Businesses across the country have had their day-to-day operations upended during the COVID-19 pandemic. And as we enter the holiday season facing restrictions against in-person gatherings, what happens to the traditional office party that many workers look forward to?

From small businesses to corporate powerhouses, some of Canadian leaders joined BNN Bloomberg to share how they plan to reinvent holiday celebrations this year.

Jim Pattison, chairman and CEO, Jim Pattison Group:

“We’re still decorating the whole place with Christmas trees and lights like we normally do.

Usually we’d have all the people that work in senior management, from all of our different divisions within around 80 miles of the office come in here and have one very large party. We’re downtown Vancouver and have the 18th floor of the Shaw Tower, and bring in around 250 people for a Christmas reception. We would have a buffet lunch and everyone who works in our office building would run their own station so someone serves the turkey, someone else serves the gravy and we all serve our guests.

No one’s coming for a party this year and we’re all distanced in the office, but we’re still going to act like it’s Christmas.”

Heather Reisman, founder, chair and CEO, Indigo Books & Music Inc.:

“Not surprisingly our holiday party this year will be a virtual one. We have planned some special entertainment, surprise guest appearances, and awesome giveaways. We will so miss being together in person, but I am so excited to celebrate all we have accomplished together. And one thing is for sure – we have learned how to do a great Zoom party!”

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Christmas decorations at The Jim Pattison Group's office in downtown Vancouver. Image courtesy of The Jim Pattison Group.

Louis Vachon, president and CEO, National Bank of Canada

“This year, following requests from employees, we encouraged business units to use their budgets for year-end gatherings to support causes. Employee response was immediate and very positive.

When times are tough, you truly see the best of people and our employees are no exception.”

Vince Guzzo, president and CEO, Cinémas Guzzo:

“Since in-person gatherings for the holiday season are not permitted this year, I will be hosting a Zoom party on Dec. 31 from 7 p.m. to midnight with my Cinémas Guzzo staff and partners.

Attendees will receive a box containing corporate snacks available on Food To Go, which is my newest venture, including pizza from my restaurant Giulietta Pizzéria, a Mr. Sunshine chocolate bar and all flavours of Mr. Sunshine popcorn. Three movies will also be made available for viewing.”

Emefa Kuadey, founder, israella KOBLA:

“I think it’s so important to try and find the teachable moments in all situations that occur in life, and with 2020 being the year that it has been I really want to take some time to sit with my team and discuss our blessings (there’s been a lot!) and also reflect on what we’ve learnt and our biggest takeaways form this crazy year – both in business and our personal lives. We’re a small team and have a very open dynamic.

To keep the conversation fun, I’m going to be putting together some boozy gift boxes with some cocktail mixes as well as some popcorn, and baked treats from some local bakeries.”

Michael Emory, president and CEO, Allied Properties REIT:

“Year-end holiday parties really are great for team cohesion. Unfortunately, they’re just not on in 2020, so we’ve been thinking about alternatives … with minimal success.

We’ve had more than our fill of virtual interaction this year, making the thought of a virtual holiday party almost repellant.

The best I’ve been able to come up with is communicating in writing on a regular basis with the entire team over the remainder of the year. I did this during the shut-down, and it was helpful in maintaining team cohesion. Old school, for sure, but better than nothing.”

Leigh Joseph, founder, Sḵwálwen Botanicals:

"As a small Indigenous-owned business we have felt overwhelmed with gratitude for the ongoing support of our customers and the ways that our plant-based skin-care and wellness offerings have been received.

Even though we can't gather in celebration this year we will be gifting our team with wellness gift boxes full of items to honour their rest and rejuvenation over the holidays. I wish to thank them for their contributions to helping Skwálwen grow.”