News You Can Use: Safely Celebrate with Your Teams During Holidays

UM experts share practical tips for participating in year-end events without spreading COVID-19

UM experts are sharing tips for how gatherings and events can be modified this year – including celebrating virtually as much as possible – to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to keep friends and communities healthy and safe. Adobe Stock photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Luckily, that festive ugly Christmas sweater will look just as good over Zoom as it would in person.

While the holidays typically present plenty of opportunities for people to reconnect with family, friends and coworkers, the COVID-19 pandemic is complicating things this year. But University of Mississippi experts are sharing tips for modifying gatherings and events – including celebrating virtually as much as possible – to reduce the spread of the virus to keep friends and communities healthy and safe.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that virtual celebrations pose the lowest risk for spread of the coronavirus, and that small gatherings of family and friends should be considered next if a virtual event is not possible. Platforms such as Zoom, FaceTime, TikTok, Houseparty and YouTube, among others, are means by which holiday fun can be shared online.

“I think there is value in giving staff, co-workers, friends and families the opportunity to feel connected, even if it is through a virtual format,” said Emily Ferris, associate director of the UM Division of Outreach and Continuing Education. “A virtual gathering is a way to do something fun together and still celebrate the holiday season, even if things are not the way we wish they could be.

“We have a committee that has planned a virtual event for outreach staff, and I can’t wait to see everyone!”

Ferris suggested the following virtual activities for fun during the holidays:

  • Host live trivia competitions. For help in creating events, visit this helpful site. To find trivia questions, go to the Random Trivia Generator site.
  • Play games on Zoom. For 21 games popular on the virtual format, check out this assortment compiled by Marie Claire magazine.
  • Share videos and photos. Host a video tour, create a shared photo drive on Dropbox or post pictures in your company’s chat or social media channels.
  • Send a care package. Everyone enjoys getting treats in the mail, whether it’s a small box that includes the same gifts other employees have received or an assortment of cards and treats exchanged with one other. It can also be fun to open these gifts during a video call.
  • Give virtual gifts. Instead of white elephant or Secret Santa gift exchanges, give gifts that can be easily shared with remote employees. Electronic gift cards, concert/event tickets, travel packages, charitable donations and time off are all easily given by email – and probably will be appreciated more than another paperweight or coffee mug.
  • Acknowledge great work and good times. Use the video format to give out end-of-year awards that recognize hard work and special accomplishments, or are simply good for a laugh. Be creative.
  • Have fun with people’s talents. Host contests and give prizes for creating holiday-themed projects. Let employees get creative and have fun with making edited photos, their own Mad Lib-style RFPs or other office documents, humorous GIFs and other playful versions of whatever they do best.
  • Treat people to a party of their own. Send remote friends a gift card or check for drinks, dinner or a night out on the town. It’s a busy time of year, and giving others the opportunity to relax with their friends and family is sure to be appreciated.

“Adapting from in-person activities to virtual ones should be seen as an opportunity to be creative,” said Andrea Jekabsons, UM interim chief human resources officer. “Once we embrace the change, these activities can be just as exciting and fun as live gatherings would have been.

“Recently, our team hosted a few rounds of Bingo on Zoom, and it was a pleasure to see smiles again after months in masks.”

Just 23% of companies are planning year-end celebrations this year, and 74% of those will be virtual events, according to survey results released Nov. 30 by global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

For smaller teams choosing small gatherings, it’s wise to observe the CDC guidelines. These include having no more than 10 people gather indoors and 25 people outdoors, all the while maintaining distance of at least 6 feet apart and wearing masks.

When dining together, eat outdoors and at different tables spread about 10 to 12 feet apart.

Read more about the CDC guidance and recommendations for holiday celebrations and small gatherings here.