This holiday season will be like no other we’ve experienced. COVID-19 will have a big impact on how we stay safe at work and how we celebrate the holiday season. For those who still go into work each day, it’s important to take extra precautions. Though we all want to unwind and have a little fun with colleagues during the holidays, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact we’re in the middle of a pandemic. That said, it’s possible to celebrate safely by carefully following the proper guidelines.

assess the level of risk before planning holiday celebrations

Before planning or even thinking about hosting a holiday celebration, it’s important to assess the level of risk in your area. What are the COVID-19 infection rates in your community? Is the risk of spread low? Who will be attending? Do the people you will be inviting interact with a lot of other people? It’s important to ask a lot of questions to ensure the risk of transmission is low before even considering a traditional in-person holiday party. Also consider local laws and regulations. In many parts of Canada, gatherings are limited to 10 or fewer people. Make sure any holiday gatherings you plan stay within these limits or you could put your employer at risk.

stay vigilant follow all COVID-19 protocols

We are at the point where many people are getting tired of hearing about the virus. COVID-19 fatigue is real, and it’s especially painful during the holidays when all you want to do is unwind and have a little fun with your family, friends and colleagues. But staying the course and being mindful of COVID-19 remains critical, especially as cases are on the rise in many areas of Canada. Over the holidays, with more people out and about, and with the temptation of holiday gatherings with a wider group of people, it’s very important to wear your mask when interacting with others, physically distance, and keep up with hand washing and sanitizing. Now is not the time to relax and stop following COVID-19 recommendations. We have to push through to reduce the spread of the virus.

For those who work in retail, restaurants, and other fields with regular interaction with the public, it’s especially important to limit your exposure to others as much as possible. Always wear a mask, gloves and any other protective equipment supplied by your employer. Be extra diligent this time of year.

follow best practices for serving food

If you’re dead set on throwing an in-person holiday event, make sure you’re following best practices to stay safe, especially if food and drinks are involved. Though food and drinks are typically a big part of holiday celebrations, they’re something you may want to forgo this year, for everyone’s safety. Avoid serving more than 1 or 2 drinks per person, to ensure everyone remains level-headed and able to follow safety protocols. Do not serve community bowls of food, have a buffet or throw a potluck. If you do serve food, give everyone individual portions. Try to keep tables and guests at least 2 metres apart at all times, especially when eating, as it necessitates being maskless. Ideally, avoid serving food or drinks altogether and think of alternative ways you can make the celebrations fun. 

keep gatherings small

If you do throw a holiday gathering of any kind in-person, try to keep the event shorter and keep the number of attendees within the recommended limits. Instead of having one large holiday party for the entire company, you may need to have a series of smaller gatherings among company departments or teams. It’s important not to mingle with colleagues you don’t already interact with daily. If you do opt to hold an in-person event, make it crystal clear that it is optional and those who do not feel comfortable do not need to attend. Ideally, take all of your celebrations online to ensure everyone feels safe and included.

host the event outside

If you are planning an in-person event, consider doing something outside. Health experts agree the virus is less likely to be transmitted while outdoors, making this a safer alternative to hosting an indoor gathering. There are lots of fun holiday-related activities that can be done outdoors. For example, you could have hot chocolate around a fire outside. Or perhaps you could go skating with your team at an outdoor rink. Just make sure everyone wears their masks at all times and follows health and safety protocols! Don’t be lax because you’re outside.

stay home if you feel unwell

It has never been more important to stay home if you are not feeling well. The holiday season also coincides with cold and flu season, so it’s important to stay vigilant. If you have any COVID-19 symptoms or even if you think you may have the seasonal cold or flu, you need to self-isolate. Though it’s disappointing to miss out on a holiday event, it’s better to stay home for the day rather than risk an outbreak in your workplace. Your employer will most likely have a plan in place to respond to sick requests related to COVID-19. Make sure you understand the policy and who you need to tell, and when before you need to use it.

consider alternative holiday party ideas

It’s easy to think ‘what’s the harm’ when throwing a holiday gathering, especially if you’re only inviting colleagues who you’re already working in close proximity with. However, even if you’re all working out of the same workplace, there’s a difference between everyone staying in their workstation, physically distant, and everyone gathering together to mix and mingle in a common area. 

There are many alternative holiday party options to get your team of coworkers together. You could have a remote holiday gathering over video. If you want it to be accessible, plan it during work hours so you know colleagues will be able to attend. There are countless ways to make a virtual event fun, including games and recipe sharing. Check out our article on planning a remote holiday party for some ideas.


Staying safe at work this holiday season is of the utmost importance to reduce the spread of COVID-19. If we all do our part, we can enjoy a safe and healthy holiday season with our family.

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