Okanagan Christmas parties make COVID-19 shift in effort to keep morale up | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Okanagan Christmas parties make COVID-19 shift in effort to keep morale up

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December 20, 2020 - 6:00 PM

With a lack of social gatherings this Christmas, people are getting creative about how they celebrate the holidays with their workmates.

Mark Koch, director of development services at the City of West Kelowna, said his team held their Christmas party virtually this year, with a Christmas twist.

The development services department had an online lunch and everyone was up to the task of decorating holiday masks, using buttons, stickers, glitter and other goodies, Koch said.

“It was a nice way to at least have the comradery of a typical holiday get together, but we did it safely apart and had a lot of fun.”

A large portion of the team is working from home currently, he said.

“We saw that it’s important to have some component of coming together as a group of professionals and we thought it was important to still have a sense or normalcy during the holiday season, and we wanted to do it safely and it was kind of creative to have a bit of fun with it… we want to ensure the team is trying to celebrate the season during these difficult times,” he said.

Amanda Stewert, owner of Valley Hemp in Oliver, decided to make Christmas baskets for her staff in lieu of a Christmas party.

“I went above and beyond on Christmas baskets for my staff, especially supporting local artisans with stuff like homemade soups, hot chocolate bombs and cookies from local small businesses,” she said.

“Because we are not allowed to gather, but still have to work through the Christmas rush, I’ve saved every Christmas present that suppliers and customers have given us and on two or three days this week I’ll be putting those out for everyone and ordering platters of veggies and deli food. There are boxes of chocolates and other (treats) that we will all enjoy.”

Usually, the business will have two staff parties and staff are feeling the strain this year, she said, but she’s been trying to make the workplace more sociable.

“I feel responsible for morale on this weird Christmas when so many staff are missing their families,” she said.

In America, nearly three-quarters of parties this year will be virtual, according to a survey of 189 companies by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Overall, 54.6% of companies will not hold an event this year, the highest rate since Challenger began the survey in 2004. Of those, 44% of companies cancelled plans specifically due to COVID. Another 5.3% report they are not having a party due to cost-cutting, while 4% report they never hold holiday parties.

READ MORE: Snow days, virtual opera: The office holiday party goes on

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s extension on the ban preventing social gatherings will remain in effect until at least Jan. 8.

Henry extended the conditions of B.C.'s lockdown due to a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases meaning her expectation is everyone is going to have a small and cozy holiday.

“I’ve been inundated with hundreds of ‘what about my specific situation' questions,” Dr. Henry said in a live-streamed press conference Dec. 10. “What I tell people is look at the intent of this. The intent of this is to reduce those transmissions we can have when we get together, when we have social interactions.

The bottom line is stick as much as possible with your household, she said, if your household regularly has visits from your grandparents as part of caring for children, then you can make the decision about the risk of infection to you and your grandparents.

"What we don’t want is large numbers of people coming to your home," Dr. Henry said. "So if it’s you and your sisters and your brothers and their families and their kids, that should not be happening this year. That is when it’s risky.”


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