4 (Better) Alternatives To The Traditional Office Holiday Party

Today’s innovative companies are rewarding employees with more meaningful, creative ways to show recognition than spiked egg nog.

4 (Better) Alternatives To The Traditional Office Holiday Party
[Photo: Flickr user A&M-Commerce]

Office parties are so last year. Companies looking to do more to honor their employees are stepping out of the box and coming up with more meaningful, creative ways to show recognition to hard working staff over the holiday season.


Many companies are finding that younger workers, in particular, aren’t as interested in the standard holiday fare–office parties with egg nog and trinket gifts. Rather than blowing budgets on traditional holiday parties, they’re sponsoring shopping sprees and cruises to celebrate the end of the year. Others are tapping into the giving spirit of the season and sponsoring volunteer activities that they say are not only fun for employees but good for business as well.

See how these innovative companies are celebrating the holiday season:

1. A Healthy Holiday Competition, an online marketplace connecting businesses with professional voice talent, holds a holiday desk decorating contest and connects the fun contest with the giving spirit of the season. The winner, as determined by number of votes received from other staff members, gets to select a gift valued around $100 to donate to those in need through the World Vision online catalogue. Last year, the winner donated three pigs to generate income for a struggling family.

The friendly competition infuses the office with fun and laughter, but the real prize is having the opportunity to help others. Cofounder Stephanie Ciccarelli argues tapping into the giving spirit of the season helps to foster a connection between the company and employees. “Gifts and bonuses, while great things, only go so far. When you’re trying to impact people on the heart level, you need to beyond what’s expected and dare to give,” she says.

Plus, the desk decorating contest always produces some great photos, which posts on their social media pages and corporate site and uses as a recruiting tool. “The photos are able to speak to our company culture and invite others to learn more about us,” says Ciccarelli.

2. Give a Little, Get a Little

The global marketing and technology agency, DigitasLBi offers employees the chance to give back, and get a little something for themselves, too. Their Boston office sets up a “Giving Tree”–a tree that contains tickets for items for children in need–such as books, crayons or baby socks. Items are typically small, costing as little as $5. Employees take a ticket (or two), purchase the item specified and place the gift under the “Giving Tree” in exchange for a raffle ticket. In the past, some of the raffle prizes have included a free dinner for two, gift certificates or a night at a hotel. The “Giving Tree” allows employees to feel part of a larger community, while rewarding themselves for their hard work and dedication over the year as well.


3. A Dream Getaway

For the last four years, Konnect Public Relations has told their 30 employees to pack their bags while the entire office takes part in an experiential holiday trip filled with adventure, food and fun. To date, trips have included a four-day ski getaway to Lake Tahoe, a two-day tour of California’s wine country and a three-day cruise to Mexico.

“Holding an obligatory party, where people often drink too much and have no decent memories was not for us,” says Konnect PR’s CEO Sabina Gault. Instead, to reward employees for a year of hard work–and allow for an opportunity for some extended team building–the company decided to embark on a group holiday. “A trip provided a unique experience for the employees to be together outside the office and bond in a deeper way.

By taking the party elsewhere, it allows people to get out of their element and actually let go and have fun and create memories [that last] the entire year,” says Gault. Employees return to the office with a renewed investment in the company and are well rested and prepared to continue their hard work the next year.

4. Allow Employees to be Generous

The technology-solutions company Processing Point hosts an annual shopping event in which employees are given between $300-$500 (depending on the year’s budget) to hit the stores. There’s only one condition: they must buy gifts for children. These gifts are then donated to local children’s charities. “I believe the employees feel a real sense of success by feeling the impact that the company can make in the community,” says CEO Chad Buckmaster, who argues most people want to do charitable activities around the holiday season, but lack their own financial resources and time to do so.

“This was a way our team could be a part of something special and still feel connected to the contribution, since it was their hard work and dedication throughout the year that allowed for such an event, and their time and thought [that goes into] picking out the gifts,” says Buckmaster.

Buckmaster says providing employees with the opportunity to tap into their charitable side also provides tangible benefits to the business, more so than monetary gifts such as traditional holiday bonuses. “Compensating employees with salaries, bonuses and benefits is very important but sometimes companies miss the connection between the business’s success and the employee’s feeling of contributing to that success. When you do something like this, the team as a whole sees that the company is doing well and that it cares about more than just the bottom line, which not only gives them pride when they remember the long hours worked and the effort they put in, but also gives them a renewed sense of purpose,” says Buckmaster.



About the author

Lisa Evans is a freelance writer from Toronto who covers topics related to mental and physical health. She strives to help readers make small changes to their daily habits that have a profound and lasting impact on their productivity and overall job satisfaction.