With so many organizations shifting to virtual teams, there’s no shortage of advice on how to best organize and manage these teams to maximize engagement and productivity. However, the trend toward virtual does pose an interesting problem for a longstanding workplace tradition: The holiday office party.
How do you throw a holiday office party when there’s no office?
Fortunately, there are plenty of creative ways to throw an exciting office party in a virtual context. Much like their in-person versions, these parties are a great way to strengthen relationships and reward teams for a job well done.
Here are 10 Creative Ideas for Hosting the Best Virtual Holiday Party:
1: Engage People in Planning
People are more likely to attend and enjoy a party they have a hand in planning. A few rounds of simple, online surveys can narrow down a list of potential activities to a more manageable amount that everyone is excited about. Engaging people in planning also helps to avoid possible scheduling conflicts (always a challenge with virtual teams) and allows the process to be more culturally inclusive for more diverse teams.
2: Offer Teasers or Prizes
It might sound like bribery, but there’s nothing wrong with enticing team members to attend by offering virtual party favors or prizes like online gift cards or coupon codes. Setting up prizes for the winners of various party activities can ignite a little friendly competition and get the team excited about the event.
3: Send Customized Online Invitations
Online invitations from sites like Evite or Punchbowl offer plenty of fun and creative ways to remind everyone about the virtual party. And since many of these invitations can be delivered for free, they’re a quick and easy way to build excitement for the event.
4: Exchange Donation Gifts
Gift exchanges can be rather difficult in a virtual context (although delivering small gifts via Amazon and watching everyone open the box could be a fun activity), so many remote workers elect to make a donation to a charity of a coworker’s choice. There are plenty of ways to get creative with donation gifts, however. The Dale Carnegie Institute once encouraged employees to think about what a coworker was like as a child and then donate a toy that personified that person to a charity.
5: Kick Off With Team Video Content
A fun “year in review” video that covers the team’s accomplishments for the year can be a good way to get the party underway. Someone could also assemble a fun “blooper reel’ of humorous moments throughout the year or compile a series of song parodies recorded by each person.
6: Dress Up and Vote On the Best Outfit
Since virtual employees don’t need to leave home to attend the party, they can go all out on creating a costume for the event. This could lead to some entertaining moments as everyone votes for the best outfit. If team members aren’t interested in dressing up, they could hold an ugly Christmas sweater contest.
7: Submit Videos of Kids/Pets
Who doesn’t love to see a toddler on Santa’s lap or a dog wearing a little scarf? The team could easily share short videos to show how what they’re doing to celebrate the holidays with their family and friends (and pets!).
8: Share Holiday Memories/Traditions
Everyone has a funny holiday story or two. They may also have a unique tradition that sets their holiday experience apart from other families. Team members can take turns sharing both, which can not only provide plenty of laughs, but also help them get to know each other a bit better.
9: Split Into Groups for Games
While holiday games can be fun, virtual parties suffer the same challenges as virtual meetings in that it’s difficult for more than one person to talk at a time. Using collaborative meeting software such as WebEx Training or Adobe connect and breaking into smaller groups to play games can help ensure that everyone stays engaged in the festivities and doesn’t leave them looking to log off.
10: Give Out Fun Awards
While a holiday party may be a good time to reward people for good performance throughout the year, it’s an even better opportunity to hand out fun awards. This would be a good time to recognize the person who loves singing along with the video conference room’s on-hold music or always knows how to perk everyone up.
Just because your team is virtual doesn’t mean you can’t throw a holiday party to remember. Many companies are already making virtual office parties an important part of their holiday traditions. With a little forethought and planning, the same tools that make virtual teams so effective can easily be deployed in the service of a memorable virtual holiday party.