By Aja Macheel 

Away from the workplace, we're isolated from our coworkers, so let's put some heart into celebrating special occasions

plant stackHow do you make an impact on an employee, a coworker or a client when you never see them because of isolation brought on by a pandemic? How do you celebrate a birthday, anniversary, or console someone who has lost a loved one when you can’t give them a hug or even a handshake?

We’ve all had to forfeit celebrations and traditions in the workplace this year and it isn’t over yet. The days of birthday potlucks and cake in the breakroom or rowdy holiday office parties are most certainly further away than expected. Some offices and businesses are so barren in this new remote world that gathering or even passing around a card isn’t even be possible. So how do we reach out to our network in times like these?

More than ever, the hardworking and steadfast employees and colleagues that are supporting all operations and commerce during these unprecedented times need to be seen and feel valued. Teams are strengthening and becoming more efficient, adjusting and redefining business. Many people are now working from home virtually and have little or no direct contact with clientele.

Because of all this change, momentous occasions are so important. They lift people up in an insolated world and remind them of the community, the people and businesses around them. Whether you are an employer reaching out to your staff or a business reminding your clients that you are not going anywhere, never underestimate the power of adding a personal touch to your sentiment.

For a holiday or anniversary, and especially for a difficult time in a colleague’s life, send them something wonderful with thought. Try to steer away from reaching for the go-to mass-produced boxed chocolates or the tins of caramel corn. Make sure to avoid an empty-feeling e-card or social media post, and whatever you do, just don’t share your message for these occasions in a text or email.

These are different times that call for deeper meaning and intention behind the gift you are giving. To take this extra care will go a long way. Send a houseplant, an orchid or surprise them with a beautiful bouquet of fresh flowers. Having something delivered to their door instead of shipped feels more personal.

Let’s be honest: A gift ordered Amazon is a little less “feel-good.” Have it delivered locally — it’s a way to reach out to someone and surprise them, and you can still send it from the comfort of your home or office. Shopping for these sentimental gifts in the local community will help struggling businesses and will certainly ensure that your gift feels less generic and much more personal.

For larger companies that have virtual meetings and town hall forums, brand the event and send each participant the same gift that can be staged in their screen: a poinsettia for each person during the holidays or flowers in your company colors for a product launch or rebrand — or even just a momentous staff meeting. If it is someone’s birthday, anyone on your Zoom call will know if they have a colorful gift from you behind them.

When filming a video for a class or online channel, remember how important the background is. Your audience will be looking. Make sure there is something of interest, like a white orchid or lucky bamboo for good fortune. Send your team something fun and personalized. Many local companies are safely and efficiently delivering their products door-to-door and do not forget to ask if they will add your company logo to the gift. A lot of delivery businesses will accommodate your brand or message with the delivery.

Many people are confined to their home spaces and may be isolated from others. Whether someone has just moved into a home or has been there for many years, a new houseplant will lift anyone’s spirit. Do not be afraid to go big! Send a tree, or a large cactus. It is a conversation piece, a project, a challenge, (sometimes they become part of the family) and it changes a space into a healthy, oxygenated environment. It is proven that being in and around nature is good for health and wellness. So, while you may not be able to reach out and visit someone, receiving something green will have many benefits. If a houseplant is enough to cause someone more panic and stress than good, consider sending a wreath or dried flower arrangement. There is a wreath for every season, and nothing feels more celebratory.

The best kind of gift is one that is not expected, so try to be unique in not only the gift, but the timing. A surprise bouquet for a hard-working administrator or front-line worker that you know could make a world of difference to them. The best times to recognize someone is when they are not expecting it or when they need that boost of confidence. Do not wait for a special occasion to just let the people on your team know how much they are valued. Buy them a gift card to a local store or send flowers to their house over the weekend. Many local stores will send a gift card right to someone’s door with your sentiment in the card.

Think about the gestures and gifts of the season and of special occasions that really mean something, and this year, send those gifts. There is so much happening on our screens at the office and at home, that now more than ever there is such value in sending something tangible and thoughtful. While we cannot go visit everyone and celebrate their accomplishments and ours, there is a way as businesses, employers and entrepreneurs that everyone can effectively show their community how much they care.

As the business community in Utah takes care of one another during this time, remember to give your clients and employees that thought and go the extra mile for them as they have for you. Making these contacts is networking, it is advertising and it is thinking about and considering the business community around you and staying connected in the ways that are still possible. These are small impacts that can be made and that will have a lasting impression during difficult times. The return on investment is immeasurable, because this year especially, “it’s the thought that counts.”

Aja Macheel is the sales manager at Salt Lake City’s Cactus & Tropicals, a plant, accessories and gift company in Salt Lake City that also provides plant-care services to commercial and residential clients. She is an interiorscape design specialist with 20years’ horticultural experience in Utah, Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest.

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