Ideas for Zoom employee appreciation lunch
October 14, 2020 5:57 PM   Subscribe

My work holds an employee appreciation lunch every January. I have been on the committee to help plan it for a long time (10+ years) but this year it will be virtual. Halp!

At our first committee meeting today, we discussed our options. We have a small(er) budget to work with, but it was clear that the workplace still wants to provide lunch for everyone to eat during the Zoom meeting. The meeting itself will consist of years-of-service awards, an introduction to the new president of our organization (this changes every year), and possibly some raffles for gift cards for employees.

We discussed how to let everyone have a "free" lunch during the meeting and someone suggested gift cards for Doordash or Uber Eats or the like, but I've read recently, via boingboing, about how these delivery services are likely to kill off small restaurants via predatory practices.

We discussed sending every employee a Visa gift card to purchase lunch however they choose, but those often come with fees, like a $5 set up fee per card.

Another idea was to set up a simple online survey offering gift cards to 10 or so restaurants, let each employee pick which card they want, and mail them out the week before the event.

Do you have any other good ideas to provide a "virtual" lunch for around 100 employees to eat from home while they participate in an online celebration?
posted by tacodave to Work & Money (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you wanted to add some excitement, mix up raffle items in some envelopes, and send them out in late in December, but with instructions not to open them until the event.

Does your work have a system for reimbursement, that people could use to get reimbursed for the event?
posted by nickggully at 6:48 PM on October 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

A friend of mine recently did something like this where the whole office got pizza delivered to their work from home locations and everyone ate together. The biggest lesson-learned I heard was that they felt afterwards that they should have had the pizza delivered THEN started the zoom meeting, instead of the other way around. People kept having to leave to answer the door and it meant conversations couldn't really carry on very well and the event felt disjointed.
posted by tiamat at 7:08 PM on October 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

Could you just send cash? Instead of spending money on gift card fees you could spend it on mail tracking/registered mail to make sure the cash gets where it's going.
posted by aniola at 7:39 PM on October 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

Looks like a signature confirmation is $2.65
posted by aniola at 7:43 PM on October 14, 2020

Hmm maybe signature confirmation isn't the best idea in a pandemic. But tracking, anyway!
posted by aniola at 7:44 PM on October 14, 2020

My company does the exact same thing in November. They treat us VERY well, and we have numerous events throughout the month that are really nice. It's very disappointing that we won't be able to do our normal thing this year.

We're also doing the gift card thing in place of our normal lunches. I wasn't involved in the purchasing of the cards, but we're getting them through Omnicard, and I know they were chosen because the fees were the lowest, so I'd suggest checking them out.

As far as other stuff, we're doing a few short zoom meetings throughout the month to give out some special awards. At our lunches, we would have everyone who has hit a milestone anniversary be recognized by their manager. This year, individual departments will do that amongst themselves if they can, and for anyone who has a milestone anniversary for 25 or more years, their manager will shoot themselves recognizing the employee, and then we'll post those videos on our intranet.
posted by jonathanhughes at 7:57 PM on October 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

I’m watching this with interest because while we have a smaller organization, we’re running into a wrinkle that people don’t necessarily want to buy food for a work lunch IF they have family at home with them. You can give someone a $10 gc for a soup/sandwich, but if they have kids home they either have to pony up the extra money so everyone gets a takeout meal OR they forgo their meal because they have to make lunch for the kids anyway.

We’ll probably end up doing a pizza delivery to each house which is more money and still a logistical mess but at least it won’t force some of our staff to spend their personal time and money to participate in a “celebration.”
posted by kimberussell at 7:57 PM on October 14, 2020 [8 favorites]

Have you actually participated in a Zoom meeting where everyone is eating? Because that would be a deal-breaker for me. I have one colleague who eats frequently during team meetings and it squicks me out. It's one of those activities that IMO does not translate well to the virtual world. Could you shift to a happy hour format instead? Because really, a Brady Bunch style display of people eating would be too much for me (and I don't think I'm particularly weird or sensitive about things like this).
posted by Sweetie Darling at 4:14 AM on October 15, 2020 [6 favorites]

I run payroll at my company and this would be fairly easy to run as a payroll action. Set up an earnings code, give everyone some amount of money that will pay for lunch and also taxes on that money since it's earnings. It's unconventional but things are unconventional this year. People can use it to buy lunch wherever they want or not buy lunch and just appreciate the gesture.

You can also side step the lunch aspect and send out a goodie bag to every employee. We did this for our summer party. Everyone got a gift bag at their house with a pair of logo sunglasses, a lei, some beach theme stickers for the kids, an emergen-C, a beach umbrella toothpick, etc. The stuff was trivial, the biggest cost was postage, but folks seemed genuinely delighted at the novelty of 1. getting mail and 2. the capital E event aspect of it. It was almost like being at a real themed party, even apart. You can get creative with it.

(But when in doubt, everyone likes money. It's a good way to play it.)
posted by phunniemee at 6:27 AM on October 15, 2020 [3 favorites]

The Democratic Nat. Conv. this year was surprisingly good. Video short presentations of awards and thnaks-yous. Some can be from management, but you can also ask people to video comments about co-workers. Have a video expert stitch it together and add music, pause it for comments from staff. Have positive comments, teasers, and jokes ready to insert into the chat sidebar.

You could work with a few local restaurants who would likely be delighted to arrange delivery.
posted by theora55 at 8:16 AM on October 15, 2020

I would take the food aspect out and focus on the recognition part. Watching people eat on camera is weird. Eating on camera is weird. Figure out your budget, and mail everyone something nice instead of a meal (money always fits, but barring that, is there something small but legitimately useful/nice you could send? I have a friend who really enjoyed a ring light she got as part of a swag bag). Keep the event as short as possible - time dilates weirdly on Zoom. Do the recognition/new president program. Hold it in the afternoon, and then give people the rest of the day off. Work "fun" is always debatable at best, but REALLY a stretch right now with people's pets and partners and kids and stress getting all up in the proceedings. I think if you acknowledge things are weird and focus on the purpose rather than the trappings, you'll be better receieved.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 8:22 AM on October 15, 2020 [4 favorites]

What if you shifted it back from lunch to like, an afternoon (or morning) snack/coffee break, and then you could send out cookies or bags of tea or coffee or something? And you could always throw in restaurant gift cards that they could use at another time. (My company has been doing this with staff and clients while we're all working from home (mailing out treat packages) and it seems to be going over well.)
posted by jabes at 8:55 AM on October 15, 2020

We just did one of these, where everyone in my group got a $20 gift cert from some online place. I converted mine to an Amazon card and then just made my own lunch for the call, but others ordered stuff. (I'm pathologically cheap, so YMMV.)

I do like the idea of mailing out a small package of stuff the week of the event. Also, my group tries to do one staff meeting a month on Friday afternoon with a tacit open bottle allowed theme. That kind of helps put the line between work and event somewhere behind your heels.

I'd also counsel trying to keep the thing to under an hour. Trying to sustain *EXCITEMENT* for too long is really a drag and collapses hard when pushed too far.
posted by Cris E at 10:42 AM on October 15, 2020

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the great comments so far. I don't think anyone thought through the "eating on camera" aspect of this, so I'm glad I asked. Perhaps we could buy everyone lunch and then start the event at 1:00 or something.

A co-worker suggested gift bags with local Oregon products - her example was hazelnuts and coffee - and I had to point out that I'm allergic to hazlenuts and don't drink coffee, so that kind of gift would be wasted on me.

Most years we give out movie theater tickets to every employee, but that ain't happening in 2020/21.

I usually emcee the employee lunches, so at least I won't have to write material this year...
posted by tacodave at 5:43 PM on October 15, 2020

In terms of providing everyone with $ but ensuring that people can use it how they need to--some people do need to rely on Evil Delivery Services to acquire food with minimal risk, others will have dietary needs not covered by any of the 20 restaurants you offer, etc.--this is what Giftly is for. Your company sends everyone money with a suggested use, people get to use it however they want. I have sent it and received it in similar situations ("free lunch," thank-you gifts) with great success.

If you have folks who don't have bank accounts, they can choose to receive a Visa gift card in the mail, which accommodates them but will of course take longer than a deposit to their bank account or Paypal. But for groups of people more likely to have that sorted, this is the fairest way I've seen to distribute funds for something like this.
posted by rhiannonstone at 11:39 PM on October 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

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