid out in this should be implemented at work events such as the end-of-year party. Physical distancing is still important, even outdoors, so dancing and close-up mingling should not be part of the plan. Ensure employees are made aware of the safety precautions they will need to adhere to, and make it known that if they feel unwell must not attend the event.

Hand sanitising stations should be readily accessible, and it may be a good idea to consider asking people attending to bring their own plates and cutlery, food and drink, as this will minimise risks of contamination. Depending on your state too, masks may be mandatory and this should be emphasised to employees. In addition, public health requirements in many jurisdictions means that businesses might need to keep a record of the name, contact details and time they attended the venue. This information is important for contact tracing, in case it later emerges that someone at the event subsequently tested positive, and may have passed on the virus without realising it.

Hold off until next year

Though the end of year work party is a tradition for many companies, given the events of 2020 and the still real danger of covid-19, many employers are opting to postpone their celebrations to mitigate any risks. This may be disappointing to some employees, but if you communicate with them and let them know another party will be scheduled in the New Year once restrictions have eased, they will likely be understanding. As long as restrictions continue to lift, this will likely allow for a larger and more communal gathering.

In the instance of celebrations being postponed, some employers have chosen to instead purchase gifts for their workforce as a gesture of thanks for their hard work during the year. For some organisations that are partnered with not-for-profits or charities, they have made a donation on behalf of their workforce, or else given employees the option of selecting their own charity to donate.

If you are looking for recruitment or workforce management services or guidance, contact Bayside Group today.