Holiday Employee Engagement Ideas

As the hustle and bustle of the holiday season continues, and employees are trying to stay motivated with dreams of holidays and days off dancing in their heads, Human Resources professionals and management need to take some time to spread some holiday cheer. Connecting with each other, especially during the holiday season, is important to build trust and camaraderie among employees within an organization to elevate employee engagement. As employee engagement increases, productivity increases so it is a win-win for an organization.

Holiday Inclusivity

When planning for holiday themed engagement activities within an organization, be cognizant of the different beliefs and traditions that employees have. Not everyone celebrates the same holidays as others. Ensure that holiday engagement activities are inclusive for everyone to participate to facilitate a true “team” atmosphere. There are approximately 14 major holidays in the fall / winter timeframe so employers should keep that in mind as they start crafting ideas for happy holidays within the work environment. Find out beforehand as to what holidays and events employees do and do not celebrate to start the planning.


The holiday season often personifies happiness and cheer, but the holidays are not a time of celebration for many. Financial hardships, health issues, and personal loss can cause wrenching emotional distress, particularly during the holiday season. It is important that an organization promotes mental health for employees. Investing in employees’ mental health is a commitment to their well-being. Happy and motivated employees tend to stay longer with an employer, be more engaged and willing to accept new challenges. During the holiday season, make sure that employees understand they do not have to participate in activities nor will there be any repercussions if they do not. Declining to participate does not make an employee a Scrooge or a Grinch; it simply could be their holiday wish to make it through an emotionally challenging season.

Alternative Options

Customers are the driving force for an organization so show an attitude of gratitude. Mailing cards to customers is not as efficient as in the past. Many people work remotely, and it is possible that cards do not get channeled to onsite recipients in a timely manner. Show your thanks by sending a video thank you. Even if you are not a seasoned marketing guru, making a gratitude video with colleagues can be fun and simple. Once finished, send it to your customers, and even place it on your website so individuals can see your creativity and sincere appreciation for others. Videos can be used in many capacities: managers showing thanks to their team or to communicate organizational messages to new hires and current employees within onboarding software.

Ideas for Remote and Onsite Holiday Employee Engagement

Since many work environments have evolved into hybrid settings, here are some holiday fun ideas that can work for onsite and remote employees. While it can be a bit more challenging for remote teammates to stay engaged in seasonal festivities, it is definitely not impossible. Adapt these ideas to fit the culture of your company. By focusing on the goal of inclusion and excitement, these activities can generate positivity within the organization.


  • Sweet treats can bring an extra smile. While some organizations have evolved from employee pitch-ins to catered options due to COVID and convenience, fulfill your team’s sweet tooths by having a cookie decorating session. Many local bakers make cookie decorating packages that can be used by teams. By purchasing those, an organization supports local businesses while having fun with each other. For large companies, cookie vendor chains might be able to discount large orders and more easily ship nationally or internationally.  Cookie decorating kits can be sent to remote employees so set a time for remote and onsite teams to decorate together.
  • Choc – o – LOT! Have a lot of chocolatey goodness by hosting a hot chocolate bar. Smaller organizations can set up an onsite hot chocolate bar with a mix of marshmallows, whipped cream, and add-ins such as sprinkles, chocolate chips, caramels and other tasty treats. For larger organizations, Human Resources, management or other designated leaders can deliver drinks to employees using a mobile cart. Keep in mind dietary restrictions. Have sugar free and dairy free options available. For those who do not like hot chocolate, have coffee or water as alternatives. Send remote employees a make-it-yourself hot chocolate kit or a gift card to get a hot chocolate, coffee or other beverage to enjoy with the team.
  • Show your holiday style with a festive ugly holiday sweater or shirt contest. Have teammates vote anonymously for the best holiday sweater/shirt, and the person with the most votes wins a small prize such as a gift card or company swag.  This is a perfect photo op for your team so make sure you snap a team pic so you don’t say “Oh Snap” later by not having such a memorable photo.
  • Decorate your desk, cubicle or home office with festive decor. Tis the season so jingle all the way with tinsel, garland, stars and sparkles. Beware of bells if you are in a shared work area; those might put some people on the naughty list.
  • Create a cookbook. Some teammates could do a side gig as a chef using their extensive culinary talents while other people rely on the cooking of others. Solicit favorite recipes from employees, and share recipes as an e-book in your company’s onboarding software.
  • Celebrate your employees’ diversity by asking them to share holiday traditions about the holidays they celebrate. Share those stories within your company’s intranet or personally during a teambuilding event. This gives everyone a chance to learn more about each other and will foster a sense of belonging.
  • Serve others by helping individuals who are less fortunate. Partner with a local civic organization or church who have families in need and fulfill the wish list provided. Stock area pantries by hosting a food drive. Remote employees can assist others in their local area or contribute via distance.

Business is Business

While having a positive work environment that is fun and engaging is proven to enhance productivity, there are ways to discuss formal business and still have fun. Some work cultures do not promote holiday thematic events so it is important to still find ways to celebrate others.


  • The stars shine brightly! Acknowledge the successes of teammates. Ask for nominations of teammates who have gone above and beyond to demonstrate the company’s values and mission. Share those testimonials throughout the organization on a daily basis.
  • There is no I in Team. Managers can express thanks by sending personalized thank you notes or making a thank you phone call to show appreciation of individuals’ contributions. While an email can show appreciation, that extra effort of a personalized card or call can make a difference. .
  • Treat the team to a lunch or dinner, preferably outside the office, to recap successes. Establish goals for the next quarter or next year to strategically plan for enhanced productivity. Many restaurants have private rooms for use where technology can be used to include remote employees. Send a gift card to remote employees so they can order food while participating in the meeting.
  • Be flexible. Flexibility helps everyone feel not as stretched when balancing professional and personal commitments. Offering additional flex time or encouraging teammates to take PTO can reduce stress. The holidays are full of activities so allowing employees to take time for themselves by participating in their children’s school events, assisting aging family members or even taking time away for oneselves can be a gift itself. Physically and mentally healthy employees bring renewed spirits full of ideas and creativity that will benefit the organization.


Ultimately the holiday season is meant to be a time of hope and joy. When an organization focuses on the quality of life for its employees, a season of giving continues throughout the year. By including others and creating events and activities which generate appreciation for each others’ unique backgrounds, the spirit of giving, excitement and happiness is accentuated.

Photo by anncapictures on Pixabay

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