Work Christmas Parties are out. These 5 alternative Office Christmas Party ideas are in.

21 Nov 2022

As with everything in life, trends change, and peoples’ tastes evolve. That’s why the days of the traditional office-based Christmas party – jostling for space to get changed in the office toilets, attempting karaoke classics on a makeshift stage next to the photocopier, and reluctantly tucking into lukewarm holiday buffet lunches – are over.

Yet arranging a yuletide corporate event that results in festive cheer for 100% of your party guests is a tall order. So, to help ensure you give your employees a festive shindig that brings joy to the workforce this holiday season, we’ve come up with some alternative Christmas party ideas – and party game ideas – so your people can eat, drink, and be merry.

1. Virtual festive events

There’s no denying that the outbreak of covid has changed the nature of office-based work in the UK. Before the pandemic, office workers spent an average of 3.8 days each week at the office. Since covid, this figure has dropped to just 1.4 days a week. Plus, on a Friday, you can only expect to see 13% of employees working onsite. For this reason, online parties for the entire office are on the rise.

Particularly when you consider the cost of in-person corporate parties. UK firms are estimated to spend about £1 billion on office party events each year. The average budget for a corporate Christmas party is a whopping £110 per person – and that’s excluding VAT.

Further research, undertaken during covid, revealed that office holiday-party factors employees didn’t miss when parties were cancelled included the cost of travelling to the Christmas party, and not getting caught up in the holiday cheer and overspending at the bar.

With no event space cost or geographical boundaries, online parties are a relatively cost-effective way to ensure your employees have a quality time filled with fun activities no matter where in the world they are based.

Here are some virtual holiday party ideas guaranteed to have your people walking in a winter wonderland this festive season.

  • Tree decorating competition – a fun way for each employee to showcase their festive decor
  • Christmas jumper competition – everyone loves a festive jumper…the uglier the better!
  • Christmas movie watch along – unite your workforce by watching a Christmas classic
  • Christmas quiz – split your employees into teams and let the general knowledge battle commence
  • Christmas bingo – eyes down for a full house…full of festive cheer that is thanks to the popular past time
  • Great Christmas bake off – it’s the perfect time to let your employees reveal their hidden MasterChef
  • Christmas singalong – a joyous afternoon of carol singing is much less intimidating than when in-person!
  • Secret Santa – bring everyone together online for a grand present opening of their Secret Santa party gifts
  • Festive scavenger hunt – a fun game that involves employees searching for items against the clock
  • Virtual interactive workshops such as Christmas decoration making or Christmas cocktail making
  • End of year award ceremony – who better than Santa Claus to recognise and reward your employees?

2. Memorable out-of-office activities

Did you know that the average person spends 90,000 hours at work during their lifetime? So, it’s fair to assume that the last place they want to be spending their free time is at the office.

Therefore, if your workforce is still predominantly office-based, we recommend going the extra mile (quite literally) and treating your employees to a party outside of their usual surroundings. After all, it can be hard to slip into the Christmas spirit when you’re just metres away from your ever-growing in-tray.

To kick-start your festive planning, here are some fun holiday party experiences based away from the office.

A trip to the theatre

With pantomime season upon us, there’s never been a better time to take your employees to the theatre. Shouting ‘He’s behind you!’ in unison is a great team-bonding activity and there are, on average, over 120 pantomimes to choose from across the UK each year.

Other theatre-based activities to enjoy en masse include musicals, plays, and Christmas carol concerts. It’s a great excuse to dress up, either in posh togs worthy of a theatre or in fancy dress to match the theme of the performance you’re attending.

To a certain extent, what you watch isn’t so important. It’s the feel-good memory of going out as a group that will stay with your employees long into the new year.

Tackle an escape room

If you’re looking for festive party activities that promote creative thinking skills, effective communication, and team building, you could do a lot worse than locking your employees up in a room. An escape room, that is!

With almost 1,500 escape rooms to choose from across the UK (including themed venues based on popular TV series such as Sherlock and Doctor Who), this creative office party idea involves working together as a group to solve problems and crack codes to enable you to unlock and leave the room before the time expires.

They’re fun, a great employee unifier, and also add a touch of friendly competition as rival teams compete against each other to beat the room in the quickest time possible.

Host a whodunit

Murder mystery events are a fun holiday party theme for the budding Miss Marples and Inspector Poirots in your office. One option is to hire a professional team to take care of proceedings during your sit-down Christmas meal.

Alternatively, you can download a murder mystery script online and host your own whodunit evening and encourage members of staff to take on the key roles. Either way, murder mystery events are a great excuse for everyone to dress up and they encourage team building and give a huge boost to morale.

Visit a comedy club

Many studies have uncovered the numerous benefits of laughter. On a short-term basis, having a good old chuckle can help to relieve stress and decrease blood pressure and heart rate. Plus, over time, regular giggling can help to relieve pain, boost mood, and improve the immune system.

So, be sure to consider treating your employees to a trip to your local comedy venue this Christmas. And who knows? With big-name comedians such as Michael McIntyre often dropping in unannounced to test new material, you never know who might be tickling your employees’ funny bones.

3. Local Christmas markets

Tis the most wonderful time of the year for visiting your local Christmas market. As the holiday season approaches, town squares and shopping centres across the land are swiftly transforming into festive venues bustling with alpine-style chalets.

A work-based trip to a Christmas market is a great way to get everyone into the holiday spirit as with stalls serving mulled wine, spiced cider, mince pies, hot chocolate, hand-crafted festive gifts, and chestnuts roasting on an open fire, there’s something for everyone.

Some venues also boast open-air ice rinks, live music, Christmas-themed games or rides, and carol singers to make spirits bright. One option is to set a budget for your employees to spend on their chosen way to have a merry Christmas. Just be sure to get everyone together for an obligatory office Christmas photo beneath the Christmas tree.

4. Let them choose their own unforgettable experience

While group activities make for good end-of-year rewards, our research has found that 85% of employees prefer individual corporate incentives.

For that reason, you could consider swapping party time for quality me-time and treating your people to individual experiences, such as a spa session, balloon ride, family day out, afternoon tea, or short break away.

Our Envy Experiences packages, for example, give employees the freedom to choose their own memorable day out. With over 5,000 options to choose from, there really is something for every demographic and interest featured in your workforce.

You can select the price point for the experience and add a personalised message to each employee’s voucher. The experiences last for a day but the happy memories (which employees will associate with your brand) will last for much longer.

5. Give the gift of gift cards

Our recent research into UK employees’ opinions on employers’ gifts during the holiday season uncovered some interesting statistics:

  • Only 10% said that they actually wanted a Christmas party
  • 64% said their favourite Christmas gift was a gift card

This backs up our previous study that found that 72% of employees prefer gift cards, prepaid cards, and digital codes to Christmas parties, paid time off, and branded merchandise. So, this year, perhaps it’s time to swap party ideas for gift ideas.

Gift cards are popular with all demographics as they give recipients a guilt-free way of choosing a gift for themselves. eGift cards have risen in popularity since covid as they can be delivered and redeemed instantly with no shipping or production costs.

As well as giving your employees what they want, gifting gift cards has also been shown to increase employee loyalty and productivity.

Using Select, our end-to-end reward and disbursement platform, we can take care of everything for you from adding personalised messaging and company branding to distributing the eGift codes to your employees.

As for giving your employees freedom of choice, our One4all multi-store gift cards can be used at more than 140 retailers such as Argos, Boohoo, Boots, Clarks Currys, H&M, IKEA, John Lewis, M&S, Nando’s, Pandora, Primark, TK Maxx, and Waterstones.

Gift cards can also be customised with your company branding and you can select the spending limit from £10 to £120. Depending on your budget, Christmas gifts in the form of gift cards can also be tax deductible. As long as they’re up to the value of £50 they fall under the category of a trivial benefit, which means the recipient won’t have to pay tax or national insurance on them.

If you decide to follow the research and treat your employees to gift cards rather than a Christmas party this year, we’d love to help.

To find out more about our gift card range for employees get in touch today on 020 4517 5862.

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