10 Creative Ideas for Your Office Thanksgiving Celebration

Put the “thanks” back in your office holiday with these tips for celebrating Thanksgiving in 2020.

thanksgiving autumn leaves give thanks
Showing thanks and giving back — how will your company do both this holiday?

Turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie … everyone knows the key ingredients to a perfect Thanksgiving dinner. But what about the ingredients for the perfect office Thanksgiving celebration?

This year demands a recipe that’s a little different than previous ones since social gatherings and communal eating are high on the list of no-no’s. However, the good news is that there are plenty of COVID-friendly ways to still celebrate Thanksgiving at “the office” — aka, over Zoom.

By focusing on the gratitude and giving elements of the holiday rather than its unsavory history, here are a few ways we’ve come up with to show your appreciation and encouraging team members to give back to the community.

Give Thanks

A time for gratitude, Thanksgiving is the perfect occasion to show your employees how grateful you are for them, their hard work, and adaptability during the craziness that has been 2020. Here are a few ways to put the “thanks” back in your office holiday — remotely!

Host a Thanksgiving feast remotely

There’s no getting around it. Pandemic or not, Thanksgiving is a holiday that’s all about food. While your in-person office feast will have to be put on hold this year, there are still plenty of ways to share a meal virtually. Give each employee a budget to get food delivered — there are some pretty cool companies out there like Goldbelly which delivers iconic meals (Philly cheesesteak, anyone?) across the country — that they can enjoy during a remote lunch. It can be fun to talk about what everyone chose and why!

Coordinate an office-wide card send

Consider helping your team leads send cards to their team members with a personalized note about how appreciated their unique contributions are to the team and the company.

When was the last time you got a physical card from anyone? Remember how special and unique that felt in an increasingly digital world? Consider helping your team leads send cards to their team members with a personalized note about how appreciated their unique contributions are to the team and the company.

At Zenefits, we do “holiday grams.” We can choose to submit the names of 3 coworkers we’re thankful for, along with a message, and these “holiday grams” are typically on display on the TVs throughout our office. Not only do we donate $1 to a nonprofit for every employee recognized, but this is an easy tradition to turn digital. Dedicate a Slack channel or a Trello board to the holiday grams, and you can easily transport recognition outside the office.

Give everyone a small budget for home office upgrades

Having the right gear and tools for the job can make all the difference. As many people got thrust into working from home for perhaps the first time in their lives, chances are their home offices could use some small upgrades to make it a more comfortable and productive space. Whether it’s in the form of a budget or an IKEA gift card, home office upgrades are a thoughtful way to show that you care and that you’re invested in their long-term wellbeing.

Show off your all-star team on social media

Since everything is happening online for the time being, there’s no better time than Thanksgiving to translate the in-office ways that you recognize your employees’ achievements online for all to see. Consider highlighting a different employee each day of the month for the holiday season, depending on how many people you have. Bragging about them in a highly visual situation also helps your customers get to know the people behind the scenes.

Make sure there’s an in-person celebration if necessary

While most people are working from home, there is a small but mighty group of people who are still going into offices and buildings every day to keep our towns, cities, and states running. If you have essential workers, a bonus is a great way to reward them for their dedication but so are gestures like hiring a caterer that specializes in socially distant meals (think glam sack lunches) for a Thanksgiving feast.

If you have essential workers, a bonus is a great way to reward them for their dedication but so are gestures like hiring a caterer that specializes in socially distant meals (think glam sack lunches) for a Thanksgiving feast.

Giving

Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without the “giving” portion of the holiday, too. A nice compliment to the gratitude cultivated through “thanks”-focused activities is by paying it forward and giving back. Perhaps more than ever, there are people who need it these days and the options to help are practically endless.

Facilitate volunteer time

This Thanksgiving, don’t just encourage your employees to give back — actually help them do it! Allow your workers to take time off to do a volunteer project. Virtual volunteer opportunities make it easy for employees to figure out how they can help while staying safe.

Give back as a group

Help your company serve the community by participating in a volunteer activity as a group. While traditional options like a canned food drive and serving at a soup kitchen might be out of the question this year, you can still come together and do some good by funneling the money you’d save by skipping a cup of coffee and use that money as a donation instead. Each employee can support an organization of their choosing or, as something of a bonus group activity, every person or team can nominate an organization. Then, the company can vote on the one they want a larger, company-wide donation to go to.

Host a silent auction

All you need is a Google Sheet and you’ve got what you need for a silent auction that’s completely online. You can pair it with a team or company-wide (depending on size) happy hour that mimics the real thing — people can sip on their favorite drinks from home, read up about the goodies online, and post their offer all while socializing with their coworkers.

Offer your expertise

Whatever it is, there’s something your business and its talented employees can offer — and there’s no shortage of need.

One of the best ways to give back is to use what is uniquely yours — that is, utilize your company’s skill set to help others. Is your company a marketing agency that can help fellow small businesses that are struggling to learn to better bridge the digital divide? Maybe you’re a shipping company and can give discounts to small businesses that have seen their shipping costs skyrocket since pivoting to online ordering. Whatever it is, there’s something your business and its talented employees can offer — and there’s no shortage of need.

Make volunteering across the community easy

Maybe there’s still just too much going on in your small business’s world for you to organize something in house. The least you can do is make it easy for employees to give back through food drives, clothing drives, and the like. They are certainly taking place across your city or town, and you can aggregate the list of opportunities. All you have to do is create, share, and update occasionally.

We’d love to hear about your office Thanksgiving celebration with your team! Tweet @Zenefits with the hashtag #ZenGiving to show us your creative, digital office Thanksgiving celebrations. Want more updates on holidays, compliance, and new HR trends as they’re hot? Subscribe to our email newsletter below to stay in the know without breaking a sweat.

Note: This article was originally published in November 2015 and has been updated.

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