CHICAGO (CBS) — With many people still working from home and COVID-19 cases climbing, many companies are opting out of in-person holiday celebrations.

As CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas looked at home some corporate event planners are keeping the holiday cheer alive with virtual parties.

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“The number of companies that are planning to hold a holiday celebration fell really dramatically from last year,” said Andy Challenger, senior vice president at the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Challenger said those numbers are down for two reasons.

“Companies are holding off on having parties both because of COVID — the spiking and rising — and also economic concerns,” he said.

And the drop is dramatic. A Challenger Gray survey showed last year, 76 percent of companies nationwide planned to have holiday parties. This year, that number has fallen to 23 percent.

And in Illinois, Challenger said, “32 and a half percent said that they’re hosting a virtual event.”

So how do you make a virtual party not feel like a 9 a.m. Zoom meeting? Anthony Navarro, the creative director at Liven It Up Events, has had to figure that out.

“None of our holiday parties are going to happen in person,” he said. “They’ve all moved to a virtual format.”

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Navarro said some popular options have been virtual cocktail parties where a mixologist teaches a small group how to whip up boozy beverages.

“It gives those people a chance to network and catch up with one another with a cocktail in hand,” he said.

Liven It Up Events has also hosted virtual cooking demonstrations where employees will receive ingredients in advance and then interact with their colleagues and the chef as they prepare a meal at home.

“It’s almost like watching a television show that you get to interact with,” Navarro said.

Even though these virtual events may not be what we anticipated this year, Navarro said they are still meaningful to employees.

“It shows people that the company still cares,” he said. “It’s just a way to show that touchpoint during the holiday season, which we know for all of us will be a little different this year.”

The Challenger Gray survey also showed that 22 percent of companies have not decided whether they will host a party this year. Challenger said he expects the majority of them will be canceled or held virtually.

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