Woah, wait, hold up! Before you cancel Christmas at work and become the official Ebenezer of Engagement, instead, why not go above and beyond to spread festive cheer after what has been a proper “bah humbug” of a year?
We know it’s hard to think creatively right now—particularly if your organisation has been fighting for survival all year and a festive budget feels insensitive—so here’s a bit of low-cost, non-tier dependent inspiration for virtual work Christmas parties and remote team festivities.
These ideas can be totally scaled based on effort, resource and budget, so hopefully you can pick and choose a few that will work for your team/s. You could also share this article with your managers, social crew, or newly-appointed festive volunteers (engagement-tick!).
Tips for virtual work Christmas parties
A few upfront tips before we get the party started, so to speak:
- Virtual get-togethers work better in small groups, so consider running ideas in mixed teams rather than company-wide (we’ve all been stuck on a group video call and not been able to get a word in edgeways).
- Think inclusive; diversify your activities and consider what you call your ‘Christmas’ party—the words ‘festive’, ‘holiday’, ‘winter’ work just as well to bring diverse teams together.
- Accept that not everyone will want to get involved, but don’t get disheartened. For people feeling lonely and down—it’ll be the lift they’ve needed all year and a chance to bring new recruits better into the fold.
- For virtual events, be aware of the length of time you’re asking people to be on technology and make sure you schedule comfort breaks—screen fatigue is real! And make it known that turning your video on is not a must.
- Remember, UK organisations can still claim tax relief for Christmas parties, even virtual ones, so there’s one more way to save on overall costs—cheers, HMRC!
Five ideas for virtual work Christmas parties
The big bonus about this year’s Christmas party is that you’ve already got the most challenging and usually most expensive bit sorted: the venue (cost-saving, kerching!).
But whatever your video call provider of choice—Zoom, Teams, Skype, Google Hangouts, to name a few—now the question is, “how to make a video call feel less working and more Christmassy?”
Party activities, of course!
Bring onboard your leaders or loudest and proudest people to help you host one (or more) of these five classic party activities with a digital spin.
- Quiz: Combine a mix of festive pop trivia with interesting questions about your company history or personnel for more engagement points. The key here is to keep the quiz rounds short and snappy, for example: 6 questions, 5 rounds—easy!
- Bingo: Create holiday-inspired Bingo cards with this crackin’ online Bingo card generator or rope someone creatively-inclined in to do your own! This is a super easy one to play along with at home.
- Scavenger hunt: Bring some physical activity to your party with an indoor Scavenger hunt. Create a list of festive items that could be found around the home, e.g. an orange, a cracker, a piece of tinsel, a bauble…and the person who finds a) the most b) the quickest is the winner! *Warning: this gets very competitive*
And, for the more extraverted of teams and to give your more reserved folk a good laugh…
4. Dance-off: So how does this work, you say?
a. Call for dance-off applicants ahead of time.
b. Give two people the same song to throw some shapes to.
c. Let the competitors take the screen one after another.
d. Have your attendees vote on the best!
Come on, a party isn’t complete without some dodgy dancing, and we’d definitely make sure the host gets permission to hit record!
5. Karaoke: Tried and tested by Team Hive…
a. Ask attendees to sign up to your virtual Karaoke with their favourite song.
b. Devise and circulate a running order.
c. Have the host share their screen and play the YouTube video of choice, lyrics included.
d. Have your singer take centre screen!
Who needs the X-Factor this Christmas anyway?!
And now for the party festivities…
- Food and drink
You might not be able to offer the same grand fayre or royal knees up as last year, but there’s no reason why you can’t surprise and delight your people with something to tantalise their taste buds and whet their whistle!
Thanks to our CEO John Ryder, Team Hive are getting a special home delivery of our favourite tipple from Huggg, who also offer the delivery of fun gifts, competition prizes and tonnes of other things! Another option is to give everyone a supermarket voucher (e-vouchers are available online) or invite people to expense a set amount on party treats of their choice.
Use a platform like Spotify to create or select a Christmas playlist. Have your host/s play it at a low volume so you get that familiar party vibe that covers up any awkward virtual silences. You can get even more engagement points by inviting people to submit their fave songs to your playlist ahead of time, which you can share anytime to be listened to all December long!
- A dress code and decorations
Smart, casual, formal, festive, or even fancy dress—you choose, but donning some different clobber will defo make your party more of an occasion. You could also create and share a video background (with instructions) for people to use if they have the right tech; great for anyone wanting their background to remain very much in the background!
- A proper invite
Once you’ve got all of the above details down, get an invite out ASAP (by email, text, post, internal comms channel—whatever is best for your team). Tell people everything they need to know, including the rules of activities so they know what they are getting themselves into.
Important: be clear on how people can RSVP to your invite so you know the numbers early doors. And remember, people do tend to slope off in terms of availability and desire to do anything “worky” before Christmas, so you’ll have to get bloomin’ cracking!
Five ideas for remote team festivities
OK, for these five ideas, you’ll need a trusty team of people to kick them off and keep them moving—so gather your known advocates, your new recruits (as a nice icebreaker), or take volunteers to become your virtual Christmas champions!
- Internal comms channel takeover
Got an internal comms channel like Slack, Yammer, or Facebook for Work? Bring the love of Christmas into your workplace; start (or reskin) a channel and drop-in conversation starters, polls, personal photos and spot prize competitions, e.g:
- What’s behind today’s advent calendar window?
- Anyone got any recipe tips for stuffing?
- Worst presents ever call-out
- Bad cracker jokes call-out
- Present ideas for mothers-in-law list
- Festive things to do with the kids in lockdown list
- Best-decorated Christmas tree competition
- A favourite Christmas films poll
You could even initiate a Christmas film club for the festive period; members can choose a film to watch on the same night every week and natter about it online the day after—nice, wholesome fun!
2. Celebrate Christmas Jumper DaySave the Children’s Christmas Jumper Day is still taking place this year on Friday 11 December. From sparkly to novelty, tasteful to tacky, everybody loves donning their Christmas Best (or vest!) for a good cause, so apply for your pack and start promoting your involvement ASAP.
3. Festive story-telling
Assuming that everyone is a bit more digitally accessible, this could be the perfect year to put diversity and inclusion at the front and centre by inviting people to share stories about their holiday celebrations in a public forum.
Whether it’s an hour-long lunch and learn, a blog series on your intranet, or a speaker slot in your team meeting, invite team members to enlighten each other with their family traditions, religious practices, inspiration for decorations, tasty recipes and more!
4. Secret Santa
Best initiated in small teams:
- set a small budget with postage included.
- ask who wants to participate and doesn’t mind sharing their address.
- use an online tool to allocate your Santas and
- choose a date for posting presents (first or second class).
Now, admittedly, it’ll take a little bit more effort this year but the pay-off will be huge! Just imagine the smile on someone’s face when they open the door to a thoughtful present from a team member they might not have seen for months 😊
5. Cook-a-longsIf you want to try something a bit different and have the budget, team cook-a-longs seem to be the done thing this year! We’ve found a cool company called Feast It that does cook-a-longs and many other taste-bud-tickling virtual parties. Take a browse, you might land on something novel that really works for your team!
Before you crack on with organising and implementing one or more of these ideas, there’s always the option to test ideas out with people so they don’t fall flat. [Insert blatant product placement]
Send a quick pulse survey* out ahead of your social event to get feedback on options. This not only helps to validate ideas but also gets upfront buy-in from people, increasing eventual participation in your activity!
Now this last one isn’t an idea, it’s a must-do, and it’s…
Sorry to end this festive blog on a serious note, but dips in wellbeing caused by feeling lonely have been widely reported across the UK during the pandemic, so ‘tis the season for your managers and leaders to be spending a little extra time checking in on individuals and encouraging colleagues to check in on each other.
Think of it this way—people could be sad, stressed, alone, you name it, and it’s far too easy to save face on a work call. A casual check-in that digs a bit deeper than the surface could mean all the difference to a person’s day and their perception of your organisation, so make this the year people live up to your corporate values and look after each other, like a proper community.
Final thoughts (I promise)
Let’s be honest, the festive period really isn’t going to be the same this year, but there’s still a chance to end the year on a high and bring people together to say thank you for a very, very hard year.
Plus, look on the brightside, at least this year many of us will be spared the inappropriate snogging, awkward conversations with senior leaders, and deadly handovers the next day!
So that’s that: whether you choose to run with one or more of these ideas, you’ll be sure to send your people into 2021 with good faith in your organisation and a much-needed mental-reset. And that’s way better than Christmas 2020 being remembered as The One Where Christmas Was Cancelled, right?!