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15 Ideas to Help You Celebrate Thanksgiving in the Workplace

Written by
Connie Du
Connie Du

What do you think of when you think of Thanksgiving? Personally, I think of a giant spread of food. 🍽 😋

Along with that feast, of course, is the opportunity for discussion with your loved ones. What do you talk about at the dinner table? I typically hear variations of, “What are you most thankful for this year?” or “If you were a Thanksgiving side dish, what would you be?” and, of course, “Who do you want to give thanks to this year?”

I’m thinking that we should share that spirit of gratitude with the other group you spend the most time with—your coworkers!

Without further ado, here are 15 great (virtual-friendly!) ways to celebrate Thanksgiving in the workplace.

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BTW, if your organization is remote or hybrid, don't miss our Complete Guide to Hybrid Work Strategy

1. Recognize Native American Heritage Month

First and foremost, we need to address Thanksgiving’s problematic history. There are plenty of ways to learn about and honor Native Americans’ contributions during Native American Heritage Month and every other month of the year. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Keep an eye out for virtual events you can attend as a team to learn about Native American history together. The Smithsonian and the Library of Congress offer thoughtful virtual events for free. 
  • Host a book club with your team with a book by a Native American author. You can start with this list

Looking for more ways to recognize Indigenous culture? Read our latest blog post on Native American  Heritage Month

2. Host a recipe swap

Ask your colleagues to share their absolute favorite recipes, and make sure to report back!

To level up this recipe swap, you could even host a virtual “Worksgiving” to cook each other’s recipes together. Along with recipes, make sure to share your favorite Thanksgiving memories! Another twist on this idea would be to vote on one excellent recipe to cook and enjoy together virtually. 

Toast's Employee Experience team runs a company-wide pumpkin carving contest every Halloween and they offer Bonusly Awards to encourage participation. Maybe a turkey or tofurkey carving contest is in your future!

Read Toast's remote employee engagement story.

3. Send thank you cards

Sending cards in the mail is a super low-effort but meaningful way to show someone you appreciate them. Have everyone randomly pick out a colleague to write a thank-you card as a heartwarming act of recognition. Plus, a cute card is a great way to brighten up your workspace.

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4. Give back to the community

Volunteering and giving back to the community is one of the best Thanksgiving traditions. Whether you’re in the office or not, you can still organize a canned food drive, fundraise for an organization, or volunteer virtually as a team.

5. See who can draw the best hand turkey 🖐️

Show off your arts and crafts skills by drawing your best hand turkey! Remember to write what you’re thankful for on each of your fingers, and why not vote on who has the funniest or most heartwarming drawing? 

6. Match the plate to its owner 🍽️

At Bonusly, we’ve had a lot of fun sharing baby pictures anonymously and trying to match them to their adult counterparts! 👼

Similarly, how someone loads up their Thanksgiving plate can tell us a lot about them. Is their food beautifully plated or piled on? Turkey or ham? What does a vegan plate look like? Or is green bean casserole the only vegetable on their plate? (Me. That’s my plate.)

Make it a fun game to encourage team bonding!

7. Tell your origin story

The story we learn about Thanksgiving in elementary school may be a little fictionalized, but the spirit of gratitude, community, and abundance still lives on. Take a walk down memory lane and have your founders and long-tenured employees tell the story of how your company was founded, and other great moments of your company’s past.

In a distant future, how would the founding of your company be celebrated? It’s time to get creative… 💭

8. Host a potluck like none other

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Host a Zoom (or in-person) party and ask your team members to bring something along to share—like a memento that reminds them of your company or a colleague.

You may or may not be able to try each other’s dishes, but you can still tell stories, express your gratitude, and celebrate!

Similarly, you could try a Thanksgiving-themed scavenger hunt!

9. Join a Turkey Trot as a team

Turkey Trots are typically foot races that take place the morning of Thanksgiving. It’s super family-friendly and is a great way to get active before the traditional Thanksgiving feast. Many cities and towns host Turkey Trots, and the proceeds from these races usually go to a charitable organization.

Running and jogging is a great outdoor, socially-distant activity that you can enjoy with your team, and give back to the community in the meantime! Bonus points if you dress up as a turkey. 🦃

10. Watch something together

It’s a tradition for many families to hang out, watch TV or a movie, and generally veg out after a big meal. You can easily adapt this tradition to spend time with your coworkers, too! Use a tool like Teleparty or Squad to watch something together, and remember the popcorn! 🍿

Here are some great Thanksgiving-themed options:

🦃 A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
🦃 Planes, Trains and Automobiles
🦃 The Oath

11. Take a Thanksgiving themed cooking class

Teams that learn together, stay together! Take a cooking class, in-person or online, to learn how to make a classic Thanksgiving dish. We’re talking scalloped potatoes, green bean casserole, or maybe the entire turkey (though that would be a long cooking class...).

12. Host a pie swap

We’ve all heard of cookie swaps, but have you heard of pie swaps? If you’re in-person, each team member can bring a pie (homemade or store bought) to share with the team. If your team enjoys some friendly competition, have everyone vote for their favorite pie and award a prize to the winning baker. Did someone say turkey gift card? 🦃 Each team member can take home a hodgepodge pie. If you’re remote, send a pie to each team member’s home and enjoy a slice virtually—swap flavor reviews while you’re at it! 

13. Do a Thanksgiving craft together

Thanksgiving crafts aren’t just for the little ones in our lives. Doing something creative together is a great way to build rapport with your team. Here are a few ideas to get you started. Gather up the necessary materials for in-person crafting or give employees a supply budget and DIY over Zoom:

  • Design table centerpieces with flowers, pumpkins, succulents, and beyond. 
  • Get materials to make autumn paper lanterns to line the walkway.
  • Decorate gratitude jars to keep the thanks-giving going all year round.

14. Play gratitude bingo

Challenge your team to a game of gratitude bingo using our handy template. Celebrate and recognize the little milestones along the way and reward winning team members with fun prizes. Create a Slack channel where folks can share photos and reactions from participating in acts of gratitude. 

15. Recognize your employees

Giving thanks on Thanksgiving: it’s a given! 😉

Don’t save it for Employee Appreciation Day. Recognizing your employees should be a year-round practice, but the spirit of Thanksgiving makes it a particularly great time to show gratitude to your team members.

Whether written or verbal, remember these key characteristics of effective employee recognition:

  • Specific
  • Timely
  • Visible
  • Inclusive
  • Frequent
  • Values-based

At your final Zoom happy hour before the holiday weekend, why not go around and say something about your team that you're thankful for? It’s a great way to send employees off: feeling good about their work and ensuring a refreshed and energized outlook when they come back. 🎊

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Originally published on November 04, 2021 → Last updated November 8, 2021

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Connie Du

Connie is on the marketing team at Bonusly and is dedicated to making workdays a little brighter for everyone. ☀️She loves writing, her cats, and a well-placed emoji.

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