For some people, all this virtual and remote work came with a silver lining: the in-person end-of-year holiday party would go the way of fax machines and shared coffee cups. But not so fast. 

According to VOX, “And after a hiatus last year, in-person parties are making a comeback as vaccination rates and appetites for socializing grow, though these events will also be more restrained.”

  • For many companies, 2021 marks the return of the in-office holiday party, but the size, venues, and timing have changed. Generally, this year’s events are smaller than they used to be, which is accomplished by banning plus-ones, breaking it up by teams, or by having the party over multiple days.
  • For a corporate client who hosted 1,500-person holiday fetes before the pandemic, Tinsel Experiential Design in New York instead organized three separate events with two different concepts. The client, which the firm wouldn’t disclose, also held the series of events earlier in the year at the Central Park Zoo, so guests could be outside.
  • In general, companies are being more thoughtful about where and when they host their holiday parties. They’re choosing venues with outdoor spaces and sometimes moving the event to the fall or spring to take advantage of warmer weather. They also have to be more nimble with all aspects of the event.

“I think people just value their time more,” Rosa Hardesty, knowledge adviser at Society for Human Resource Management, said. She added that while the majority of parties she’s hearing about are in-person again, they’re less taxing on employees’ time. “Maybe they’re realizing that, let’s do it during the day while the employer is paying them and celebrating them so that they can go home to their families.”