‘Tis the season for the holiday party. However, as breakthrough cases surge and Omicron looms, agencies are approaching this year’s holiday office party a bit differently.
Last year, lockdown, mask mandates and social distancing called an end to much of the industry’s notorious boozy and lavish holiday parties. Some agency professionals pivoted to smaller virtual gatherings over Zoom, sending care packages to employees’ homes or some extra time off. As Omicron fuels new cases, a number of this year’s parties are more of the same.
However, with vaccinations and booster shots more widely available in the U.S., some agencies are returning to in-person gatherings. For example, California-based media agency Exverus Media celebrated the holiday season in a big way, including a team outing to Lucky Strike bowling alley, which requires masks indoors and proof of vaccination. An additional team outing was held at Universal Studios Hollywood, where Exverus staff could socially distance outdoors.
“Our goal this year is to try and build community for remote and new employees on our team without being in the same room for two straight days,” Bill Durrant, Exverus Media founder and managing director, said in an email. “It’s a balancing act and we are monitoring it on what seems like an hourly basis.”
In New York, creative company Truth Collective will gather vaccinated and boosted staff for a party in January, according to Bob Bailey, co-founder and CEO. That being said, Truth Collective is ready to reassess its January in-person party should cases surge worse than they already have, Bailey said.
“Now if Omicron decides to tear up our region, then maybe we will reconsider,” Bailey said via email. “But for now, we are following the advice of the great Ren McCormack [from the movie Footloose]: ‘There is a time to laugh, a time to weep, a time to mourn and a time to dance. This is our time to dance.’”
Even with vaccinations and boosters more readily available, many industry professionals are hesitant to fully return to in-person events. Global media agencies, Wavemaker, Mediacom and Mindshare, provided budgets allowing teams to plan smaller-scale holiday gatherings, whether in-person or online. R/GA did something similar. Meanwhile, VMLY&R opted to send out employee care packages in addition to a virtual holiday party.
Media company Razorfish and performance marketing agency Tinuiti will both forgo in-person plans, opting for virtual celebrations instead.
“While we look forward to celebrating our successes in person someday, this virtual experience respects our people and their comfort levels as we navigate another Covid winter,” David LaBar, Razorfish communications director, said via email.