Navigating COVID-19 And Office Holiday Season
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Finding The New Normal

There’s no doubt about it: COVID-19 and normal office holidays and expectations are going to be a challenge. With many states and cities navigating different levels of opening, it’s important to follow state and local laws and guidelines at all times. But, if you’re looking to bring some cheer to the winter holidays, here are our 6 tips for navigating COVID-19 and office holidays, safely.

1. Be Aware Of "Pandemic Fatigue"

The COVID-19 pandemic has reached well past the six-month mark. Pandemic fatigue [1] is real and with it comes laxer compliance with behaviors that keep people safe.

Making adjustments to your normal routines—wearing a mask, washing your hands, and social distancing—might be pretty simple for a week or two, but maintaining this behavior for months on end can be a challenge. If no one around you is sick, these common-sense precautions start to wear you down even more.

As managers and leaders of your business, you are most likely experiencing fatigue on many additional fronts, including:

  • Completely changing how you do business
  • Keeping employees safe
  • Looking ahead to the future
  • Managing your own personal concerns and fears

Still, the greatest gift you can give employees is helping them to celebrate and share the winter holidays safely. It’s easy at this point to get lax on public health guidelines but resist that temptation. Officials agree that with cooler weather comes an increased chance of transmission [2] as we move indoors. Take the time to consider appropriate and effective precautions against COVID-19 and office holidays can still be joyful.

2. Rethink The Expected

If you normally hold an office potluck or party with an open bar and the entire staff congregated inside, it’s time to rethink that idea. This type of gathering makes it difficult to maintain proper social distancing. Plus, even under normal circumstances, the presence of alcohol promotes poor decision-making.

Use this as an opportunity to consider other options for winter holiday gatherings as we'll explore.

3. Create New Traditions To Celebrate

The early novelty of Zoom happy hours has worn off, and remote or flexible workers may be less than enthusiastic about this option with their other conflicting demands. However, there are many other ways to celebrate the season by getting creative.

Focus on community building in smaller ways with these ideas for new traditions.

Set Up Virtual Secret Santa Exchanges That Rely On Electronic Gifts

Replace the office “white elephant” gift with virtual Secret Santa exchanges, and add an additional layer of safety by sending electronic gifts. Small gift cards, charitable donations, and such are all easy to send and appreciated.

This can be a fun and genuine way to show your employees they are still top-of-mind with the company, especially if they were working in the office before COVID-19.

Host Virtual Holiday Parties With Local Businesses

Many local businesses have set-up virtual offerings a while ago. You can support local businesses, but also relax and actually enjoy the party, too. Many are open to hosting private events for larger groups, like individual departments or teams. Consider hosting:

  • Online wellness sessions with local yoga studios
  • Virtual cocktail lessons at a local bar
  • Painting parties with a local artist

Which option you choose depends on your team. Find something that everyone can enjoy that actually builds the team up and gives them a new experience, rather than another Zoom call.

Send A Party-In-A-Box To Employees

Likewise, if your employees are working remotely and in pods, sending a party-in-a-box to each pod can help them safely celebrate.

4. Book An Airbnb Online Experience For Your Team

Airbnb Experiences have moved mostly online due to COVID-19, and there are now tons of options for a fun and festive celebration. Like local businesses, many are open to hosting private events for corporate groups.

Some options include:

  • Making Mexican street tacos with a professional chef
  • Learning about the science and process behind a great cup of coffee
  • Discovering more about sake history and culture
  • Learning the secrets about Hollywood sound effects
  • Testing your historical knowledge with an Athenian guide

Choose the experience that matches your employees’ interests for best results!

5. Follow CDC Recommendations

If your leadership team is set on hosting a holiday party or other event, it’s crucial to follow the up-to-date guidelines set forth by the CDC. Unsurprisingly, they mainly focus on how to keep people socially distanced.

  • Hold events outside, when possible: Community transmission increases indoors
  • Limit gathering size: More people increase the risk of transmission
  • Shorten duration: Shorter gatherings are marginally safer
  • Reinforce public health measures: Reiterate the importance of handwashing, mask-wearing, and social distancing before, during, and after the event

Further, there are people who should not attend gatherings, regardless of the precautions. These include people:

  • Exposed to COVID-19
  • Experiencing any sort of flu-like symptoms
  • At high risk for severe cases of COVID-19 (e.g., immunocompromised people)

6. Have A Plan For Holiday Travel

What about employees who travel home for the holidays [3]? Do you have a clear policy in place for when they come back?

While you cannot regulate employees’ personal lives, their travel makes them more exposed to COVID-19 and more likely to bring it back into the office when they return. Develop a policy for workers who choose to travel during the holidays.

Think about:

  • Remote workdays for employees after they travel
  • COVID-19 testing requirements upon return
  • Clear protocols should employees get sick

Be transparent with employees as the winter holidays approach so that they can make informed plans and take fewer risks. [3]

Be Clear With Training

With many CEOs indicating that they will permanently reduce their in-person workforce in favor of work-from-home options, it’s clear that this isn’t the last season we’ll have to think about COVID-19 and office holidays.

Consider the 2020 winter season an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to clear up misinformation and make good decisions based on the science about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Commit to helping your company and employees navigate the ever-shifting pandemic by working on training aids and performance support that cover these essential topics. These internal resources can help effectively communicate changes to supervisors and your employees, no matter where they are.

References: 

[1] How to Deal with Coronavirus Burnout and Pandemic Fatigue

[2] COVID-19 ‘more severe’ in cold weather, study suggests

[3] As the CDC issues new guidance for Thanksgiving gatherings, here’s how to safely visit family this holiday season — if you must

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