Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving at work or not, the holiday season is a good time to communicate gratitude for everyone’s efforts throughout the year. From competitions to intranet makeovers, there are plenty of ways to create some seasonal engagement.
The “holiday season” is a misnomer at work because many organizations have their busiest periods when everyone else is taking a breather. People on the frontline of retail and leisure businesses see their workloads increase — while those in less seasonally-sensitive roles may have more time to reflect on the previous 12 months.
Whether your organization is busier than usual or not, the holidays are also the perfect time to show employee appreciation and develop exciting seasonal activities. People working hard to deliver Black Friday and Christmas sales will appreciate them during the moment, and those who are ready for a break will see them as a well-deserved reward.
As US Thanksgiving in November signals the start of the Fall-Winter holidays, we’re starting there and offering some Thanksgiving at work ideas to help get your gratitude into gear.
Even if you don’t celebrate US Thanksgiving, all of these employee engagement activities and thematic intranet designs can easily be adapted to whichever holiday is most relevant for your organization.
Celebratory Thanksgiving at work ideas
1. Find a star baker with a pie-making contest
Food is at the heart of Thanksgiving. Encourage co-workers to get involved by sharing their own perfect pies.
You may have to judge the winner from images alone if you have a dispersed workforce, but it’s still a great opportunity to stimulate engagement on your intranet software. Rewards for the winner might be a gift voucher, points on your company’s employee appreciation platform, or even just the approbation of your colleagues.
Here’s how you can set up a Thanksgiving at work contest on your intranet:
Step 1: Do a call for photos of your workforce’s best pie-baking efforts. Choose a form hosting solution such as Interact, Microsoft 365, or Google Forms, to allow employees to upload photos of their creations. If creating forms is not your thing, simply ask your employees to send in photos via email, Teams, or Slack.
Step 2: Number the photos and showcase them on an intranet page. Ensure you number the images so employees know how to vote when they get to the next step.
Step 3: Create a voting form. You can easily create one using Interact’s Workflow and Forms or another form solution of your choice. Just be sure to embed the form directly into a blog or landing page for easy voting.
Step 4: Ask your colleagues to vote! Be sure to share the link to the article page or homepage and ask everyone to vote for their favorites.
Step 5: Celebrate the winner on your intranet and/or via an all-hands meeting.
2. Thanksgiving Zoom and Teams backgrounds
Using tools such as PowerPoint or Canva, you can easily create gratitude-filled backgrounds that go well with the theme of the season.
If you want to spread good cheer and enable colleagues to use these new backgrounds, simply source some stock photos or designs online (unsplash.com is a great resource for royalty-free images) and add your logo and special messages.
If celebrating Thanksgiving at work in your organization comes especially from senior leaders, creating a themed background for your all-hands meetings can give a good platform for a company-wide message.
These backgrounds may also be useful for the Sales team or customer-facing workers who want to show some holiday spirit. Collate resources in your digital workplace. This makes sharing easier than having them buried in a SharePoint folder with obstructive security permissions.
3. Thanksgiving virtual scavenger hunt
One fun way to increase intranet engagement is a virtual scavenger hunt. There are several ways you can achieve this, and many organizations use scavenger hunts as part of their intranet launch activities.
One easy way to conduct a scavenger hunt for Thanksgiving at work is to take a phrase or set of words associated with gratitude. For example, you could take this famous phrase from the ancient Greek storyteller, Aesop:
“Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.”
Break up the phrase into individual words and “hide” them across the intranet using a unique font, color, or marker. You might, for example, change the text on those intranet pages so that <Gratitude> is emboldened and bracketed with less than/greater than chevrons. Let your colleagues know that throughout the month of November, seven words will be hidden in this manner across the platform. The first person to find the words, put them together, and send the completed phrase back to your comms team will win a prize.
Not only will it generate some good feelings, but people will find and engage with more of your intranet content.
4. A virtual thankfulness basket
It can be hard to keep our teams connected and engaged now that more people work remotely or on a hybrid basis. In some cases, remote hiring during the pandemic has resulted in the creation or expansion of teams where co-workers have never met in real life.
This lack of physical interaction doesn’t mean that colleagues can’t be collaborative and productive, but it may be more difficult to break down social barriers and encourage important workplace friendships.
To get over this hurdle, dispersed teammates may enjoy taking part in virtual icebreakers that inject a little Thanksgiving at work spirit into regular meetings.
A virtual thankfulness basket takes a common party game and gives it a Zoom-era makeover. Simply have your meeting’s organizer set up a shared PowerPoint presentation where everyone can anonymously add a slide or message outlining what they’re grateful for this year. Everyone on the team can guess or vote on who they think wrote it, learning a little more about their colleagues in the process.
5. A thankful intranet
Festooning a physical workplace with pumpkins and maple leaves may feel a little pointless if there’s no one there to see them, but a digital workplace can be decorative too.
Thematic decoration is something we routinely see among Interact users, and having an intranet with a customizable design makes it easy to change logos, backgrounds, and homepage content.
One thing that people often don’t know about intranet pages (and webpages too) is that with a little knowledge of CSS code, it’s relatively simple to change your cursor to something more related to the holidays than a white arrow. Obviously, if you’re not confident with computer code then our advice is to seek out expert help before making any changes.
6. Use your intranet to diarize parties, charity drives, and more
What characterizes the holiday season above all is the number of events and initiatives that happen around the same time.
If different departments or work locations organize their own events or charity donation drives, for example, the calendar can become siloed and lead to staff missing important company-wide news and events because they’re engaged elsewhere.
Your intranet should stand as the main digital hub throughout this period, with the calendar acting as a front-page reminder of upcoming events. The comms and HR teams can collaborate on key dates, giving other teams plenty of notice when and where to organize their own events.
With people aware that initiatives are taking place on certain days, you can provide more information within the same network. We know that Thanksgiving at work is often marked with extra charitable giving, for example, so why not use your intranet to give everyone more information on how, when, and where they can donate to the company’s supported causes.
Creating centralized resources in this way can help employees to self-service and reduce the number of inquiries sent to HR or comms. Many people will likely have the same questions, so rather than email everyone individually, set up an FAQ section that answers common queries.
Giving thanks should be more than a holiday
Showing gratitude and acknowledging someone’s work or support can increase employee wellbeing, boost productivity, and improve morale across an organization. And, although the tips above relate to a specific month, there’s no reason why these ideas should be relegated to the tail end of November. Spread some of the same ideas and energy throughout the year and you may see a more positive workplace culture emerge.