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Remote work is becoming increasingly popular, offering employees a flexible schedule and saving them time and money that is usually spent on commuting. Studies show that telecommuters are more productive than their office counterparts. According to a FlexJobs report, 65% of workers believe they’re more productive at home than in a traditional office. However, there’s also a downside of remote work: Many remote workers suffer from FOMO, or fear of missing out. While their in-office colleagues are spending time together, remote workers are often removed from the social aspect of their jobs.

These feelings of isolation are especially apparent during the holiday season, with events like holiday parties and secret santa exchanges. If your remote workers are local, then you can surely invite them into the office for an annual party and exchange some home-baked cookies. But when you have employees that work from locations all across the country (or around the world), it is unlikely that you’ll be able to fly all of them in for these festivities.

So how can you include remote workers in holiday traditions? Here are some ideas for getting get them involved.

1) Virtual Secret Santa

Instead of exchanging gifts with fellow coworkers during Secret Santa, make the activity about donating presents to those in need. Set a budget and assign every employee a theme (i.e. “math game” or “princess item”) and set a time for everyone to gather around—via video call and in-person—and share the presents purchased. Then, donate the gifts to a children’s charity of your choice.

This activity is budget-friendly, makes for great conversation and benefits children in low-income communities during the season of giving. And, of course, it’s a great way for employees to build relationships virtually.

2) Give Your Remote Workers Time Off

If your office staff party is during working hours, give your remote staff an extra half-day of vacation time to use in December. They may not get to sample Suzanne from HR’s famous vanilla fudge, but at least they will get some time back to spend with family or buy holiday gifts. 

3) Offer Dinner on the Company Dime

On the flipside, if you’re having a party in the evening and you’re serving food, consider sending your remote workers a gift certificate for a local restaurant. Make sure the amount on the card is enough for two people to get a nice meal. This thoughtful gesture will send your remote employees the message that you appreciate them just as much as their in-office colleagues.

4) Throw a Virtual Party

Set up a time, send everyone party hats and a box of treats and host a virtual holiday party on either a video conference call or a Slack channel. Let people chat, hang out and eat their snacks. Make sure to include your remote employees in on conversation—kick things off by going around the room and having everyone share their holiday traditions or moderate another inclusive conversation. This event gives virtual employees the opportunity to get to know their colleagues in a social setting.

5) PowerPoint Karaoke

Scour the web for PowerPoint presentations that are completely unrelated to your area of business. For example, if you work for a financial services firm, you might choose slides on classic 18th century novelists or Physics. Then, ask employees to give a presentation based on these slides. You’ll be laughing as your employees try to talk through slides on topics they are completely unfamiliar with.

Of course, the most crucial aspect of a holiday party is letting your employees know that you care about them. They may not be present for an in-person celebration, but it’s important to show your appreciation for them—regardless of where they work.

Header image: Creative Commons