How do you organise a Christmas party when your team is entirely remote and based at home? This is something that many corporate leaders will be asking this year as working from home (WFH) and hybrid options have remained popular even long after the crisis period of the Covid pandemic.
Most companies do have an end of year party. It’s usually focused on Christmas, but there are a number of different cultural holidays that are all concentrated around this end of year period. Regardless of whether it is Christmas-focused, or a more general Holiday Season party, most employees expect something.
It can be deflating to hear the boss say ‘there is no party this year.’
It’s true that some people hate the party season and many would rather just have some extra cash, a shopping voucher, or a day off. However, for the companies that are using a party to bring people on the team together at the end of the year, how does it work for WFH teams?
To start with, you need to plan ahead. People may have struggled through the pandemic with disorganised Zoom happy hours, but if you genuinely want to engage your team by creating a virtual event that is worth attending then it needs some thought.
After all, if your boss invited you to a video call that is on your time, and is not compulsory, then would you really want to attend? I know what most people would say. Even if it is ‘just’ a party, it needs to be something that people want to attend.
Despite being virtual, you can create a fun event that draws the team in because they want to see their work colleagues and they want to have some end of year fun – don’t let the virtual nature of the event prevent you from planning something exciting and fantastic.
During the Covid pandemic I started a virtual happy hour for CX professionals that took place every Friday evening. It was founded with Stephen Loynd and Peter Ryan – so right from the start this was a virtual pub evening across the USA, Canada, and Brazil. This happy hour grew until we would regularly have Friday evenings chatting to people on every continent around the world – Australia would always be more like a happy coffee on Saturday morning.
A company-wide Christmas party needs a little more planning than our CX happy hours, but these events showed me that even a virtual drink with friends and colleagues could be important. I’m busy with my daughter’s music class every Friday now, but many of the participants who started chatting during the pandemic still login every Friday evening – we have a special Christmas edition on December 15 that I will be joining! [Message me on LinkedIn if you want a Zoom link for this event.]
For a party where you need to create a stronger sense of engagement than just chatting in a happy hour, I’d recommend three lessons:
Participation: nominate an MC to drive participation, because unlike the pandemic happy hours, it will not work to just have the entire team all on a call at the same time. Create a series of competitions that engage the team and create some structure for the event. It could be the best Christmas decorations in a home office. Or a quiz based on visual images or music. Create some games – with prizes – and let the person managing the session lead the entire team through these events. But remember that this should be fun – not just a quiz about your clients. Many companies specialise in offering virtual events such as Secret Santa or remote cocktail mixing parties – if you need inspiration, then look at some of the ideas that others have tried.
Provide drinks and snacks: Supply the team with the food and drinks they need for the party. If you have a specific theme, like everyone is going to learn how to mix a cocktail, then ensure that all the ingredients have been sent to every team member in advance. At the very least send some drinks and snacks that can be consumed once the virtual event begins. It’s also possible to just send supermarket vouchers so the employees can choose their drinks and snacks. The bottom line is to ensure that your employees are not out of pocket if they are participating in the party and raising a glass together.
Give back to the team: Get the management team involved. Make sure that they are at the party and involved in some way – leading competitions or just participating alongside everyone else. The Christmas party is a great opportunity for the management to connect with their team and to say thank you – but avoid turning the party into a training session. It’s a temptation for some managers, who see they have all the team together, to start delivering a team talk. Your Christmas party isn’t the right occasion for that – show everyone that the management team is human and working alongside everyone else.
A virtual party might not sound as fun as an in-person event, but with some thought it can be genuinely fun for everyone and can create bonds between team members that don’t usually work together. You also don’t need to try booking a venue in December!