For many Australians, the office Christmas party is an annual highlight. It’s an opportunity to kick up your heels, celebrate with your colleagues and toast the year’s successes – all while trying to avoid acting inappropriately in front of your boss. 

But like most things in 2020, the office Christmas party may look a little different this year. With workplaces across the country impacted by social distancing requirements and capacity restrictions, and with more people working remotely than ever before, an increasing number of employers are choosing to host their annual staff Christmas party online this year. In fact, Eventbrite data shows a 10X increase in virtual Christmas and end of year parties set to take place across Australia in 2020, compared to 2019.

So how exactly do virtual Christmas parties work? We’ve rounded up our top tips for hosts and attendees to ensure your virtual end-of-year office celebrations go off with a bang. After such a challenging year, we all deserve to have a little fun. 

Although it’s not a meeting, every virtual Christmas party needs an agenda

We’re all trying to balance family, pets, mealtimes, and whatever else is going on at home while tuning into virtual events. Setting an agenda or itinerary and sharing it in advance can help guests structure their home life so they can tune into the elements of the event that they’re especially excited by. An agenda or schedule of sorts can also keep the experience moving and help make the event feel more natural, with fewer awkward pauses.

If you have the budget, send something tangible to guests in advance 

Sending something tangible ahead of time – like Christmas decorations, dessert or ingredients for do-it-yourself drinks – is a great way to help everyone feel connected and like they’re truly part of the experience, even when they’re far apart.   

If it’s a large group, use breakout rooms to facilitate discussions 

Breakout rooms are a great option for large online gatherings. They make it easier for people to have meaningful conversations and connect with each other, and by rotating through various rooms, guests get a chance to mingle with everyone. Consider creating breakout rooms for people to share what they’re up to these holidays, or for games. Playing games creates an extra level of interactivity and in turn, connection for your attendees. There are some great games that work for virtual events – from office trivia to pictionary or bingo – adding a game to the event can be a great way to create some joy and silliness. 

Other fun tips

Encourage a festive dress code. The ritual of getting ready for a party can create anticipation and excitement for the event itself. It’ll give everyone a fun excuse to ditch their activewear and dress up. I also recommend spending some time on your background. Set yourself up in a spot with great light and add some decor to set the scene; it can make the guests feel like it’s more of a traditional Christmas experience and it can make you look your best.

And remember: 

This year has been anything but typical, and it’s likely your end of year party is going to look a little different than normal, too. It’s OK if you have background noise from family, roommates or pets, and it’s OK if your kids keep jumping into the frame. Embrace these things — they’re everyone’s reality.