How to Host a Successful Virtual Happy Hour for Remote Employees

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Allowing your team the opportunity to socialize, strengthen bonds, and connect on a level other than work is vital in creating a happy and healthy work environment. After a long work week, team happy hours are a perfect way for employees to unwind and connect with one another without having the stress of projects and deadlines getting in the way. It’s also a great way to reward hard work and improve company culture. Now, if your team is remote, hosting virtual happy hours are more important than ever, as remote employees lack the day to day opportunities to connect with their coworkers.

Because remote employees can’t walk up to their coworker’s desk and have a chat, it’s easy to become disconnected from each other, and disconnected from the company as a whole. Consequently, remote employees can have a very staid perception of the company. Rather than a healthy work environment where they can connect with others, build stronger relationships, and have fun with one another.

For this reason, virtual happy hours on Zoom have become important for a company’s culture. 

There’s one obvious difference in hosting remote happy hours, versus a traditional one; you aren’t able to physically meet one another. Even though this may seem like an irresolvable drawback, with a little planning and organizing, your virtual happy hour can be just as great as an in-person one.

What is a Virtual Happy Hour?

A virtual happy hour is a time for your team to have some fun and socialize with one another. HR can do that in any way they see fit, whether it’s playing online games, doing karaoke, or drinking alcohol and just chatting. 

While being remote may make happy hours seem more difficult, it’s actually the opposite; you can use different online platforms and games so the possibilities of what you can do are limitless. Your virtual happy hour won’t be held back by a venue or hours so there an endless number of ways it can take place. 

We’ll be going over just a few virtual happy hour ideas that your team can take part in and also some things to consider while planning it.

Planning a Virtual Happy Hour

Create a Loose Agenda

Although you want to keep this virtual happy hour natural and fun, it’s important for the host to create a loose guideline of what they want to do so they can guide the interaction. Having many people in one call together without any plan of what to do next or what to talk about can either be very hectic or awkward.

As a host, you set the tone for the event and should help guide and not control, people. If you want to plan virtual happy hour games or activities, it can be helpful to send out a poll before the remote happy hour begins to see what everyone wants and what you can help prepare.

Make sure that this plan is simple though, allowing for any spontaneous changes or breakouts that the group may want. This is a social meeting after all, so it shouldn’t feel forced. 

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Picking the Best Time

While making your virtual happy hour plan, it’s important to understand the timeframe in which you want to hold this meeting. It can go however long your group desires, but keep in mind that everybody has been working on their computers all day and even a long virtual happy hour can feel draining when done on that same computer. So, it’s good to keep the initial plan brief with room to extend the time if people want. 

Another thing to consider when planning your remote happy hour is the time zone that your employees may be in. As these employees are remote, it’s common that employees are working in completely different time zones. To account for these differences, figure out what time works best for everyone so they all have the opportunity to participate.

Choose a Theme

To keep people engaged and help them interact, choose a fun theme that guests can participate in. A remote happy hour isn’t going to feel natural to everyone. A fun theme that most people can connect with is ideal. For example, you can set up an Island Beach theme for the call. All the attendees can come up with beach-inspired cocktails, dress up in their favorite Hawaiin shirt, and even change their video background to a beach.

This allows people to have fun with the theme the second the virtual happy hour is started. You can plan virtual happy hour games that support the theme as well or an ice breaker question to start off the call such as “If you were stuck on an island with only 5 things, what would want to have on you?” This gives everyone a chance to talk and be included in the discussion.

Keeping it Manageable

If your virtual happy hour is hosting more than 10 people, it can become difficult for everyone to participate and be included in discussions. Make sure you have a plan for separating people into breakout groups if needed and have a rotating schedule every 15 minutes.

This way, every rotation cycle, employees are able to interact with an entirely new set of coworkers and engage in meaningful conversations. If you are planning specific games and activities, separating employees into small groups will make the virtual happy hour games more interactive for each individual.

Who to Invite

Before sending out your virtual happy hour invites, you must consider who you are planning to invite. Sometimes, if the meeting is meant for team building, it’s better to keep the number of attendees small for more intimate interactions. Other times, this virtual happy hour can be a time to network so you would want to include coworkers, clients, and even potential clients.

Understand what you want the goal of this virtual happy hour to be and send invites accordingly. In general, though, these happy hours are meant to be fun and shouldn’t feel too exclusive so don’t be afraid to invite more people and expand your connections.

Virtual Drinks

A traditional staple to happy hours includes getting drinks or refreshments with one another; although coworkers won’t be able to get together to share a drink, this can still be done virtually.

If your company wants to include alcohol in their virtual happy hour, you can encourage people to share their drink recipes and even teach each other how to make cocktails. If doing so, make sure to send recipes prior to the call so people can gather the right ingredients. In addition to these cocktail recipes, make sure you also send recipes for nonalcoholic beverages as well because not everybody will want to consume alcohol.

The pressure to drink even during a virtual happy hour can be very present so it’s important to make sure everybody has options and feels comfortable if they choose not to drink. 

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Activities to Do During Virtual Happy Hours

Adding games and activities to your virtual happy hour plan can be a lot of fun. These group activities promote bonding or can be used as an icebreaker to get people active and participating. There are multiple fun and lighthearted online games such as Jackbox games, or you can use an app called Houseparty to combine quiz games with video chat for a fun and convenient experience. We’ll discuss a couple of creative activities you can do with your coworkers that don’t require anything and you can do it at any virtual happy hour. For more fun virtual happy hour games, check out this video.

“Something in Common”

“Something in Common” can be used as an icebreaker game during your company’s virtual happy hour. This game allows employees to get into small groups and talk in a more personal and engaging experience. Each group has 3 minutes to find the 3 most unique things that they have in common, for example, maybe they have all gone on a morning jog that morning.

The groups then present their unique similarities and it can either be made into a fun competition or just to share facts about one another. Either way, it is an exciting way to get to unique things about coworkers.

Cooking Show

While hosting these virtual happy hours when everybody is home, you’re able to take advantage of your kitchen and turn your gathering into a cooking show or even a cooking competition.

If doing a cooking show, designate someone to be the “chef” who will pick the recipe and teach everybody how to execute it. Make sure to email the recipe prior to the virtual happy hour zoom call so that people can gather their ingredients. Then the chef will teach everybody how to make the recipe and people can follow along during the call. It’s a creative way to spend time with one another and afterwards, you can all eat together while chatting. 

If doing a cooking competition, you can task each employee with creating the best dish they can within 20 minutes. Each can present their dish and you can hold a collective vote about which dish is a winner. Of course, you won’t know how it tastes but the presentation will have to be enough to judge these dishes.

Company Trivia

Trivia is a tried and true game that can bring excitement and friendly competition to any gathering, especially a remote happy hour. With trivia, you can get creative with the topics you cover such as TV shows, music, or even geography, and current affairs.

Another route you can take is doing company trivia; you can test each other’s knowledge about the company in a fun way and maybe learn something new about your company that you didn’t know before.

You can ask questions such as “what is our mission statement” or make it more exciting by having a section on employee trivia to see how well you know each other.

“Where I’m From” 

“Where I’m From” is a fun guessing game that works well if your remote employees are all working remotely from different locations. It’s a great way to not only play a fun game but get to know where your coworkers are from.

Each employee will give hints about where they’re from, maybe it’ll be a well-known statue in the city or the hometown of a celebrity. The other members take turns guessing and whoever gets it wins! This can be done in teams or individually depending on how many people are playing.

If you want to play this game but already know where each other lives, this game can turn into “Hide and Seek” where you give hints about a location you’re “hiding” in and they have to guess where you are based on your clues.

Bring your Pet to Happy Hour

Encourage participants to show off their pets! If they don’t have pets they can show off anything else that they love. This is a great way for employees to get a glimpse into their coworkers’ personal lives that they wouldn’t normally get to witness.

You can usually get to know a lot about a person by knowing their pets. 

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Have Fun With a Virtual Happy Hour

Having a happy hour for employees to unwind and bond is a staple in many companies. It fosters a sense of camaraderie and helps coworkers understand each other on another level separate from work. This relationship is even more necessary in remote workplaces as it’s already so easy to feel disconnected. 

The tips mentioned above are just a few things that a company can consider when hosting a virtual happy hour but the possibilities are endless.

Be creative and do what works best for your employees. No matter what the activities, games, themes and modes are, just remember that virtual happy hour is meant to be fun! Take advantage of the opportunity to get to know one another better and connect on a deeper level.