Put the “thanks” and “giving” into your office Thanksgiving celebration with this list of 10 creative ideas.
Here's what you need to know:
- Show your employees your gratitude through ideas like a wall of thanks or holiday grams
- Spread good-natured Thanksgiving fun through activities like recipe contests and pumpkin bowling
- Spend time with your staff giving back to the community through volunteering or sharing expertise
As Thanksgiving looms, it seems that we become laser-focused on those tantalizing aromas that we anticipate:
- Mashed potatoes
- Stuffings of many varieties
- Cranberry sauce
- Pumpkin pie
Really. Would the day be complete without a feast we can be thankful for, parades, turkey trots, and football?
But what about celebrating in the office? You don’t need to give your employees a full-blown feast to show how thankful you are for them and all they do. Below, you’ll find 10 Thanksgiving employee engagement ideas that will successfully kick the holiday season off regardless of whether your employees work in-house or remotely. If you’re looking for Thanksgiving office ideas, we have your solutions.
You don’t need to give your employees a full-blown feast to show how thankful you are for them and all they do.
Kick things off with thanks
Thanksgiving is — as the name notes — a holiday of thanks. Therefore, as Iñigo Montoya said in The Princess Bride, we need to “go back to the beginning.” This is the perfect time to take the lead to show your employees your gratitude and encourage them to show their appreciation for one another.
Let’s look at some viable Thanksgiving office activities.
A wall of thanks
Even people who don’t like to be the center of attention want to be acknowledged and appreciated. One way to do this is to dedicate a portion of one of your office walls to honor each other.
There are several ways you can do this. That said, the best way to ensure it doesn’t turn into some adolescent-like popularity contest is to give each team member one 3×5 card for every member of the team.
If there are 15 individuals on your team (including you), each person will receive 14 cards — they don’t need one for themselves. Next, they will write the other team members’ names at the top of each card, then they will write something they appreciate about each person.
The cards are then mixed up and attached to the space on the wall. The process becomes an uplifting treasure hunt as each person searches for the cards with their names on them.
Raise funds for charity while turning team members into TV stars
Thanksgiving activities for work can get creative. Do you have a closed-circuit television system or ticker board in your area? Consider selling “holiday grams.”
This is what we do at Workest!
Each employee is encouraged to submit 3 names of coworkers we’re thankful for, along with a message. These “holiday grams” are then displayed on the TVs throughout our office. Even better, we donate $1 for each submission we make, and those funds are donated to a local nonprofit.
There’s nothing that feels as good as a win-win.
Tell your company story
Remember that play in elementary school where everyone got on stage in silly costumes and told the story of the first Thanksgiving? Well, it’s time for a bit of a reenactment of sorts. Instead of the original Thanksgiving, share the story of your company’s journey.
To do this, recruit a few team members to help you write and act out the company history. Incorporate some:
- Company jokes
- Audience participation
Make it a fun and fresh way to celebrate your company’s history. After all, nothing is more fun for a team than being able to laugh at — oh. Umm… with — the boss. It makes you more human, especially if you are willing to laugh at yourself.
Consider some Thanksgiving contest ideas for work
Who doesn’t like to win a first-place prize? Competition doesn’t have to be cut-throat. It can be done in good-natured fun. With that in mind, here are some Thanksgiving office contest ideas you could implement.
Many offices hold potluck get-togethers where everyone has a chance to contribute to a shared celebratory meal. Why not expand the scope of that feast and ask everyone to contribute their favorite dish and share their corresponding recipe.
Have prizes available in several categories, such as the:
- First dish emptied
- Dish most eaten
- Dish we were afraid to try, but we were so glad we did!
Get creative with the categories. You could also ask staff members to do a blind vote for their favorite dish.
Prizes could be anything from a printed certificate to a wooden spoon or can opener to a grocery gift card. You’re only limited on this by your budget and your imagination.
Compete in games with a festive theme
Look no further if you’re looking for fun office Thanksgiving activities. Thanksgiving-related games can be a great way to bring the holiday spirit into your office’s Thanksgiving celebration. Hold a tournament in a wide area and get team members involved in:
- Pumpkin bowling. Use pumpkins that are as round as you can find (or pick up some plastic options at the Dollar Store), and set up rolls of paper towels or water bottles as your pins.
- Thanksgiving BINGO! Print cards for all participants, plus some extra you can cut up, so you have items to draw. You can play the traditional line BINGO! Or you can get creative and have players build a “T” for Thanksgiving or even a “G.”
- Online scavenger hunt. Create a scavenger hunt for team members to work on. These may be items that are on your intranet site that are specific to your company, historical facts about Thanksgiving, or things traditionally associated with Thanksgiving.
The idea is for everyone to relax, destress, and have fun. Ask team members for their thoughts about what activities would work.
Challenge one (or more) of the other teams
A little competition is healthy. Set up a contest to find out which team can:
- Win the most rounds of the games
- Bring in the most canned goods to give to a non-profit organization
- Collect the most cards to give to those in long-term care and hospitals
Your options are limitless. Decide what works best for your company culture. At the end of the competition, the company makes a donation to the nonprofit organization of the winning team’s choice and on their behalf.
Nothing makes someone more grateful for what they have than spending time giving to the community. Following are some thoughts you could incorporate into your Thanksgiving ideas for employees.
Incorporate time for staff to volunteer
Thanksgiving isn’t the same without the “giving” aspect. Offer your staff paid time to serve as volunteers. Have team members share photos of their time spent. They will act as conversation starters and continue building a sense of team while functioning as a means to be involved in the community.
Volunteer as a group
Nothing builds team camaraderie like giving back does. Set an afternoon or morning aside to meet at a specific location to volunteer. Perhaps you want to:
- Help at a local soup kitchen
- Box meals as part of an effort to help those who are food insecure
- Clean trash from local sidewalks
- Deliver blankets, socks, sweatshirts, coats, and boots to shelters
- Pack gift boxes as part of Toys for Tots™, Operations Christmas Child™, or another organization
As you prepare to schedule this outing, be sure to check with your chosen organization regarding viable dates and times, as well as any restrictions they may have.
Sponsor an event
If you’d prefer to head up a charity event rather than participate in one sponsored by a different organization, put a committee together and organize your own method to give to the community. There are several options you could consider, such as:
- Hosting a dinner
- Organizing a carnival
- Arranging a silent auction
Advertise that all proceeds will go to ___________ (name a specific, local organization).
Give your expertise
What better way to give than to offer what you do best? LinkedIn, for example, provides a free premium career subscription for veterans. At the same time, Kraft Foods provides food and nutrition expertise to help fight hunger in North America. Your company can make a mark in your community, too.
Are you a:
- Financial planner who can offer an afternoon of free financial advice? These conversations tend to range from essential money management to curiosity about what investing is and how to do it.
- Computer guru, who can talk someone off the ledge of their blue screen of death? Maybe you could offer an introductory class on word-processing shortcuts.
- Hairstylist who can be part of helping someone prepare for their first job interview in a long time? Your skills and tools would be invaluable to someone working hard to get back on their feet.
The options of how you can give back are genuinely endless.
Giving thanks matters
As Thanksgiving rolls around again this year, and you’re planning your November office activities, remember the value of saying thank you to your employees. Heartfelt gratitude and recognition go a long way in nurturing strong team relationships and loyalty.
When celebrating Thanksgiving in the workplace, it’s also important to consider its problematic history, and take steps to respect the culture of Native Americans. Access tips on how to appropriately celebrate Thanksgiving at work here.
We’d love to hear about your office Thanksgiving celebration with your team! Tweet @Zenefits with the hashtag #ZenGiving to show us your creative office Thanksgiving celebrations. Want more updates on holidays, compliance, and new HR trends as they’re hot? Subscribe to our email newsletter to stay in the know without breaking a sweat.