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Have Fun! Here’s How to Celebrate with Remote Teams
A global pandemic pushed companies to embrace at least part-time remote work options. At this time, about 18% of people in the world work fully remotely so if you found your way to this blog post, you are likely on or dealing with a remote team.
Instances of informal watercooler gatherings, casual Fridays, and office birthday/retirement parties have been drastically reduced… at least for the foreseeable future. While this may be our current reality, there is no excuse not to have some fun and celebrate with your team!
Building trust in remote teams has proven to be more challenging than in person. While it may not be feasible to fly the whole team to one central location to celebrate every single birthday, there is no denying the benefits of getting the group together for a little fun. Here are some of the most obvious reasons that you need to celebrate with your team:
Fight the Loneliness Pandemic
We have no idea what is happening on the other side of the screen, many people are struggling in ways that we can’t even imagine. Before we could read the signs and offer to take someone out to lunch or meet up after work but that is much harder to do in the virtual space and still have the same connection.
If in-person isn’t possible (whether pandemic or distance) gathering digitally is the next best thing and may reach people who would otherwise decline a physical invitation. The introverted members of your team may find comfort in the ability to participate and connect from a more familiar and comfortable environment – their own home.
Either way, we are human and we all need some form of connection. Digital celebrations and gatherings are a great way to fight the loneliness pandemic.
Opportunity for Team Bonding
A team that celebrates together, stays together! As cheesy as it may sound, every team gathering is an opportunity to bond at some level. Offering a variety of gatherings and celebrations opens the doors to strengthen existing connections as well as create new ones.
Team activities also help to build rapport among members who may have never met in person. Creating opportunities for authentic interaction will give people an opportunity to show themselves but also see others in an environment outside of strictly professional activities.
You can learn a lot about a person through digital interactions and that helps to encourage a team cohesiveness that is impossible to encourage through email or other text communications. Seeing a person, even if it’s on a screen, helps to build connections that will feed future work by putting a face to an email and it’s much easier to connect with someone you have seen and spoken words with.
Improves Mood and Morale
Who doesn’t love a good party? We all need a bit more fun and celebration in our lives, especially with all the additional pressures and stress a global pandemic has put on us. We know inherently that connecting with people does wonders for our moods and morale, but that can sometimes be difficult when you have so much work to do. By planning celebrations during work time (or as part of paid time) you are given permission to celebrate guilt-free.
18 Ways to Celebrate and Have Fun with Remote Teams
There are plenty of ways to show your team a good time that doesn’t involve physically getting together. By now, many of us have ample experience to not only host but be able to participate in virtual events and celebrations. Here are 18 ways to celebrate and have fun with remote teams.
1. Happy Hour
Dress up, put your favourite beverage in a fancy glass and cheers! A happy hour is versatile, you can pair it with just about any other activity on this list and create an instant celebration.
To organize a successful happy hour, it is helpful to have a dress code. This could be as simple as dressing up or dressing down in your comfiest jammies. You could set a theme in terms of decades or even be inspired by your favourite movie. The sky is the limit.
Keep the conversation light and avoid overscheduling the activity, observe where it goes and see what people are naturally interested in. So grab your favourite cocktail/mocktail or drink of choice and cheers to… whatever you are celebrating.
2. Powerpoint Party
Bear with me, this is much more fun than it sounds. The idea is that a team member can give a short digital presentation on any topic that they like. It could be something they are really passionate about or could be completely silly.
- Recast your teammates as a celebrity that reminds you of them
- How you would survive a zombie apocalypse
- How to bathe a cat
- Top 10 best movies of all times
- Why Parks and Rec is the best show of all time (no question)
- How to make the best paper airplane
- 5 books that you need to read
You get the idea, the possibilities are endless and have a ton of potential to not just be funny but also tell you more about the presenter and their sense of humour and interests.
3. Would You Rather…
Chances are that you have played this fun party game before. The idea is that you give someone two choices and they have to pick the one that is most (or least) appealing and explain themselves. Would you rather…
- Team up with Iron Man or Captain America?
- Be overdressed or undersdressed?
- Wake up at 5:00 am every morning or stay up until midnight each night?
- Talk like Yoda or breathe like Darth Vader for the rest of your life?
- Have 100 duck-sized elephants or 1 elephant-sized duck?
There are so many opportunities for fun when it comes to “would you rather” type questions. Some of the answers may surprise you and some of the most fun comes from the justifications for a specific choice. Here is a great list of 100 Best “Would You Rather” Questions to get you started.
4. Virtual Birthday Parties
Remembering someone’s birthday can really mean a lot to them. Arranging a virtual birthday is easy and, in most places, you can even order and have a cake delivered right to their door.
When planning a birthday party, you can combine any of the items on this list based on the preference of the birthday person but here are some additional and birthday specific ideas:
- Have everyone dress in the style of the year the birthday person was born
- Enjoy their favourite meal together
- Watch their favourite movie
Keep in mind that not everyone loves their birthday or birthday parties in general so be sure to ask them in advance.
5. Celebrate Odd or Significant Holidays
Of all the fun ways to celebrate, this one has the most potential for some good fun. There are so many odd holidays out there that you build an event around, take these ones for example:
- January: January 4th is National Trivia Day and a great opportunity to have a trivia night with the team.
- February: Random Act of Kindness Day is celebrated on February 1 and there are a million possible ways to participate. Encourage your team to share their random act of kindness that day and celebrate with them.
- March: Employee Appreciation day falls on the first Friday of March so that opportunity to celebrate is obvious and there are a number of great gift boxes that you can have mailed to the team. International Women’s Day is on March 8th and is an opportunity to recognize the advances that have been made in history and those still to be made.
- April: April Fools! Celebrate the first day of the month with a fun prank, just know that you may also end up on the receiving end of one. While most people are staying home, Walk to Work Day on April 2nd is another day that can be used for a fun activity like a step challenge. Make sure there is a prize!
- May: The month of May represents Mental Health Awareness month. This would be a great time to offer virtual sessions on taking care of your mental health. It is also a great opportunity to have people share what they have been doing for their mental health so that they may inspire others to do the same and normalize the conversation around taking the time for self-care.
- June: June is Pride month! Show your allyship with fun and colourful activities. This is also a great time to shine the spotlight on some amazing LGBTQ+ artists, many of whom would be more than happy to offer a virtual event for your team. Another fun holiday in June is on the 21st – Take Your Dog to Work Day. Okay, chances are that this is every day but let’s see those pups!
- July: The third Sunday of July is National Ice Cream day… need I say more? Encourage your team to bring their favourite ice cream and log on so that you may all enjoy it together. You can also note the most popular flavours with a poll.
- August: Knock knock… Who’s there? August 6th is National Tell a Joke day. Encourage everyone to bring their favourite joke to kick off the meeting and be prepared to laugh. After everyone is laughed out, you can celebrate National Relaxation Day on August 15th. Ask everyone how they like to relax, whether that is reading or a mud mask and tub soak, encourage them to participate in that activity.
- September: Obviously Labour Day is September 3rd but did you know that September 16th marks Working Parents Day? Take some time to celebrate the extra effort and stress it takes to be a working parent. If they are comfortable, you could encourage them to bring their kids to a virtual gathering to meet the team.
- October: The world runs on coffee so October 1st is a significant day, National Coffee Day. Send your team a gift card to a local coffee place or surprise them with a package of some goodies and a team mug. A month that starts with coffee and ends with candy is the best kind of month. The opportunities are endless for Halloween celebrations!
- November: Stress is high across the board so be sure to take the first Wednesday of November and recognize National Stress Awareness Day. Webinars and resources are helpful but pair those with the opportunity to take time off if needed.
- December: Other than the usual holidays, December 5th marks International Volunteer Day. Encourage your team to dedicate at least 1 hour to volunteer for a cause or initiative that they support. Many companies have a bank of volunteer hours where a team member can be paid for volunteering their time for a charity or non-profit. You can also see what other holidays are celebrated in the winter months outside of Christmas. Hopefully, your team is diverse enough that someone is celebrating something different and you can all celebrate and learn together.
6. Awards Ceremony
This is exactly what it sounds like, have fun with it! Think of silly trophies or prizes that can be awarded to your team and have them delivered only to be opened at a live virtual event. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started:
- Early Bird Award – who is always the first to sign in or show up to meetings?
- Five More Minutes Award – opposite the early bird, think of who is hilariously tardy.
- Foodie Award – who always has great recipes to share or who is good for a restaurant recommendation.
- Best Background Award – whether they have an ever-changing virtual background, a child that likes to video bomb, or a cat that always seems to be cleaning itself, the best background award is certainly one we can all appreciate.
- Office Clown Award – think of the person you can always count on for a good laugh, whether it is with quick wit or a timely GIF, this person can change the mood of the (virtual) room.
- Emoji Royalty Award – this is awarded to the person who would rather send messages in emoji form rather than text… and you actually understand them!
- Office Parent – like a real-life parents, they seem to be prepared for everything. From pep talks to scoldings, these are the people that every office needs.
- Most Likely To… – you can use your high school yearbook for inspiration on this one.
7. Highlight Reels
Are any of your team meetings recorded? Whether you create a video or have a series of pictures and screenshots, a highlight reel is an opportunity to be either heartfelt or hilarious. A lot has happened in the last couple of years so it is nice to look back and see what was accomplished recognize how far we have come.
While it is great to recognize the highlights of the organization, be sure to pay special attention to the accomplishments of individual team members and the contributions they made over the past year.
Highlight reels are a great addition to a number of activities on this list and it is helpful to keep a folder of video clips and notes to make assembling this project easy (and make sure you don’t forget anything).
8. Digital Cooking Class
This is a fun one and a new favourite for many remote teams. You can either provide gift cards to your team or arrange for a local food delivery service to deliver the box of raw ingredients.
Now it is time to get cooking! You can look at companies like The Chef Upstairs or The Chef & the Dish for a one-stop-shop but you don’t need to be a chef to host a virtual cooking class. A good idea is to invite team members to share some of their tried and true recipes so that the whole team can enjoy someone’s favourite meal together.
9. Movie Night
Much like a cooking class, you can easily have a package of theatre-style snacks delivered to your team to enjoy from the comfort of their own home while everyone enjoys a great movie. A quick search of “movie night baskets” on Pinterest is all that you need to be inspired! Of course, if budget allows, pre-made baskets are also an option.
This type of event is simple to organize and can be personalized by having a team member pick their favourite movie for everyone to watch. Popular platforms like Netflix allow watch parties to make it even easier to get together and even silently chat in the chatbox, check out the Netflix Party Plus extension to get started but there are lots of options for watch parties.
10. Pet Party
Remember back in the day when you could visit the puppy room and be pleasantly mauled by hordes of fuffy pups for the sake of de-stressing? Maybe your workplace didn’t have monthly puppy rooms but the science is sound, animals help reduce stress and bring us so much joy. From puppy rooms to therapy tiny horses, many workplaces would arrange to have animals come into the office on a semi-regular basis.
The next best thing? A virtual pet party! Chances are that people on your team have a pet, you may have even met them informally by video bomb or witnessed them awkwardly cleaning themselves in the background (best background award…). Host a video chat where team members join with their furry (or feathery, or scaly) friend. Have fun with it and pretend that it is the animals themselves meeting and let their personality shine!
11. Game Night
Pull up a chair, grab a snack, and pour your favourite beverage… things are about to get real!
Thankfully, online game programs like JackBox exist to easily allow teams to sign on and have some fun. Some companies even provide a host and keep the games a secret until everyone is signed on like Game Night Out or Feet First Entertainment: Virtual Game Nights.
If trivia is more your jam, you can look into Live Virtual Trivia or TriviaMaker for a complete package or you can draft your own trivia questions and make them more personal to your team. Other great games that can be done virtually include:
- Whose Line is it Anyway?
- Family Feud
- The Price is Right
- Wheel of Fortune
Check-in with the team in advance to find out what type of games they would be interested in to ensure a high level of participation – the more, the merrier!
12. Paint or Craft Night
Yes, you can even do a paint night virtually! Companies like Yaymaker and Canvas & Cup offer creative experiences where you are shipped everything you need and you end up with an awesome painting or craft to show for your efforts.
While some may be hesitant to host this kind of event because of the creativity factor, they are specifically designed to walk you through step by step so no prior experience is necessary. It can help to look at testimonials and see the work that people with no experience have managed to create.
Art has been proven to have therapeutic benefits and improve emotional health. It is also a great activity for those on your team who may be a bit more introverted, allowing them to focus on something in the company of others with less pressure to engage should they wish to focus on the art.
Who doesn’t love karaoke? Okay, maybe you won’t be the first one to pick up the mic but you can still sit back and enjoy the show! Companies like Karafun and Lucky Voice make it easy to get together belt out some tunes.
Make it extra fun by donning costumes complete with hair and makeup to mimic whichever celebrity you plan on impersonating. Bring in a couple of props, decorate your real background or upload a visual. Create a music video!
If actual singing isn’t your thing, you can always lip sync and pair it with a performance that your team will never forget.
Bonus? Unlike in real life, you can take advantage of the ability to control the volume for particularly… energetic performances.
14. Virtual Escape Rooms
If you haven’t jumped on the virtual escape room bandwagon then you are missing out. Don’t worry, chances are that a virtual escape room will be part of a team celebration at some point as these have become one of the most popular virtual celebration options around.
Traditionally, an escape room would involve your team being physically locked in a room and having to solve a series of puzzles to escape. Like most things, the virtual option is surprisingly comparable and an even better option for remote teams. They often have fun themes that range from escaping a haunted mansion, solving a mystery, or investigating a crime.
15. Mini Campfires
Okay, how cute is this though? Whether you go through a company like Tiny Campfire or create your own campfire in a box to send out to your team, you can enjoy some s’mores and partake in traditional campfire activities like songs and ghost stories. All you need is:
- A candle (tea lights work)
- Graham crackers
All of these items are easy enough to ship. Bonus if someone can find some tiny hot dogs.
16. Talent Show
You may be surprised to see what talents your team possesses so offer a virtual platform for them to strut their stuff and share their talent. If you look at the usual contenders for talent shows, you can see how they may be translated virtually:
- Playing an instrument
- Stand up comedy
- Slam poetry
Another option is to assign people a silly talent and enjoy watching people try something new, who knows, they may actually be a natural. Make sure to record some clips to add to the organizations’ highlight (or blooper) reel.
17. Gift/Book Swap
Kind of like a secret Santa gift swap but for any time of the year! Draw or assign names and provide your team with gift cards to purchase a thoughtful (or silly) gift for a colleague. Be sure to give clear instructions not to open the gift until everyone has received theirs and plan for a live gift opening event.
If your team happens to be avid readers, books make a great gift and most people keep a public wishlist on Amazon or on apps like Goodreads of books that they want to read. Spin-off book clubs are highly encouraged.
18. Live Entertainment
Artists and entertainers alike have been struggling to secure bookings with ever-changing restrictions. Help an artist out and get them all to yourself with a private show! Focus on local talent such as musicians and comedians who now have ample experience offering their sets virtually.
Take the opportunity to ask the team if there are any local entertainers that they are just dying to see and that will take the guesswork out of finding one that you think they may enjoy.
Live entertainment can also be paired with a number of items on this list like the mini campfire, happy hour, or virtual birthday party.
Whether you have a hybrid team that is temporarily or permanently remote, it is so important to have opportunities to celebrate and have fun. Not every celebration has to be work-related but getting to know your team better will inevitably result in building a more happy and effective group. Be sure to consider the variety in your own team and host events that reach the most people but also bring out the best in your team.