How to Host a Virtual Corporate Party This Year
This holiday season will be different from any other in recent history. Traditional festive gatherings, parties and activities, including the annual Christmas office party or team building vacation, will be either cancelled altogether or modified so as to observe all current conditions and regulations. Reproducing the spontaneous and diverse conversations that take place at a physical social event will be a challenge, but it is fundamental for the mental well-being and professional efficiency of the employees, since studies show that workers who are more connected to one another tend to be happier and more productive.
For many people, their work colleagues feel like members of the extended family, who know details of their personal lives, the names of their children and pets, childhood milestones, hobbies and other preferences, and sometimes even support them through difficult times. Thus, it’s critical for businesses to find creative ways to facilitate interactions between employees, managers and partners, as part of the holiday celebration.
In the absence of the usual parties, there are still ways to celebrate together and tools we can use, with some creativity, to turn this event into a memorable one, albeit in a year that many of us would probably like to forget.
Think outside the box
Promote some of the advantages of hosting a party online and highlight the pressures of an in-person meeting which no longer apply this year: not knowing what to wear, shoes that become uncomfortable after having them on for a while, procuring transportation to and from the venue, women getting their makeup and hair done. Now, everything is so much simpler: you can attend the party in your own living room, dressed in pajamas and a pair of fluffy socks.
Try hosting a general event that everyone is a part of, as well as several smaller chat rooms where groups can convene based on similar interests and themes. Just like in a normal party, where people navigate the room, stopping from time to time to discuss with a colleague or a cluster of coworkers, the same atmosphere can be replicated in a virtual setting.
Ask for opinions and consider organizing this year’s celebration as a competition or a class. Send ingredients to everyone’s homes and learn together how to make a sponge cake or another festive dish that is traditional in your country. Or, if most people already know to make it, turn it into a contest with prizes — which one decorated it the best? Which one used the ingredients most efficiently? Who put their personal touch on it and offered a new way of doing it (no sugar, no dairy, no gluten)? Since the rest of the gang (the jury) won’t be able to taste it and judge it accordingly, aspect and composition will have to be the main criteria in offering awards.
Don’t forget to include the family — the more, the merrier. Children throwing flour around or dogs waiting to get a bite of the finished product will warm everyone’s hearts. Or you can even organize a side-party for employees with children — a virtual meeting for telling stories, playing games, having dress-up competitions, watching a puppet show or an animation movie, and performing all sorts of activities that will keep children energized and help them socialize and have fun.
Don’t forget about technology
In the era of “work from home”, I’m sure everyone has supplied employees with the best possible equipment, devices and Internet service providers. High-quality video and audio will thus become essential in this part of the business as well — if the quality of the meeting is poor, it will be difficult to have fun and even understand one another clearly. If these features are state-of-the-art, then you can integrate novel and entertaining ideas into this year’s corporate party: ask people to give everyone a tour of their holiday home decorations, host an ugly sweater contest or a karaoke challenge. To keep participants engaged, remember to keep these events short and interactive.
Remember that it’s still 2020
It’s been a tough year for most of us and the organizers of virtual Christmas celebrations should recognize this in a number of ways. First of all, give everyone a chance to express themselves freely, by creating channels where colleagues and managers can have informal conversations and voice their concerns, fears and thoughts about these trying times. Secondly, dedicate a few moments or an entire event to thanking workers and commending them for a job well done in spite of various trials and adversities. Reflect on the hardships of the latest period and describe the ways in which the organization plans to move forward and prosper, by welcoming the opportunities that the new year will present. These little moments of connection will keep personal relationships strong, even as people are working apart.
Some employees may not be able or even want to attend these festivities, so make them optional. Give everyone the freedom they need to take part in any of the activities made available for them or skip them altogether. You never know how these last months have affected each person or the reasons why they might choose to refuse joining them. If you are concerned about their wellbeing, you can send them a private message telling them that they can opt out, but are welcome anytime they need to talk or participate in an activity.
Use the budget usually reserved for this office party to give employees small tokens of your appreciation, gifts or vouchers that they can use to buy something useful or entertaining.
Bring them together
The holidays are an opportunity to reflect on the journey traveled in the last year, give back to people who have given us so much and bring the work family closer. Although this season, circumstances are a bit different, it shouldn’t change this wonderful idea. Use technology as a tool for bringing people together and rely on experiences of virtual events that have worked well in the past. At TRISOFT, we believe that doing so can leave a positive impact on the company’s culture, mood and expectations for the new year.