‘Tis the season for holiday work parties but this year teams need to get a little more creative if they want to celebrate together. With many companies still working remotely, the typical office party is just a memory in 2020 but what can you put in its place? While it might be tempting to simply skip this year and promise a make-up celebration when life is back to normal, try to avoid the urge. Employees this December will be balancing both the usual winter blues with pandemic fatigue and that can quickly become a recipe for disengagement or increased stress. Instead, take this opportunity to bring everyone together and show your team how much you’ve appreciated their hard work in a challenging year.
Why employee appreciation matters
This should be pretty self-evident, especially in a year like the one we’ve just lived through where everyone came together with all hands on deck, but appreciating the effort your team puts in makes a difference. Employees who feel valued are more willing to go the extra mile for the company. Employees who feel like their contributions aren’t noticed or appreciated, on the other hand, can lose their motivation. There’s also the problem that disengagement is catching and you don’t want your dedicated team to spiral off track. Not to mention when appreciation goes down, turnover goes up. No one wants to stay somewhere if they feel like what they do doesn’t matter. As human beings, we all want to find some sense of meaning or purpose in our work. When that isn’t available, employees often move on in search of a position where it is. Taking the time to tell your team their work is recognized is one simple thing you can do to help keep your employees engaged and this month is a perfect opportunity to do it.
Free virtual holiday options
Let’s explore some of the potential ways you can bring your team together as 2020 draws to a close. For teams that are working with a limited budget, or no budget, there are still creative ways you can celebrate the holidays remotely.
1) Themed virtual parties: Sticking with the classics first, there’s no rule to say you can’t still have your normal office party in a virtual world. If you’re going to set up a Zoom call to bring everyone together, try and think of something that will encourage people to do more than simply stare at each other. Challenge everyone to an ugly holiday sweater contest, for example, or have people show up dressed as their favourite holiday character. You could also ask employees to prepare a little update on what’s happened in their lives beyond work this year or what new pandemic hobbies they’ve picked up that their colleagues may not be aware of. You might even want to try inviting pets to the party and have a prize for whatever pet manages to stay on screen the longest. The idea is to pick a theme that will get people involved and talking to decrease some of the strangeness of a virtual Zoom party.
2) Company Jeopardy: If you have a larger team or multiple teams that can play together, why not create a company-specific set of Jeopardy questions? Consider categories such as historical company trivia, product trivia, team trivia, office trivia, etc to create your set of clues. Make a Jeopardy style board using post-its on the wall of whoever will be leading the game and make sure their webcam can clearly show all the clues. Then play as normal using break out rooms to let teams discuss their trivia answers and compete to see who knows the most about the company or team.
3) Track your time together: How long have you been a team? Use an online program like Adobe Spark to create a virtual timeline for free. Depending on the size or closeness of the team you can either build a timeline that’s specific to your group and include personal accomplishments as well as professional ones or you could design a timeline of the company to stretch further back in history to help employees learn more about their organization. Ideally, you’d want everyone working or researching together to add items to the timeline that speak to what the company, or team, is all about.
4) Play games: While there are many paid options out there that offer multi-player games you can do remotely, there are also a ton of free games you can incorporate into your holiday party as well. Have everyone share the strangest Christmas/holiday gift they’ve ever received, for example, and then let people guess who’s who. Or get everyone to submit a gif that best represents 2020 and try to match the gifs to their owners. You could also try playing “fill in the funniest lyric” with holiday songs or build a bingo board for your Zoom call of common actions that will likely come up and see who wins first. The list of free games available to teams is endless so try a few and see what gets the biggest laughs on your call.
5) Do a virtual Christmas card exchange: Use an online free design program like Canva which is easy to use even for those with zero design skills and let your team design their own holiday cards. Cards can be “sent” to team members in advance and then shared all together during the virtual party. Make things more interesting by encouraging funny cards or using a party theme. You could even preload company logos or headshots of the team so your employees can make their cards more personal.
Virtual holiday options with a budget
If you have a little more of a budget this year and want to do a more structured event that’s a bit different there are dozens of remote team engagement options out there. Here’s a few that might get your team excited.
1) Solve a mystery together: There are a number of companies such as Social Scavenger that offer fun mysteries to solve for remote teams. Employees are brought together in an online meeting where they have to work in groups to solve a series of clues in order to unravel the mystery and solve the fictional crime. Online games like this can be an especially good way to get everyone together without having to manage the organization in-house. Just turn up and enjoy as a guide runs the show.
2) Try a tasting: It might be a long time since you’ve been in a wine bar but there are online options available that will mimic a tasting experience remotely. The company you choose will collect employee addresses and send a shipment in advance of whatever item will be tasted. On the day of the event, employees come together with an instructor who will teach them about whatever beverage they are trying. If you’re looking for an alcoholic option, The Sommelier Company offers wine and whiskey tasting packages. Open Door Tea, on the other hand, is a fun non-alcoholic version that offers a variety of tea tastings. For a coffee option, Eating Through TO has you covered.
3) Escape rooms online: How does one escape from a virtual room, you might be wondering? Looking Glass Adventures has the answer for you. Working through clues on your digital dashboard, teams will have 60 minutes to see if they can escape their virtual room. The experience also includes a host to help keep the game progressing and provide help if a team gets stuck.
4) Virtual happy hour: If all you’re looking for is just regular good cheer, a virtual happy hour is always an easy way to be together. Send employees gift cards in advance so they can supply the beverage of their choice and arrange to get together on a Friday afternoon to chat and share a drink. If you want to make your happy hour even more special, try using an organization like City Brew Tours who will send pre-made boxes to your employees filled with craft beer and specialty cheeses to pair them with.
5) Travel the world: Feeling a little grounded this year? Then solve the problem by taking a world tour. Watson Adventures offers a scavenger hunt type game that brings employees to some of the most famous museums and historic locations around the globe. Employees then race to find all the items on their scavenger list inside the virtual locations. For a lower budget option, there are also numerous home versions of scavenger hunts you can use that involve employees searching their own homes to find the items in question.
Connected teams stay together longer
No matter what option you choose to bring some holiday cheer to your team, the most important point is to be together. Keeping a team connected remotely isn’t easy but holiday parties are a simple way of building community and decreasing stress. Not to mention, it’s a great way to show your employees how much you appreciate them and the effort they’ve been putting in this year. So embrace virtual celebrations and reach out to team members. Designate a day or afternoon where you can all be together and let the team enjoy a change of pace. Here’s hoping that however you choose to celebrate this year, everyone on your team remains happy and healthy.