December is a busy time: Employees and organizations try to complete many tasks before the end of the year to have a relaxing holiday break. The year-end is also the time when businesses typically organize celebrations. The large galas and events are replaced with a quieter holiday cheer during the pandemic. Many companies did not do much in 2020 and are now pondering what they should do for 2021. My suggestion is: Keep it simple.
MUST YOUR BUSINESS HAVE AN YEAR-END CELEBRATION?
Before making any arrangement, the first and most critical question is to understand why your organization wants to do a year-end celebration. The celebration carries different weights for different businesses. It adds value if the party is:
To celebrate and recognize a year of hard work and achievement
To get people together in a casual and fun manner, thus improving team bonding
To motivate people to reflect on the year and inspire them to plan for the coming year
I have heard other more conventional reasons for year-end celebrations. Those include spending the designated or excessive budget, continuing the company tradition ("We've always done it this way"), and making the year-end celebration a "catch-all" event of the year for team members' birthdays or retirements. In December, people are generally tired with a year of busy work and life integration, and 22 months of pandemic uncertainty. Many are putting in their last effort to get through December and look forward to having some downtime with families. In other words, when planning for the year-end festivities, really think about if your business must conduct it.
CAN YOUR BUSINESS REDUCE THE SCALE OF THE CELEBRATION?
Once your business determines that a year-end celebration is a value-added event, the next step is to plan its formality. Companies can choose from various online events with different budget levels, such as virtual escape rooms, photo booths, comedy shows, virtual cooking or dance classes. Having had almost two years of "Zoom" time, committing to more work-related events online can take the meaning of celebration away and make it a duty to complete. Therefore, ensuring the online events are easy to follow and more casual is key.
If your business decides to take the workers out for a luncheon, make it a small gathering. With the lingering concerns of the epidemic, employees may still be worried about their health and safety should they participate in the in-person events. Instead of organizing an enterprise-wide formal event with presentations from the c-suite, consider reducing the scale to be team-based.
HOW MUCH CAN YOU SHORTEN THE LENGTH OF THE CELEBRATION?
If your business decides to conduct either a small in-person or virtual gathering, make it short and sweet. Try to remove one or two agenda items from your event list and/or shorten the duration of the virtual event to be within one hour.
Great company culture is not built through one annual event, and warm-hearted recognition can be done in many ways. Without the get-together online or in-person, consider giving money directly to your employees to buy a gift for one of their co-workers who they appreciate the most, or donating to a charity of their choice. You can also surprise the employees by sending individually packed lunches or gift cards to their homes. If you are unsure how you should best celebrate this year, ask your employees what they desire either verbally or through a survey.
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