Maintaining a spirit of camaraderie and teamwork is one of the biggest challenges for remote workforces. And these days almost all PR and marketing teams are working remotely — and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Traditionally, company social events have served as a primary team bonding activity. They may seem frivolous to serious-minded employees, but are instrumental in bolstering morale and solidarity. The events celebrate accomplishments and offer an escape from routine duties.
Holiday work parties are typically the chief social gathering of the year. Thinking about ideas for a virtual holiday work party now will provide head start.
Nobody Wants to Miss a Holiday Party
“Nobody wants to miss out on the traditional work Christmas party even if they pretend to be a Grinch and vocally express their indignation towards it. It’s a chance to take time out of work to unwind, relax, celebrate the year, mingle, and get to know your fellow work colleagues that little bit more. And of course, dress up in tacky Christmas paraphernalia,” writes Emily Uebergang at online marketing agency Digital Darts.
These recommendations can help PR and marketing agencies and internal communications departments organize successful remote parties.
Advance planning. Schedule events well in advance. Although social calendars aren’t nearly as full these days, people appreciate ample notice. Be mindful of caregivers and disparate time zones. When choosing the online video app, check the maximum number of people the service allows and maximum duration per meeting it permits. Another technical tip: Team members can plug their laptops into TVs with an HDMI cable to enjoy the party with a larger picture and better sound.
Send gifts. Sending remote team members small gifts before the event, such as candy, snacks or personalized mugs, can boost excitement and make everyone feel appreciated. “This doesn’t have to be a physical gift — maybe it is a handwritten card or a note of gratitude,” says Eimear Marrinan, director of culture at HubSpot. “A holiday event doesn’t have to be a big, big thing. Sometimes it’s the simple acts of kindness that go a long way for people.”
Dress attire. Ask people to dress in fancy clothes or holiday-themed attire. Consider a holiday-themed costume contest, such as an ugly sweater contest.
Activities. Holiday-themed games such as holiday trivia games, bingo or other interactive activities. Dividing the staff into teams that compete against each other can increase excitement. An energetic host is essential for ensuring that the staff stay involved.
Food. Consider sending snacks or a dessert that employees can enjoy together during the meeting to create a shared experience. “You can also ask everybody to prepare similar food for themselves so that everyone attending the party is on the same page and feels the party vibe, just as they would during a non-virtual party,” says travel blogger Rebecca Sigers.
Beer and wine tastings. Have a brewery, winery or both deliver samples to team members for a virtual beer or wine tasting. You could bring in an outside connoisseur to guide staff through the samples or hold a contest, asking people to guess the contents of unmarked containers. At least you won’t have to worry about employees driving home.
Caroling. Before the party, ask team members to create their versions of their favorite Christmas carols. Or assign certain songs to different groups. Staff members can sing songs to background in a virtual karaoke party. To fully embrace the karaoke act, consider sending a prop box to each employee before the party that equips them with a microphone and fun stage props
Decorating. Some people love to decorate. They can decorate their desks and home workspace. Consider a contest and prices for the best decorated workspaces.
Ice breaker questions. Ice breaker questions can, well, break the ice of conversations and help co-workers get to know each other better. What’s an unusual skill you have? What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had? What’s the worst gift you’ve ever received?
Auction. Assemble a bunch of desirable donated items from management, staff, clients or local merchants and conduct an online auction among the employees. Contribute the proceeds to a local charity.
Charitable gift. Consider organizing a group donation to a community organization. This activity is best organized by an employee group, not the managers. It must be done in a way that is totally voluntary with no recriminations for not giving.
New Year’s wishes. Have employees share their wishes for the New Year. (Give them advance notice you will be doing this.)
Bonus idea. Assemble photos of staff members. Have other employees alter them in amusing ways and share the altered photos during the party.
Bottom Line: Work parties are invaluable for building team spirit and morale. With employees working from home during the Covid-19 epidemic, team leaders will turn to virtual options. A good online party requires multiple activities. These ideas can help.
Michael Kling is manager of public relations, marketing and social media at Glean.info, a media monitoring and measurement service that provides customized media monitoring and PR analytics solutions.