Christmas is obviously going to be more than just a tad different in 2020 but there is still plenty that employers can do to keep their workforces engaged during the festive season.
Indeed, as we near the end of a year that most will be delighted to see the back of, the importance of lifting morale has never been greater.
Although lockdown restrictions are being temporarily relaxed between December 23 and 27, many employees working from home have been feeling isolated for some time and will welcome a boost.
In a normal year they might have had a Christmas party to look forward to but efforts to thwart Covid-19 ensure these are few and far between this December.
Whilst this will doubtless see many HR personnel breathe a sigh of relief— because such events are notorious for giving rise to sexual harassment and other unsavoury claims – many employees will feel the loss deeply. The office bash is commonly regarded as a highlight of the year and a key perk of the job.
Q/ “Why is it getting harder to buy Advent calendars?” A/ “Their Days are numbered.” Boom boom! Hardly award-winning hilarity, but temporarily the talk of the town when emerging from a Christmas cracker pulled between two slightly tipsy team members of very different levels of seniority.
Employers should therefore give serious thought to providing party-deprived employees with a gift in lieu. Even relatively modest gestures can provide a significant mental and physical lift.
They could actually ask the workforce what they would like to receive as an alternative, possibly recommending a range of options such as: a small cash bonus, a charitable donation, an experience day for next year, or a health and wellbeing benefit – like a personal training sessions, remote health assessment or fitness tracker.
The Trivial Benefits scheme enables businesses to give employees a gift of up to £50 without paying tax (as long as it isn’t in cash or a voucher exchangeable for cash). Small gift vouchers therefore also have obvious attractions, and this year there is much to be said for choosing local gift card programmes to help support the local economy.
Showing such a conscience towards the area in which employees live and work can resonate with them big time. After all, it could make the difference between independent and local traders surviving and going under.
Many such small businesses are facing a ‘make or break’ few weeks whereas some of the more traditional gift voucher providers like Amazon haven’t exactly struggled during lockdown!
Hosting an upbeat virtual drinks gathering can be another way of enhancing morale. And don’t forget that Santa Claus – being a key worker and having magical powers – will still be around this year, so organising an online Secret Santa party can work wonders in bringing employees from different teams together.
Remember also that the end of The Great British Bake Off has left a void in the lives of many. So, why not organise a virtual bake off to make a straightforward festive recipe, and pick a couple of judges to choose the winner? Encouraging participants to show their cooking activities on screen should result in colleagues laughing heartily at each other’s inevitable failures.
Other imaginative opportunities to stimulate engagement can be found in Games Day on December 20, when employees can be encouraged to play online games with each other, and Crossword Puzzle Day on December 21, when they can be invited to create their own online crossword puzzle.
But the very simplest and most obvious ideas are still likely to prove the most effective. For example, nothing is likely to be more uplifting to employees than inviting them to knock off slightly early for their Christmas break as a reward for their stellar efforts during during these challenged times.
Also, never underestimate the potential of sending personalised Christmas cards to employees, expressing gratitude for all their hard work. These can be particularly effective in larger firms where people can feel overlooked.
The key with all such gestures is to sound sincere. This year, of all years, genuine expressions of thanks have never had a better chance of hitting the back of the net.
Content correct at the time of writing and is intended for general information only and should not be construed as advice.