WebDevStudios has been remote-first since conception. We have had 12+ years to work on our virtual office celebration game (which is pretty on point). With the pandemic still roaring, many companies are in the same boat this year. They are trying to figure out a plan to keep culture alive in a remote work world. Although it may seem difficult to create cheerful, festive, fun virtual holiday events, do not fear. It is easier than you think! With tools like Zoom, Slack, and a little creativity you can bring joy to your whole team even if you all can’t meet IRL.
I was slightly nervous planning virtual office celebrations for the first time, even though I had WDS’ history to look back on from previous years and a mentor, my manager April Williams. We have an internal site for company info so I started there, researching past activities and searching for some new additions (there are some great ideas on the world wide web). Here’s what I’ve learned.
Virtual Office Celebrations Should Align with Company Culture
You need to have a good pulse on the company culture and the people that work at your company before starting to plan virtual office celebrations. What will draw the most interest? How can you encourage but not require people to participate?
We are a pretty lively bunch here and have an overwhelming amount of people join in for company activities. During Halloween, we do a costume contest, pumpkin carving contest, and watch a scary movie over Zoom.
In December, we have an ugly sweater contest, Secret Santa gift exchange, a Festivus tree decoration contest, and charity challenge. This year, we have formed two teams to compete to see who raises the most funds, and we are using MightyCause.com as our donation platform. You can create team pages, share the links on social media to get people to donate to your team, and Might Cause will handle all the remittance to the charities. Remember to tell your team members it is not required for them to donate themselves. You don’t want to make anyone feel bad if they can’t or don’t want to participate.
Try Something New and Have a Plan
This year for the winter holidays, I wanted to add a new idea to the mix. We will keep the classics that we always do. They are fun, easy, and guaranteed for a good turn out. But you don’t want festivities to get stale. It can lead to lower participation and variety is the spice of life! We try to have an event every week to spread them out with a schedule sent out in the beginning of the month on our internal company board.
We already started with a happy hour on our regular scheduled Friday scrum for the first week. We have also set up the Secret Santa gift exchange, too, giving everyone that wants to participate enough time to add stuff to their wish list. (We use Elfster, which makes it super easy for the Secret Santa and their gift recipient.) Since we do have some international teammates, we like to get the presents out about two weeks before we do the big lunchtime reveal to make sure everyone has something to open live. It really is a joy to see people open presents—makes us all feel like kids again. Just make sure you let everyone know they have to wait till you are all on Zoom together to open them!
The new activity for the WDS virtual celebrations this year will be a holiday scavenger hunt. It’s interactive and fun. This activity gets people out and about while being safe during the pandemic. My plan is to set up a Slack channel for participants to post their findings and even those who don’t play can peek at the funny pics on the list!
Make sure whatever you plan that you keep it inclusive. Not everyone celebrates a specific holiday, so label things to reflect that and add elements of everyone’s background into your activities. This way, everyone feels included and invited to participated.
Although it isn’t required, having prizes for the events really ups the ante. They don’t have to all be huge. We use Hey Taco! on a regular basis here for recognition (if you don’t know what this is, check it out). We give a bulk amount of tacos for some of the contests, as well as gift cards. Of course, bragging rights go a long way here, too!
Even though this year may be vastly different from your past holiday events, virtual celebrations can still promote unity, bonding, and laughs. It also gives you a chance to think outside the box a little. Yes, some things take more planning or thought because you aren’t physically in the same space, but in no way does that make them less fun. I can honestly say that I laughed so hard during our last ugly sweater contest that I cried. Let’s just say, we had some very creative entries.