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Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

It looked like corporate Christmas parties would get the green light this year after virtual soirees in 2020 — but along came Omicron.

Driving the news: Companies of every size and across the world are rethinking their holiday bashes as the Omicron winter wave rolls in. And a popular new option is putting the ball in workers' courts by planning hybrid parties.

The risk: Many firms that have gone ahead with parties despite the rise of the COVID-19 variant have had to deal with case spikes.

  • Dozens and dozens of attendees of a 120-person company Christmas party in Oslo, Norway, were infected — and many of the cases have been confirmed as Omicron.

What's happening: To mitigate that risk, lots of companies are organizing small in-person gatherings as well as bigger virtual ones.

  • A Colorado product design company called Quantum Metric Inc. told Ray A. Smith of the Wall Street Journal that it's throwing a virtual party, with optional smaller live parties in cities where it has satellite offices.
  • Papaya Global, which is an Israel-based payroll management firm, has in-person parties planned but with virtual options for those who aren't comfortable with gathering, the Journal reports.

And some companies are forgoing the party altogether. The global software company SAP SE is giving workers $100 each to expense holiday celebrations instead of throwing an in-person or virtual party, per the Journal.

Editor's note: This story was originally published on Dec. 13.

Go deeper

Updated Jan 15, 2022 - Technology

The beauty business turns to augmented reality

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Beauty brands are hiring — or buying — technology companies that let customers virtually try on makeup, hair and skin care products.

Why it matters: With COVID keeping people away from cosmetics counters, the latest thing in "beauty tech" is the VTO — or virtual try-on. Customers love playing with these apps so much that companies see big revenue boosts after introducing them.

Updated 26 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a potentially historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Swastikas found outside Union Station in D.C.

People walk through Union Station on Jan. 16 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Drawings of swastikas appeared etched around the entrance to Union Station in Washington, D.C., on Friday morning.

Driving the news: "An investigation is underway with Amtrak Police and the Metropolitan Police Department after swastikas were reported on the exterior of Washington Union Station on Friday," Amtrak spokesperson Kimberly Woods said in a statement to Axios.