By Matt Windsor
As COVID-19 cases continue to increase in Alabama, the University of Alabama at Birmingham recommends replacing traditional end-of-year, team-building receptions with creative virtual get-togethers and small, distanced gatherings.
For safety, virtual meetings are preferred. Unless a documented exception is approved, in-person gatherings are limited to 15 people indoors and 30 people outdoors; social distancing and masking are required in both instances.
UAB President Ray Watts says large, traditional holiday and office parties are not realistic.
“We had hoped to relax restrictions by this time, but the data don’t lie,” Watts said. “As hard as it has been to be apart this year and as much as we would like to gather and celebrate team accomplishments, it simply would be unwise to do so.”
Instead, try to find creative and inspirational ways to reflect on the year and spend time together.
One example: A UAB professor conducted an online Italian cooking lesson for her students that became a highlight of the semester.
Provost and Senior Vice President Pam Benoit plans to host a virtual “Painting with the Provost” event for her team in Zoom; she’ll lead the painting activity while chatting and giving everyone the opportunity to unwind and learn a new skill.
“This has been a stressful year in which teams across campus worked hard, sacrificed and rose to the challenge for our students, employees, patients and the community,” Benoit said. “Even though we still need to limit our in-person interaction, it is important to take time to step back and reflect together on what we were able to accomplish.”
Others suggest having food delivered to team members’ offices or homes so the group can enjoy a virtual meal together. Some plan to watch and discuss online events together virtually.
Here are six alternatives UAB recommends to the traditional holiday party:
- Virtual cooking classes have offered a great way for teams to connect and have fun. Your team can choose a meal, distribute ingredient lists, and work together over Zoom and enjoy good conversation and perhaps some kitchen bloopers and successes.
- Support a local restaurant by ordering your team meals to be delivered or picked up before a scheduled Zoom time to chat. Departments should continue to follow their existing procedures related to any incurred expenses for such events.
- Find a friend or team member who can lead a fun, easy project on Zoom, like Benoit’s painting party.
- Consider a mask-making or -decorating party that allows time for discussion, then show your mask and talk about what it says about you.
- Host a virtual white elephant (Dirty Santa) gift swap party through White Elephant Online.
- Community service events held outdoors — with proper distance — are a great way to give back to the Birmingham area and do something fun and productive with your team.