UPDATED October 2019
Planning an office holiday party that everyone is excited about can be REALLY HARD.
Or is it?
Actually, it turns out that there is one activity that is easy to plan, cheap to implement and involves everyone from the CEO to the intern in a way that feels inclusive but not forced: an office holiday scavenger hunt. You can plan one in less than an hour, and it will cost you NOTHING, except for the cost of running the copier (unless you want to hire us — which is what our clients would recommend!).
In this post, I'm going to give you 12 ideas that will help you throw an office holiday party scavenger hunt that people will be talking about for months. You can even use the examples I give you as inspiration for other scavenger hunt questions!
1. Recreate the company logo using holiday candy.
Grab a bunch of red and green M&Ms, red hots, candy canes, marshmallows, Red Vines, peppermints or whatever else you find in the candy aisle. Then have each team recreate the company logo using their candy. Award bonus points for the best logo!
Or if this is really last minute, and you don't have any holiday candy, have the teams use supplies from the breakroom. Bet you didn't know that coffee creamers and swizzle sticks could be artistic media!
2. "Pay it forward" to get in the holiday spirit
If you're just playing in the office (as opposed to heading outside — which frankly, is more fun), you can have teams think of ways to do something nice for their co-workers. Maybe it's cleaning out the break room fridge (it could happen!), or just leaving a colleague a simple a note thanking them for the work they do. A little appreciation goes a long way in creating a happy corporate culture.
3. Snap a photo of your best Grinch face.
Have teams snap a photo of their best Grinch face and text it to you. You can require that everyone in the photo be wearing their Grinch face, or just have the team vote on who does the best impression of the guy who's heart is three sizes too small, and send that photo. Collect all the photos at the end for a holiday cheer slideshow! So great, right?
But wait — it gets better!
4. Build a snowman.
If you happen to be in a location where there's snow, encourage everyone to get outside and build their best snowperson. You can either give the teams the hat, eyes, scarf, etc. they need — or even more fun — have the teams use found objects (things they have in their cubical or lying around the office) to personalize their snowmen/people.
If you don't happen to have real snow, teams can create one out of shredded office paper, candy/food or draw one using dry erase markers on either whiteboards or even the office windows. Award extra points for creativity!
5. Have each team member share a unique holiday tradition.
We all come from different backgrounds and families, so ask each team to have its members to go around and share something unique about how they celebrate the holidays. The team can then vote on the best tradition, and snap a photo of everyone pointing to that person. After the hunt is over, you can have everyone share their favorite traditions over snacks and whatever libations you happen to be serving.
6. Sing Jingle Bells using found objects as accompanying instruments & shoot a video.
Almost everyone knows Jingle Bells, and it's pretty easy to play using improvised drums and maracas. And the videos could be pretty hilarious too.
7. Sing Christmas carols to a stranger and have them rate you.
Even if you're just hunting around your office you can find a stranger (or maybe even the receptionist) to serenade. Have teams sing at least one verse, then snap a photo of the "judge" (with team members also in the photo) holding up fingers to rate you on a scale of 1-10. Another one for the slideshow!
8. Create your own "naughty & nice" list.
You could set this up a bunch of different ways: either have teams made up of each department, identifying the things that went well (and not so well) this year for that department specifically. Or if you're mixing the teams up, you could just have everyone self-identify which list they're on, and have them line up separately showing which team they're on (i.e. thumbs up vs. thumbs down, "nice" sitting under the conference room table and "naughty" on top of the table, etc.).
Still not convinced? Here's a crafty one for all you artistic types:
9. Make a garland to decorate the office.
This is another challenge that can be customized depending on how much time you have to plan: either have some pre-popped (non-buttered) popcorn with some needles and dental floss, or some red & green construction paper to make ring garlands with a stapler, or just have people string paper clips together. Give bonus points to the team with the longest garland!
10. Awkward family photo
One of our favorites! We're always impressed by the photos that our teams come up with for this challenge. Since lots of family photos will be taken over the holiday, have teams think up awkward family photo ideas and snap a photo. (You may have to promise that none of them will appear in the company newsletter ahead of time!)
11. Pretend ________ is a Christmas tree.
Maybe you choose an office chair, or a co-worker or maybe you have an actual Christmas tree somewhere in the office. Although this one takes a little pre-planning, bringing in some tinsel, ornaments and lights is a really fun way to get some cool holiday photos for this challenge.
12. Recreate the nativity scene.
This final challenge may or may not be appropriate for all offices, but for those who can make it work, the photos from this challenge could be a lot of fun. Alternatively, you could ask people to recreate a scene from a classic holiday movie.
What will they use? Scarves as head coverings? Shredded paper for the hay in the manager? A coat rack for a shepherd's crook? Oh my goodness, PLEASE send us these photos if you take them!
Holiday parties don't have to be lame!
With a scavenger hunt, you can get everyone involved, have a fun afternoon of moving and being creative and it doesn't have to break your party-planning budget. What other office holiday scavenger hunt challenges can you think of? Let us know in the comments!
Co-founder Jill Hinton Wolfe is a communicator, entrepreneur and Army veteran who is passionate about the outdoors and designing surprising and unique challenges for all sorts of clients, all over the world.