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Try These 5 Better Ways to Celebrate at Work

This year when you celebrate the holidays with your colleagues, try putting the focus on experiences instead of gifts. With the five options below, you’ll not only have more fun, but you’ll spend less money, too. A win-win!

People derive more satisfaction from experiences than from material goods, according to research by psychologist Thomas Gilovich and his colleagues at Cornell University. Their study found this happens for three reasons: Our identities are more tied in with experiences than with things; when we receive an experience, we don’t tend to compare it to other experiences; and when we enjoy an experience together it reinforces a positive relationship more than when exchanging gifts.

1. Group Adventure
Alternative to the Traditional Party

The usual: Your boss schedules the traditional holiday party, catered or at a restaurant.
How to shake it up:

  • Take a group cooking class. Nothing creates a strong bond like making chocolate éclairs with Delphine in accounting.
  • Bring in a laughter yoga or balloon-making instructor.

2. Experience Gifting
Alternative to Secret Santa

The usual: The $10 or $20 Secret Santa exchange.
How to Shake it up:

  • Make it a “Secret Santa Scavenger Hunt.” Leave clues for a few days for your recipient with a meaningful quote or a book as the last present.
  • Give mini-experiences. Employees visit colleagues’ work spaces on a designated day to receive gifts of fun or knowledge such as the reading of a motivational quote, a lesson about art or yoga, or a game of Nerf basketball.

3. Free and Meaningful Activity
Alternative to Overspending

The usual: An overpriced company dinner out at a restaurant.
How to shake it up

  • Arrange for a taco truck to come to the office for lunch and let everyone go wild trying out new combinations.
  • Volunteer as a team at a local soup kitchen or food distribution center.

4. Socially Responsible Shopping Experience
Alternative to Buying for People Who Need Nothing

The usual: You buy an expensive gift for your boss, even though she’s the proverbial woman who has everything.
How to shake it up:

  • Shop for a family in need. Your local fire department, shelter or religious institution will collect and distribute your gifts.
  • Organize a “field trip” with your team to your local toy or discount store and have a blast picking out items. Savor how good it feels to give to others.

5. Positive procrastination
Alternative to Squeezing in One More Thing Before the Holidays

The usual: The holidays can be a crazy time of year with parties, decorating, shopping, school events and other commitments. Sometimes another evening out can feel overwhelming.
How to shake it up:

  • Agree with your co-workers to celebrate the holidays in January, taking extra stress off everyone’s shoulders. Give your team something to look forward to that will re-energize everyone after the New Year.

MARGARET H. GREENBERG and SENIA MAYMIN, Ph.D., are sought-after executive coaches, speakers and positive psychology practitioners, and the authors of the book Profit From the Positive. Find more information about their coaching and certificate programs at ProfitFromthePositive.com.

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