Covid has transformed the world of work and the office Christmas party is no exception. Most in-person get-togethers aren’t allowed under current restrictions, so any work festivities will have to take place remotely.

The CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, surveyed more than 400 employers earlier this month to find out what they were planning for this very different Christmas.

While four in ten employers said they were going to give the festivities a miss this year, the majority are still planning to mark the season in some way:

  • 41% of people said their organisation is pausing this year’s festivities 
  • 46% said their organisation is hosting a virtual quiz or game 
  • 4% are hosting an arts and craft or cooking activity 
  • 9% are having virtual drinks

Some have no doubt taken the view that a remote get-together will bring some much-needed cheer and gives staff the opportunity to catch up with colleagues and friends. Others may have decided the timing isn’t right for them or they may be planning something for later on in the year.

Whatever your organisation is doing, here are the CIPD’s tips for Christmas 2020. 

Christmas party alternatives

  • Speak to your staff to get an idea of how they’d like to celebrate remotely. Some may just want to have a natter, while others may appreciate something more structured. Others will be potentially suffering from ‘Zoom overload’ so may appreciate the chance to opt out 
  • Our polling found that the most popular option is a virtual quiz. Others are keeping it simple with drinks and a small number are getting creative with an arts and craft session. 
  • On our Community board of HR professionals we’ve also seen people talking about virtual escape rooms and arranging cheeseboards or Christmas cookies for the festivities. Whatever activity you decide, make sure it’s inclusive and everyone who wants to get involved can do so.

Say thank you to staff 

  • This has been a difficult year with many workers putting in extra hours or working under very tough conditions. Make sure they’re acknowledged and thanked – even if it’s with an e-card, a personal message on email or a small gift.
  • We welcome seeing major retailers like Asda and Aldi closing their stores on Boxing Day to thank staff. At the CIPD we have also extended Christmas leave to say thank you to our team. 

Wellbeing check

  • Managers should already be checking in regularly with their teams about their wellbeing, but this year it’s particularly important to make sure they’re also asking how people are feeling in the run up to  Christmas. Some people may not be able to see family or could be grieving for a loved one. Many people will have financial concerns, especially if their working arrangements have changed. Signpost to support services if necessary, covering physical, mental and financial wellbeing. 

Secret Santa

  • For many, finances will be tough this year. There is also an environmental factor to consider in encouraging gift-giving at work. Give people the choice to opt in or out and consider a team charitable donation instead of gifts. If you do decide to go ahead, arrange to unwrap your presents together so you can catch up with colleagues too.


  • Make activities inclusive where possible. For example, if you are suggesting people gather online for drinks or for a cocktail making class, make sure you welcome and encourage non-alcoholic drinks as well. Also think about implications and options for colleagues who may not be able to attend due to work or other commitments.

Keeping safe

  • Employers should always try and be flexible with working hours in the run up to Christmas. Normally this might include enabling parents to attend Children’s nativity/ school plays, supporting caring commitments or giving employees time out or flexibility to spend as they please. This year, it’s a sensible option to help people work flexibly so they can avoid visiting shops at busy times, given current social distancing requirements.

David D’Souza, membership director at the CIPD, said:

"Employers have a highly unusual and disrupted year as the backdrop to decisions on how to celebrate Christmas this year.

“Our polling shows that a number of employers appear to be pausing festivities for now, despite the ability to do something online. This may be because they would simply prefer to wait until they can do something in person – but it is also a reminder of the difficult year that so many have faced and some employers may feel that is just not appropriate.

“Those that do come together will no doubt find that it’s appreciated by staff and will help to lift people’s spirits. Whatever festivities are planned, it’s important that efforts are made to be inclusive and thoughtful given the hugely different experiences many people will have had in 2020.”

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