Looking for a way to boost morale within your remote or hybrid team? Our virtual team celebration ideas can help.
If you’re part of a hybrid or remote team, you’ll know how important it is to stay connected. In fact, it’s one of the biggest challenges facing companies today.
One solution? Having fun! Celebrating your colleagues is a great way to build trust, show recognition, cultivate a sense of belonging, and boost the overall employee experience.
You might be envisioning something akin to Bill’s 41st birthday celebration in Office Space (1999), where the ratio of people to cake is way off and employees are banished to the basement to deal with Initech’s cockroach situation.
Think again! Our suggestions are remote-friendly, inclusive, and don’t veer into cockroach territory even once. Yep, we set the bar high.
What is a virtual team celebration?
A virtual team celebration is a gathering of your team members online, using software like Workvivo, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Hangouts.
Unlike a virtual meeting, you’re not there to talk about work. This is an opportunity to step away from your day-to-day and get to know your colleagues better. Virtual celebrations are a key part of the employee experience. So, if you want your people to know that you care – and hopefully prevent them following in the money-laundering footsteps of Peter Gibbons or building-burning path of Milton Waddams – you need to actively show them.
When one of your colleagues or the entire team has something exciting happening in their lives, it’s natural to want to celebrate with them. After all, you see your colleagues every single day. You might even consider them to be friends as well as colleagues.
It could be that someone is going on maternity or paternity leave, a work anniversary, a retirement, or a landmark birthday.
Equally, a team celebration could be something for the whole team or organization to celebrate together. A company win, a national holiday, or to mark the date the company was formed are all reasons to celebrate together.
It’s not all about Bill turning 41, you know!
What makes a great virtual workplace party?
In an office, organizing a few drinks or pizzas (or too little cake) for the team to share is easy. But when you’re online, team members can’t necessarily mingle, chat in their regular groups, or grab a bite to eat together. That’s why virtual team celebrations typically need a little more creativity and consideration.
A virtual team celebration should still embody the same spirit of team celebration as an office party, whether as a thank-you to the team or a tribute to a particular person.
No one wants to attend a virtual party that feels like more work, so even though your virtual party ideas might need a bit more structure, they can still be organized in a fun way.
Trust me, I too am prone to breaking out in hives when I get a whiff of ‘organized fun’. But owning it can make a massive difference; here at Workvivo, we ironically refer to our social gatherings as ‘enforced fun’.
Yes, we are hilarious, I know. I’ll wait a moment for the applause to die down…
Your virtual team celebration ideas should help team members relax, get to know one another, and step away from their working day for a few hours.
If in doubt, take a moment to consider the kind of celebration you would like to take part in yourself. If it feels a bit like a chore, ditch it!
For a successful celebration, you want as many people as possible to participate. If something feels like it’s eating into employees’ personal time to organize (for example, putting a costume together or baking a cake), you can expect uptake to be lower.
A great virtual celebration should be easy to take part in, fun, informal, and all about the team members.
Why celebrate virtually?
An article by Gallup explains that “connected teams demonstrate a 21% increase in profitability”.
When team members feel connected, they are much more likely to feel comfortable discussing issues at work, calling on one another for help, or giving a colleague a friendly reminder that they’re waiting on something from them.
A study by Kenexa found that “50% of positive changes in communication patterns in the workplace can be credited to social interaction outside the workplace”.
Here are some great reasons to celebrate virtually:
- Make a particular team member feel valued
- Recognize achievements of the entire team
- As a thank you
- To give quieter team members an opportunity to get to know their colleagues without forcing them out of their comfort zone
- To communicate company values in a fun way
- To allow team members who wouldn’t usually work together an opportunity to connect
- To improve communication within the team
- To build trust. When people know each other, instant messaging is less likely to be misconstrued, and employees feel safe sharing new ideas with colleagues
- Celebrating personal life moments can help employees understand that the company sees them as people with personal lives and not just cogs.
If organizing a virtual celebration is starting to sound like a great idea, read on for some tips and suggestions.
Tips for organizing virtual team celebration ideas
You might have been there yourself. A poorly organized online event with awkward silences, poor participation, or users dropping off when it runs over time.
Want to avoid this yourself? Here’s our advice when organizing your own workplace virtual celebration.
Don’t make it too long
An office party in person might last for hours, but don’t forget, an online event is a little different. People don’t have the same opportunity to move around.
Chances are, your employees have been at their computer screens all day. It’s unlikely they will want to add four more hours to their day sitting in the same position.
Keep your event to one to two hours maximum and end on a high.
Try to keep it close to work hours
Every employee is different, and whilst some would prefer to take an hour out of their working day, others will worry that taking time out of their already busy day will mean they’ll need to make up the time.
Ultimately, you want your team members to relax, and if your event is at 10 am on a Monday, some team members will be thinking about all the other things they could be getting on with.
Equally, asking team members to hop online on a Sunday afternoon just isn’t fair. Employees are unlikely to thank you for eating into their weekend.
The best times to plan your activity are the following:
- Early in the morning — a 30-minute game or announcement to start the day
- Lunchtime — include eating as part of the celebration
- Allow employees to finish an hour early — this is best for longer celebrations of one to two hours
- The hour following the end of the day.
Do something that everyone can take part in
Consider the needs of your team. A treasure hunt isn’t ideal if there are team members who physically cannot run around their home.
Likewise, a quiz on a specific topic like sports or TV shows might make some people feel excluded unless you know for certain that everyone on your team has the same interest.
If you’re doing virtual team-building activities, ensure instructions are clear and snappy
It’s tempting to organize something unique for your team, and if you’re a creative person, we encourage that!
If you do decide to create your own game, make sure it’s clear and easy to understand what’s going on. The more people involved, the more complicated it’s likely to become.
Sometimes, the most simple ideas are the best!
If you need to host, try not to speak for too long
The virtual team celebration is for everyone, so whilst you might need to explain the order of events, try not to dominate.
If you’re worried about this, recruit some other team members to co-host with you.
Think of ways to involve everyone
Group people into teams or begin with an ice-breaker. It’s easy for shy team members to hide away in the background during a virtual workplace celebration. That’s totally fine, but there should be the opportunity for them to get involved if they want to!
Consider your group size
For a small lunchtime gathering to welcome a new member to your team, you might not need to organize anything at all. A chat among colleagues with some provided budget for refreshments might be all that’s required.
For large groups, leaving everyone to their own devices could end in disaster, with too many voices trying to contribute at once. For any group above five or six, something more organized would be appropriate.
Make it as easy as possible!
If you’re planning a big celebration, like a Christmas party, think about how you can make it as easy as possible for everyone to celebrate in a similar way.
If you have a big team with lots of dietary requirements, a voucher for food might be better than a food package.
Not everyone will have the space at home (or the confidence) for a dance-off or a yoga practice.
Use collaborative spaces
If you have many people to entertain, consider splitting employees into teams via departments or communities.
Workvivo allows you to create community spaces for employees to hang out or collaborate. You could use these to keep your celebration organized and manageable.
Microsoft and Slack also have options to create separate chat groups.
Virtual team celebration ideas
Small group ideas
Perfect for small departments or teams within the organization.
1. Themed lunch
Perfect for welcoming a new member to the team or catching up with a small group of colleagues over a video call. This idea should be planned in advance.
Nominate someone to give a theme for the lunch a week ahead of time. This might be a color, a country, or any theme you can think of, such as “If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life…”
Colleagues should bring their own lunch as usual, but tie it into the theme.
The theme might be “Red.” A jam sandwich, tomato soup, or a Thai red curry are all great options your colleagues could choose to bring.
A theme provides a fun point of conversation to start the hour with and allows colleagues to get as inventive with their lunch as they wish — or not!
2. Chocolate-making class
If your team members are all based in one country, and you have a little budget to spend, you could send your team a chocolate-making (or chocolate tasting) kit to create together online.
Either put your own together or use a service like this one that sends everything you need plus provides a virtual live stream to talk your team through the steps.
3. Murder Mystery
Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned murder mystery? A great opportunity to use problem-solving skills and have a bit of fun on the way.
A smaller group can have fun with this by preparing costumes and getting into character.
With enough time, you should be able to deliver roles ahead of time so that your remote team has time to plan their character.
A quick search should provide plenty of virtual online murder mystery options like this one.
4. Online Escape Rooms
You may have heard of an escape room, but have you heard of a virtual escape room? These are fun, virtual team-building options that work best in smaller groups.
They could equally work well for larger teams split into small groups through breakout rooms on your video call software or community spaces on your social intranet like the ones at Workvivo.
You’ll find there are plenty of virtual escape rooms available like this one by Green Hat Games, so get your problem-solving hats on and get puzzling!
5. Cocktail-making class
If your small team loves a classy drink or two, then cocktail making is a fun way to celebrate special occasions like a birthday, retirement, or Christmas party.
Either ask each team member to nominate a cocktail and allocate a budget for ingredients or hire a professional to show you the ropes like this one at the Happy Hour Academy.
Are you a team of creatives? Arts and crafts are the perfect team-building exercises for you and a great way to celebrate a particular holiday.
Buy each team member a crafting pack like felt tree decorations for the festive holidays or run a decorate the egg contest for Easter.
Encourage team members to craft whilst chatting over a virtual call or set a deadline and use your group chat to post the results of each person’s creation.
Don’t forget to share some of your creations on your employee engagement platform to inspire other teams within the organization to do a similar idea.
7. A themed quiz about a specific person
If someone is leaving, going on maternity or paternity leave, or celebrating a huge win, why not throw a party all about them?
Create a quiz themed on the individual. Find out their favorite snacks and supply some for all the team to try. If the team member has a distinctive style, celebrate it by asking the rest of the group to dress as a tribute to that person.
Remember, while some people will love this kind of attention, it won’t be for everyone, so ensure the person you’re celebrating is happy to be the center of attention for an hour or two.
8. A virtual happy hour or catch-up
For some teams, less is more. Sometimes grabbing your refreshment of choice and settling down for a good catch-up with your favorite colleagues is celebration enough!
Virtual happy hours are perfect for close-knit teams that don’t get enough hours in the day to check in and hear all about what’s happening in each other’s personal and professional lives.
Large group ideas
When you want to get a large department or even the whole organization involved.
1. Game show or quiz
Sometimes the best party games are the most obvious ones. Planning a quiz or a game show is a simple virtual celebration idea that everyone in remote teams can take part in.
Nominate one or two employees known for their sparkling personalities and for being comfortable speaking to large groups to act as your hosts.
You can plan multiple rounds, from general knowledge questions to name the song intro rounds or even identifying the movie by the emoji.
For really large organizations, split teams by department or mix it up to allow people to get to know one another.
2. Treasure hunt
A treasure hunt is an easy and cheap virtual party game to organize for groups of all sizes. Rather than one person preparing clues for people to find items hidden around a building, it can be a list of items that most people will find in their homes.
For example, this might be a book written by an author with J in their name, a cuddly toy, something to keep you warm, a vessel to hold liquid, or your most worn pair of shoes. Try and pick things that could raise a laugh or are open to interpretation.
Split the organization into teams and organize chat rooms for each one. If you have a social intranet like Workvivo or instant messaging like Slack, teams can chat to organize who will grab what.
Set a deadline and start a timer. The winning team is the one that can collect the most items within the allocated time.
3. Celebrating unexpected days
This is a fun and quirky way to get the whole organization in a celebratory mood. Pick a fun and irreverent day like International Burger Day or something more topical like World Bee Day. If it’s something related to your organization, all the better.
This sort of celebration doesn’t call for a video chat. Instead, teams or individuals may choose to participate in various ways. It could be an activity in their personal time related to the event, putting together a costume, raising money, creating a company podcast or newsletter, or organizing a company-wide competition.
An employee engagement platform is a great way to organize company-wide incentives — a celebration, like a month-long calendar of events to mark the company’s start date or raising awareness for a charity or issue close to the company’s heart.
An employee engagement platform like Workvivo allows employees to communicate in a number of ways, like sharing updates, creating podcasts, or giving shout-outs to other employees.
Celebrations can come in many forms, and if you have recently had an influx of new team members, why not celebrate that?
A fun way for everyone to get to know one another is to ask everyone to submit an answer to the same questions and then for everyone to guess who gave that answer. Questions might be:
- Tell us one fun fact about yourself.
- What is your secret superpower?
- Your three dream dinner party guests are…
5. A virtual city tour
Are you looking for a way to take the whole team on a virtual trip that’s fun and relaxing? How about Paris? If you’re busy and have 300 employees or fewer, let someone else take the organizing out of your hands.
Woyago organizes funny and interactive virtual trips to several destinations for your team.
6. A virtual world tour
For global organizations with teams across countries and continents, why not encourage a celebration of this with a cultural exchange?
Ask an employee from each country or city to prepare a few quiz questions about their home nation, share local recipe ideas and fun facts, or if someone is feeling ambitious, they could even record a “day-in-the-life” video to share what life is like where they live.
A social media-style employee platform provides the perfect place to share your cultural exchange ideas.
7. A virtual magic show or comedy night
These days anything is possible online — even magic!
For larger groups, plan something that requires nothing more from employees than sitting back and enjoying the show.
Plenty of magicians and comedians are happy to perform online worldwide. A quick online search should help you find the right one for your team.
While there’s little interaction required, a fun event can encourage conversation on your online platform or messenger the following day.
8. Award ceremony
An award ceremony is a great way to celebrate the end of the working year, and so is a fun activity for a festive party.
For smaller teams, give an award to every person. These can be fun and silly things like ‘most likely to start a meme’ or the ‘early bird’ award for the person who always seems to be online first thing.
If you’re able to award everyone, get everyone involved by asking a different team member to read out the award for their colleague. By the end of the ceremony, everyone should have an award, and everyone should have read one out. Fun right?
If your team is too big for this, pick 10 or fewer awards, ranging from silly to serious, and ask people to nominate and vote for their favorite.
If you have Workvivo, it’s possible to set up a quickfire poll to share on your engagement platform to share with the whole business.