This year has been a difficult time for all and so will it continue to be, heading into 2021. Getting together in the same physical location is just not an option, but this should not mean that those other important messages cannot be sent. So how do we tell people that we value the contribution that they make that goes over and above? That our relationship, as employers, is more than transactional and that we genuinely care about the people who work for us? How do we encourage employees from different parts of the organisation to get to know each other?
There are a wide range of opportunities to replace the traditional Christmas party; activities such as murder mystery events, escape rooms, quizzes, cocktail making, cupcake baking and wine tasting, something can be found that would probably suit most people in an organisation.
Whatever employers choose must ensure that the gesture is genuinely inclusive and that people are encouraged to participate during working hours and not expected to give up their own time, unless that is genuinely welcome. Individual gifts are another way of showing appreciation. Almost anything can be posted to people at home nowadays and, with thought, send a message of appreciation. Personalised gifts, if selected carefully, can be very well-received by the recipients.
Recent trading conditions might also mean financial constraints meaning no annual bonus this year. But there are other ways to go some way to compensate for the lack of bonus; maybe a day of leave, or a day off for volunteering. Being very caring and careful about who is able to take Christmas leave also sends a positive message, perhaps senior teams could put themselves second and offer to cover so their teams take priority.
There are many ways for employers to show they care all year round, but Christmas is an opportunity to plan alternative and inclusive online celebrations that may be even more welcome than the traditional party, a chance to distribute small, thoughtful gifts and to be considerate about leave, just because it is Christmas.
Kate Cooper is head of research, policy and standards at the Institute of Leadership and Management.