holiday office party alternative pink cocktails with candy canes at home

[Guide] Holiday Office Party Alternatives to Best Show 2020 the Door

Rachel Stewart Johnson, Ph.D.

Psychologist | Driven by communications about human behavior in Work

Understanding the reality that holiday gatherings “look a little different this year” doesn’t mean employers should simply sit out the season. Yet, how do you decide what alternative activity will bring holiday cheer to each member of your workforce?

Consider the “Personality Reality” of your team members, and utilize this guide to help find the solution that fits best.

Here’s how the pieces of each team member’s personality--including yours--shapes the group’s pandemic-tinged party preference this December.


openness icon Openness

Do you enjoy dreaming up “what could be,” dwelling on creative possibilities and always looking to the future? That sounds like high Openness. If you’re focused on “what is,” favoring a routine approach to every workweek, you’re likely to be low in Openness.

High Openness:
These folks are usually up for trying something new, and they like a good quest. A virtual game with a holiday twist could be a great fit, or even something totally outside of the usual holiday box, like a photo contest, a daily riddle, or a charity fundraising challenge.

Low Openness:
These coworkers are really missing their annual rituals. Think of what’s safe while also tapping into beloved touchpoints. Be sure to send this person a holiday greeting card like you always would, for example. Share a list of can’t-miss holiday light displays in your region, and encourage your team to post photos of their home or window displays or ones they find around town.


conscientiousness iconConscientiousness

Are you a details person with a running tab in your mind of work and home to-do’s? That’s likely to mean that you’re high in Conscientiousness. Do you prefer to focus on the “big picture,” leaving some of the reminders and nitty gritty to others? That’s a low Conscientiousness vibe.

High Conscientiousness:
Colleagues in this group approach the end of the year with a list of tasks, and they dislike falling behind. Help them achieve that sought-after sense of closure by addressing a game plan for “Holidays 2020.” Be clear and informative, “While the annual holiday party is a no-go this year, it’s being replaced by _______.” Make this replacement goal-directed, such as assigning each person a coworker for a gift exchange, or collecting donations to a food bank.

Low Conscientiousness:
Your workers who fall into this category are more likely to take a “whatever works” approach to every holiday season, so they’re flexible this year once again. You might simply let them off the hook by announcing that the budget for holiday festivities has been diverted to some TBD fun post-vaccine. Consider also using that budget to distribute a cash bonus to each team member. With many household budgets tighter this year, that gesture is likely to be appreciated.


extraversion iconExtraversion

Do you often feel lonely and listless when alone, but find yourself pumped and all-smiles when you’re in a big group? That’s high Extraversion. If you’re fine with long quiet stretches and need alone time to re-energize, that’s low Extraversion.

High Extraversion:
Social isolation is not “the thing” for these colleagues, so it’s been a rough year. Remedy that with some interactive, stimulating holiday fun. A tongue-in-cheek virtual talent show could bring on some much-needed laughs, or small groups getting together online for a quiz game, a paint-and-sip evening, or a watch party. Be aware too that high Extraversion also tends to go along with being high in energy, so consider organizing a small group 5K or hike where permitted, or include a fitness challenge on your messaging channels this month.

Low Extraversion:
Book club, anyone? Bring a sense of community in a low-key way for your introverts with an online reading group, a lighthearted new Slack channel to share holiday-season interests, or a quick discussion after a shared viewing of a symphony or low-key livestream.


agreeableness iconAgreeableness

Checking in on everyone throughout this pandemic to be sure all are faring well? Worrying about whether your coworkers are worrying about you? That’s high Agreeableness. Tired of worn-out phrases like “together apart” and wanting time to focus on yourself? That’s low Agreeableness.

High Agreeableness:
The holidays are often a season to share, make charitable contributions, and think of others. Tap into that focus among coworkers by encouraging them to research and select community outreach efforts they find worthwhile, then donating a portion of your usual holiday party budget to that effort. Consider pairing up coworkers to support each other through the season with a weekly note of support, an e-gift, or other surprises.

Low Agreeableness:
Surprise these folks with something to treat themselves -- an out-of-the-blue mid-week gift card, for example, or an impromptu afternoon off. Call a staff meeting and focus on individual achievements over the year, emphasizing jobs well done and recognizing an independent, self-sufficient spirit.


emotional stability iconEmotional Stability

Are you able to take what comes, shake off tough industry news, and glide right past the stressful headlines? You’re probably high in Emotional Stability. If you’ve been “feelin’ it” all year, have your down days, and are ready for some stress relief, that could be low Emotional Stability.

High Emotional Stability:
Let these workers know that you recognize and appreciate their steadiness. For the holidays, they can handle a bit more hubbub, so consider asking if they would like to help organize a way to mark the season. Perhaps they’d like to gift the team with subscriptions to a streaming service, and then discuss favorite content over a virtual lunch. Or maybe they’d prefer sharing a new set of “Rewards” online. Let them use their upbeat, calm approach as an advantage.

Low Emotional Stability:
It’s been a topsy turvy year to say the least, so these team members can use all the stress relief they can get. Help them look hopefully toward 2021 while supporting local businesses, and consider gift cards for a spa outing or a “staycation” tour to enjoy when pandemic mitigation efforts ease. In the meantime, a simple gesture like a spontaneous delivery of flowers or a box of chocolates can be a classic day-brightener. To mark the holiday together, consider a guided meditation session online for your group.


Now that you’ve learned the ins and outs of each personality level’s preferences, you can map out what substitute seasonal celebrations work best for everyone. Consider the value of customizing your approach, using personality insights as a key factor.

Despite the disruptions to office life in 2020, there remains value in using the holiday season to boost workforce morale and cultivate a productive and happy company culture. Let our Traitify guide be your starting point to create some innovative holiday happiness to close out the year.


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