Alternatives to the office party

Santa may be social distancing, and office get-togethers are a no-go, but that doesn’t mean the party’s over.

Written by Catriona MacLeod
Published 03 December 2020
Alternatives to the office party
If there was ever a year to celebrate coming through, it’s 2020! With December upon us already, here are some ideas to get your company party started – virtually and without breaking the bank.

Create a festive playlist

Great parties start with the tunes, and people will expect some Feliz Navidad. So, set up your party playlist in advance, and ask people to add their favorite festive songs on Spotify.

Got a budding Jean-Michel Jarre? Let them DJ with apps such as Party Mixer. Or if you have a few musicians in your midst, why not let them headline your party? Video conferencing apps make mash-ups possible, and we’re thinking Bohemian Rhapsody would look cool on those Zoom squares.

And for when the prosecco kicks in, you’ll want the karaoke ready. YouTube is full of videos with lyrics, and the Watch2Gether app lets teammates belt out power ballads together.

Set a dress code

Your party is an opportunity to hang up the joggers for a day. Go dapper, wear full fancy dress, or set a theme for people to dress for.

Accessorize with custom holiday Zoom backgrounds, and remember to take a group photo/screenshot in "gallery view." The Canva app will even let you turn your photo into the company’s digital Christmas card.

Pechakucha your home holiday

Whether your team is local or spread around the world, chances are they come from lots of different backgrounds. So, give everyone the chance to show what their hometown looks like this time of year.

Japanese for "chit chat," a Pechakucha is a show-and-tell with 20 slides and 20 seconds of commentary per slide. That’s seven minutes to celebrate the street-lighting ceremonies, random dishes, and cold-water swims that make this time of year unique.


Do lunch

Did you have a restaurant planned for your party? Check if they do takeout and surprise people with gourmet food to enjoy at home. Local eateries really need our support right now.

Got a global team? Give people some cash to spend on their favorite takeout and enjoy some food together over a group call.

Drink creatively

Forget boring beer or orange squash. Take a more creative approach to drinks, and:
  • Share and show how to make your favorite (mock)cocktail. If you need some inspiration, Sourced Craft Cocktails posts out mixology kits for virtual "happy hours."
  • Run a virtual wine or beer tasting. You can do it yourself or let Three Wine Men run a virtual wine tasting. Alternatively, City Brew Tours host a virtual beer and cheese pairing experience (alcohol free options available). Both deliver all you need right to people’s doors.
  • Gift each other a special bottle to enjoy (responsibly) on the day.

Play games

You don’t want enthusiasm to buffer, so plan plenty of games for your alternative party. Here are a few ideas:
  • Host a festive quiz. Free apps such as QuizBreaker and Heads Up! let you run an online, festive quiz.
  • Who Lives in a House Like This? Your colleagues have probably only seen your WFH space. So, take pics of random objects from one anothers' homes and get people to guess who they belong to.
  • Holiday movie Pictionary. Draw a picture of a film title (on a notepad or grab the virtual crayon of your video app). The first player to guess the word then the title wins that round.

Want to up the ante? Games companies such as The Escape Game, Let’s Roam and Holiday Hijinks run murder mysteries, escape rooms, game shows and more. All to play from the safety of your sofa.


Give gifts!

This year, Secret Santa unboxings will be even better full-screen! Set your cash limit and use apps such as Gift Exchange Generator to draw colleagues’ names.

For extra fun, try a game of Gift Room 101. Pick your most unwanted presents from last year, and do a show and tell before consigning it to charity. Someone out there will give it some love.

You could also take a leaf from tech company Processing Point. Every December, it gives employees cash to spend on a shopping trip for toys to donate to local children’s charities.[1]

Looking for how much to give staff for your online shop? In the U.K., businesses spend an average £42.48 per employee on the office party. That adds up to £1 billion that could be heading to charities this year! [2]

Team building in a box

You can also send out a kit for some team-building fun. That could be marker pens, glitter and glue to make Christmas decorations. Or dough and sprinkles for a festive virtual cookie bake off.

Want to go big? GoToEvents’ team-building boxes include a virtual charity skateboard build. They’ll post you a pack with all the tools, parts and art materials required to create a skateboard. (Don’t worry, a pro will take you through the build online.) After that, a courier will collect your boards to donate them gift-wrapped to a children's charity.

Remember to chat!

Sometimes the best part of an office party is chatting to people you don’t usually run into at work. So, use the Teams Breakout or Slack Donuts features to have a virtual cocoa break with a random colleague.

Get the conversation flowing by talking about favorite holiday traditions, your earliest festive memory, or your worst Christmas present ever.

Did we miss any? Post your alternative office party ideas below.

[1] Lisa Evans, ‘4 (Better) Alternatives To The Traditional Office Holiday Party’ (2014). Available at: (accessed 11 November 2020).
[2] Zen Terrelonge, ‘UK firms to pay £1bn for Christmas parties – but spend per employee varies’ (2015). Available at: (accessed 11 November 2020).

About the author

Catriona MacLeod

Catriona MacLeod

Editorial Manager
Catriona has over 19 years of experience in editorial management. She works with clients across a wide range of sectors to deliver relevant and practical resources to meet the learning needs of leaders and managers. Catriona loves the variety of her role, from writing and editing content to conducting video interviews with industry experts.

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