Dobbeck: Creative holiday ideas to lift spirits in the workplace


With budgets tight again this year, many employers have decided to forego their annual holiday party. Don’t let that get your employees down. Instead, get creative; plan several events to lift the spirits of all. Here are 20 ideas to help you.

1. Have employees bring in pictures of their first Christmas or other holiday event – everyone gets to guess who is who.

2. Plan pot luck – all employees bring in one of their favorite holiday appetizers or desserts along with the recipe to share.

3. Plan an ornament exchange – participants' names are pulled from a hat. The first one gets to pick a wrapped ornament from the table, the next can take one from the table or take the one that is already taken and that person takes a new one from the table. And so on…

4. Go online and find free puzzles, word games, coloring pages, etc. Leave these in the lunchroom so employees can have some fun during breaks or lunch.

5. Collect items from employees for a local charity, food pantry or other deserving organization, then invite the group in and ask them to personally thank employees over coffee and doughnuts.

6. Pipe festive music into the facility or into the lunchroom.

7. If you are slow, allow each employee to take a morning or afternoon off with pay. Since your payroll is a fixed cost, if no replacement is needed for the employee the time away won’t cost any more than you already had in the budget.

8. Plan a cookie exchange. Each employee brings in several dozen of their favorite holiday treats – all employees take a few of each and end up with a fanciful dessert tray.

9. Arrange a Christmas caroling evening. Invite employees to participate in bringing cheer to a local senior center. Before the event, arrange a couple of practices, too!

10. Ask all employees write a short paragraph of what the holidays mean to them or their most memorable holiday. Share the submissions in a newsletter.

11. Plan a re-gifting party shortly after the holidays. Employees can bring in an item they received but might not particularly want. Those who bring in an item can select from others.

12. Arrange a wrapping party. Invite employees to bring their gifts to work. Serve hot chocolate while employees wrap gifts without worrying about little eyes watching them.

13. Plan a movable feast. Instead of going from home to home, go from department to department and employees supply all but the main course – that is on you!

14. Plan an afternoon of family fun. Invite family members to the workplace to make crafts. Have plenty of supplies such as beads, pipe cleaners, popcorn, thread and needles, ribbon, Styrofoam, construction paper, felt, glitter and glue on hand. Employees should bring additional items they think they might use from home. Serve hot chocolate and cookies.

15. Plan a secret Santa. Employees select the name of another employee from a hat. Place a minimum and maximum dollar amount for gifts. Then, ask management to serve a low-cost lunch while employees unwrap their secret Santa present.

16. Send cards to your employees’ homes. Make sure to include a special note – individualized to them – about their contribution to the company over the past year.

17. Ask employees with young children to bring in a letter from Santa – then, invite other employees to write a response. If you take the letters to the local post office, they might even stamp them with a North Pole postage mark.

18. Invite your local high school choir in to sing carols to your employees. Have plenty of hot chocolate on hand.

19. Survey your employee to learn their favorite Christmas carol and why. Publish the results in your company newsletter.

20. Buy a lottery ticket for each employee. In Illinois, all profits from the Veterans Cash lottery ticket helps support Illinois veterans. Surprise employees by placing the ticket in his or her pay envelope the week before Christmas.

Just remember, the holiday season can be a fun time – or a dismal time at the workplace. By creating workplace memories and planning festivities, you will be helping to lift employee spirits which might even lead to increased productivity long after the holiday season has ended.

• If you need help in understanding or developing employment policies, contact Karla Dobbeck , president of Human Resource Techniques Inc. Call 847-289-4504, or email

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