A virtual holiday party can be a memorable way to engage employees in the holiday season.
Though organizing one takes a little more work and planning than setting up a regular Zoom meeting, it’s a worthwhile project because it sparks interesting conversations, brings teammates closer, and helps everyone feel a little more inspired.
In this article, we list several remote team-building activities for the end of the year. Pick one or combine a few of them to create the best virtual holiday party for your team.
We also share a few tips from experts on how to organize a successful virtual holiday event.
Virtual holiday party ideas
Here are some ideas to inspire you:
Group call to celebrate the year’s wins: This is a suggestion from Sam Furness, of Channel Twelve. Get everyone to share their personal and professional highlights of the year.
Recipe swap: A suggestion we also made for Thanksgiving. Start a Slack thread—or your workplace equivalent—for swapping recipes a couple of weeks before the holidays. Encourage everyone to share photos and impressions as they test holiday recipes.
Ugly sweater contest: This one only works for remote employees living in cold climates. Have everyone get their ugliest sweater out and wear it for a chance to win a prize—something small and nice, like an Amazon gift card.
Holiday playlist: Build the perfect holiday playlist together via Spotify’s collaborative playlist feature.
Secret Santa: Organize a gift swap. Use a gift exchange generator to draw names, and consider setting a company budget for purchasing gifts.
Virtual holiday happy hour: Schedule a happy hour with the team. Decide on the drink you’re going to have and send a recipe for it along with the invitation. Alternatively, you can ship a bottle of wine or champagne, or even a cocktail kit, to team members’ homes, if local regulations allow. If a happy hour doesn’t work with your globally distributed team, you can celebrate with good quality coffee, too.
Talent show: Give the extroverts on your team the opportunity to showcase their talents for a chance to win a prize. Alternatively, get everyone together for a 2-hour virtual karaoke session.
Online class: Give team members a chance to vote on a class they’d like to take—Airbnb has plenty of online classes to choose from, including holiday-themed ones such as how to throw a holiday dinner party and how to make cute dolls out of socks.
Online experience: Build virtual memories together by signing up for an online experience. Options include virtual wine, tea, and cheese tastings; singing holiday songs with a Broadway star, storytime with Mama Claus, and more.
Games: Guarantee there’ll be no talk about work at your virtual holiday party by getting team members to play instead. Game options include virtual escape rooms, festive trivia quizzes, and online multiplayer games on platforms such as Jackbox.
Tips from the experts
- Plan your event. Online events can be ten times more awkward than in-person events. The way to prevent cringe-y moments and awkward silences is through proper planning. “Think about how you consume digital entertainment and create your virtual experience accordingly. The content should be visually stimulating, entertaining, and engaging,” event planner Deanna Camille told Fast Company.
- Be inclusive. Don’t assume that everyone on your team celebrates Christmas or drinks alcohol. Eimear Marrinan, director of culture at HubSpot, suggests checking in before planning. “Ask questions if you’re incorporating food. Are there allergies or preferences? If you’re arranging a cocktail hour, does everyone drink alcohol? This is all about being inclusive in how you’re arranging your event,” she told HubSpot.
- Have the event during work hours. Even though a virtual office Christmas party isn’t work, it’s still a work commitment. Make it easy and stress-free for employees to join by scheduling it during work hours. “When people aren’t going to an office party in person, they are still in their home environment virtually, and their significant others may find it hard to appreciate that they need to be on yet another Zoom call after hours,” event planner Lisa Jennings told Fast Company.
- Send goodies. “Personally, I think it’s cool when companies send out a goodie bag of things to their employees ahead of the virtual party. Things they might need for games/dress-up/treats. It creates a sense of occasion around it…that it’s not just another Zoom call,” says Sam Furness. In addition to accessories and props, you can also send unique gift boxes.
Start prepping your virtual holiday party today
The end of the year is right around the corner, so if you haven’t started your virtual holiday party preparations yet, now’s the time to begin.
A virtual holiday party can be a simple happy hour, a combination of games and fun activities, or a professionally-designed immersive experience. The best choice for your team will be one that’s aligned with your company culture and one that you can pull off with the resources you have.
Just remember, when planning your event, to ask questions to find out how to best meet your team members’ needs.
No matter what a virtual holiday party ends up looking like for your team, the most important thing is that you get a chance to connect and have fun together. You’ve worked hard this year and deserve to celebrate!
How will your remote team be celebrating the holidays this year?
For more ideas on how to motivate remote teams, check out Remote Work Culture: 14 Tips for Engaging Virtual Teams.