The traditional workplace happy hour is having a virtual renaissance. As many office teams adjust to new remote work situations, virtual happy hours held on platforms like Zoom, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts are emerging as a reliable and easy way to keep employees connected while providing a nice break from all the current uncertainty.
Teams work better together when they have stronger social bonds, which is one of the chief benefits of happy hour-type work gatherings. It’s also a good idea to have a designated time to connect informally with coworkers and blow off some steam at a time when socializing is in short supply.
Tips for Great Virtual Hangouts
Virtual happy hours, virtual hangouts, or whatever you prefer to call them are a wonderful way to reinforce culture and community in these antisocial times, and it doesn’t take much effort to make them happen regularly. Here are 5 tips for making yours fun, memorable, and engaging:
- Keep it brief and light – Many employees are also having to manage stay-at-home care, home schooling, etc., and many of them have been staring at a screen all day, so don’t overstay your welcome. Keep festivities brief, no more than an hour maybe, and have a light tone throughout. Schedule them on days that make sense, like Friday afternoons, and communicate a “no pressure” message for attendance.
- Have a check-in – It can be awkward to video chat with multiple people online, especially with things like lag and crosstalk factored in. So do a quick check-in at the top, where everyone goes around and briefly shares a highlight of their week and their current mood. It’s not only a good stress relief to share how you’re feeling, it gives everyone involved a quick moment to be seen and heard before things get more off-the-cuff.
- Set the tone with recognition – There are fewer opportunities to get teams together in one place, so taking advantage of happy hours to spread appreciation and good vibes is a must. Recognizing employees and celebrating their accomplishments in front of peers during a virtual happy hour is a great way to set the tone of the gathering right off the bat and can also serve as a convenient way for managers to engage their teams on a regular basis.
- Play group games – Group games over virtual chat are great bonding experiences and are easier to set up than you think – many popular party games like Cards Against Humanity are available to play online, and there are several apps like Houseparty that combine quiz games with video chat for the full effect. If you’re feeling more adventurous, YouTube has hundreds of karaoke tracks available that can be used to liven up the atmosphere.
- Share thoughtful menus –Even in a virtual setting, the pressure to drink alcohol during happy hour can still be very real. That’s why it’s a good idea to share some recipe ideas ahead of time for themed cocktails and nonalcoholic beverages that will include everyone and send a message of responsibility. The eponymous Quarantini may be catching on, but don’t forget that Dry Quarantinis are also a thing. Having everyone share and discuss their own creations can be a fun activity as well.
Put some good thought into your virtual happy hours, but don’t overthink it. Remember that above all, it’s an opportunity to connect with coworkers in ways unrelated to the workplace on a human level. It may turn out that your virtual happy hour was memorable because someone turned themselves into a potato and couldn’t figure out how to turn the chat filter off. Either way everyone has a great time. Embrace the weirdness of the circumstances and don’t miss any chances to spread joy and humanity. Stay safe and take care.