Celebrate Thanksgiving at work! In this guide, you’ll find 9+ ideas to honor this occasion and celebrate Thanksgiving at the office, whether you’re in person or virtual.
From DEI activities on Native American history, to connecting with the themes of gratitude and thankfulness, there are plenty of ways to celebrate this important holiday with your team.
A few of our favorite ideas for Thanksgiving at work:
Read on for more information on these Thanksgiving activities, and more ideas!
- Host a Thanksgiving potluck and share your favorite foods together
- Learn about Native American history
- Give back and volunteer with your team
- Watch Thanksgiving movies and TV shows for a fun bonding activity
- Show employees you’re thankful for them
In this guide, you’ll find:
- Ways to give back & celebrate gratitude with your team this Thanksgiving
- Thanksgiving activities for adults at work, plus family friendly activities
- Creative Thanksgiving activities and team building ideas
- Ideas for Thanksgiving potluck at work
How to Celebrate Thanksgiving at Work
1. Plan a Thanksgiving Potluck at Work
In the spirit of togetherness, plan a potluck with your team! What to bring to a Thanksgiving potluck at work can vary depending on the type of event you envision.
For instance, your company could provide a Thanksgiving turkey (and a vegetarian or vegan entrée) and ask everyone to bring side dishes and desserts. Or, switch things up and choose a theme for your celebration. You can explore the foods of other cultures, ask everyone to bring their favorite Thanksgiving dish, or get creative with a theme.
Pro tip: encourage everyone to share the recipe for the dish they bring! This helps everyone understand the ingredients in each dish, in case of allergies or dietary considerations. Moreover, you can collect everyone’s recipes and print them in a special company recipe booklet for each employee. It’s the perfect unique and special holiday gift!
Get inspired with this Country Living article: 38 Best Thanksgiving Potluck Recipes to Bring to the Feast.
2. Host a Gratitude Workshop
One meaningful way to take your office celebration to the next level? Hire a guest speaker to lead a gratitude workshop for your team. This impactful idea can complement your Thanksgiving party or potluck.
In fact, Harvard Medical School has found that giving thanks can actually make people happier! Research shows that “gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
3. Give Back, Together
There’s nothing like giving back to make you appreciate how much you have. This year, start a tradition of volunteering or giving back as a team on Thanksgiving – and year-round.
During the holidays, many food banks and soup kitchens are flooded with help. Then, in January and beyond, the number of volunteers and meals can dwindle. While Thanksgiving is a great time for a service day, it’s also a perfect time to plan volunteer efforts for the year ahead.
Host a roundtable discussion with your team to hear what causes they care about and support. Then, consider what makes the most sense for your team. This might mean coordinating a quarterly volunteer day, offering a company match for nonprofit donations, sponsoring a fundraising event or food drive, or some combination of these. You can also reach out to local nonprofits to ask about their most urgent needs.
To get started, browse this article from Forbes: 15 Ways to Give Back (and Generate Good PR for It).
4. Learn About Native American History
Of course, Thanksgiving isn’t just about gratitude – it’s important to understand the historical context of this holiday as well. Learning about Thanksgiving with your team provides an opportunity to have deeper conversations and accomplish your DEI goals.
While the first Thanksgiving is often taught as a lesson in generosity and partnership, the reality is that European settlers inflicted countless atrocities on Native American people and communities. The ripple effects of these actions can still be seen and felt today.
For instance, the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services notes that the poverty rate for Native Americans living on reservations is nearly twice the national average. Furthermore, the National Congress of American Indians reports, “When compared to all other U.S. races, American Indians and Alaska Natives have a lower life expectancy by 5.5 years. This includes higher rates of death from chronic illness, including diabetes, chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, mellitus, and suicide.”
Dig deeper into Native American history, culture, and disparities this Thanksgiving. You can learn about the land your company is headquartered on, read books by indigenous authors, watch documentaries, or take turns giving mini presentations on a related topic.
For more ideas to learn about Native American history and create meaningful action, read our Unexpected Virtual Tours guide: Ideas to Honor Indigenous People’s Day.
5. Show Employees You’re Thankful for Them
This Thanksgiving, show employees how much you appreciate them. For many companies, a December holiday gift is traditional in the corporate world. But, a small employee recognition gift around Thanksgiving is an unexpected mood booster!
Ideas to express gratitude for your employees:
- Send everyone an e-gift card to a coffee shop or food delivery service
- Surprise team members with flowers or a potted plant at their desk
- Plan a fun team field trip the week before or after Thanksgiving – be sure to send a meeting invite so everyone can hold the time on their calendar
- Write your team members a heartfelt card sharing why you’re so thankful for them
Want more flexibility? Use a service like Giftogram that allows employees to choose their preferred gift card. You pick the amount – and they pick their favorite retailer or restaurant from a variety of popular choices!
6. Offer Wednesday & Friday as Paid Holidays
If your company isn’t already doing so, consider making the Friday after Thanksgiving a paid holiday for your team in addition to Thanksgiving Day. After all, it’s likely that many people are already taking this day off! By making it a paid holiday, you can boost team morale while having minimal impact on your employees’ work.
Many companies go a step further and also offer the Wednesday before Thanksgiving as a holiday. You may find that your employees come back refreshed and less stressed when they have time to tidy their home for guests, travel to see family, and prepare Thanksgiving foods.
Learn more about how employers are handling Thanksgiving time off with this Business News Daily article: A Record Number of Employers Give Two-Day Thanksgiving Holiday.
7. Share Thanksgiving Traditions
One classic Thanksgiving idea is to go around the room and each name something you’re grateful for. During your next team meeting or video call, take this activity a step further and ask everyone to also share their favorite Thanksgiving tradition.
This is a great opportunity to practice active listening while learning more about your team and contributing to your company culture. Sharing your favorite turkey day traditions can shine a light on your team member’s preferences, sense of humor, values, and upbringing. The conversation may even spark new ideas for your own family’s traditions!
8. Watch a Thanksgiving Movie or TV Show Together
Get into the Thanksgiving spirit with a favorite Thanksgiving movie or TV episode! If your team is virtual, you can use a free online streaming service to coordinate your viewing. Or, gather in person and turn your office into a makeshift theatre!
If you have nice weather and a greenspace, you can create an outdoor movie experience! Rent an inflatable movie projection screen and set up blankets and pillows for a cozy outdoor movie night.
Thanksgiving movies & TV episodes to watch:
- A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving – a family friendly classic
- Planes, Trains, & Automobiles – if your team could use a laugh
- Jim Henson’s Turkey Hollow – another family friendly option
- Bob’s Burgers: “Turkey in a Can” (season 4, episode 5)
- Fresh Off the Boat: “Huangsgiving” (season 2, episode 8)
- The West Wing: “Shibboleth” (season 2, episode 8)
- The Office Thanksgiving episode (unofficial): WUPHF.com (season 7, episode 9). This episode makes references to Thanksgiving, despite not being an entirely Thanksgiving themed episode. Fans of “The Office” will take any excuse to re-watch it!
Let your movie buff colleagues pick their favorite choice from Rotten Tomatoes’ list of the 27 Best Thanksgiving Movies.
9. Challenge Everyone to a Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt
Whether at home via video call, or in the office – a scavenger hunt is a fun way to introduce friendly competition. Create a list of Thanksgiving-themed items, and challenge everyone to find as many as possible!
Scavenger hunt items might include: a thank-you note from a client or friend, a Thanksgiving food item, something turkey-themed (this might be a stuffed animal, lunch meat from the fridge, a child’s turkey craft or artwork, etc!) decorations, and more.
Thanksgiving games like this can help everyone get into the fun holiday spirit as you form connections and get to know your teammates better.
Browse tips for a successful office holiday scavenger hunt with this guide from ExactHire.
However you choose to celebrate, we wish you and your team a happy Thanksgiving! To keep the seasonal good times going, explore our guide: 40+ Virtual Holiday Party Ideas.