Make Your Virtual Happy Hour Memorable
So… does anyone have any good plans for the weekend? virtual happy hour
If your virtual happy hour sounds like this, you’re not alone. This week marks six months since I started working from home. Sadly, our attempts at Zoom socializing have gotten weaker and weaker. As much as I love the flexibility of working from home, I definitely miss seeing my coworkers face-to-face. With a return to the office still a long way off here in New Jersey, we have to figure out ways to continue to stay motivated and connected. So let’s take our virtual happy hour up a notch!
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Here’s how to throw a virtual happy hour that your coworkers will actually enjoy.
Make a Plan for the Virtual Happy Hour
Don’t just send an Outlook invite and log on to Teams or Zoom at 4PM on Friday expecting a fun end to the work week. Look, you don’t want to treat this like another meeting, but an agenda—however informal—can do wonders. Decide how much time you want to allot for chit chatting in the beginning, plan on having at least one activity, and then figure out how much time that should take. Leave some time for more informal talk at the end, but make sure your plan doesn’t extend beyond the hour. Even if you’re having fun, no one wants to feel obligated to stay on a work call past 5PM on a Friday night.
Consider a Theme
I know, I know. Themes can be corny. But this is a work party. Sometimes corny is just what you need to lighten the mood. When choosing a theme, make sure it’s appropriate and inclusive. You don’t want to choose a sports-themed party if you know some of your coworkers haven’t watched a game since their mom signed them up for tee-ball in kindergarten.
Once you choose a theme, let your coworkers know! Include the theme prominently in the party invite and ask everyone to choose a Zoom background that fits. Theme-appropriate food and drinks aren’t mandatory, but can make it more fun! You also don’t *have* to dress up to fit the theme, but why not? I pulled out an animal-print dress and let my pre-cut quarantine hair down to dress as Carole Baskin for a happy hour at the beginning of lockdown, and my coworkers laughed for five minutes straight. (Hey, it was a weird time. We all needed an excuse to let go.) At the very least, you might get the chance to wear the Halloween costume you bought on clearance last November. Because you probably won’t be wearing it to a party this year!
Plan an Activity
Count on at least one activity to fill the time. Change it up each week and you’ll never worry about a boring happy hour again. Some ideas:
Drinking on the clock may not exactly be encouraged, but that doesn’t mean you can’t practice your bartending! Mocktails taste great and can be a lot of fun to make. Choose one drink to start off every happy hour with a mocktail mixology lesson, or dedicate an entire hour to booze-less beverages and ask every team member to share their favorite recipe. Bonus: you won’t need to worry about “accidentally” outing your pregnant coworker by questioning why her sparkling wine looks suspiciously like seltzer.
So your intern is too young to remember the classic MTV show. It’s your job to show why it was so entertaining. Have everyone tour their work-from-home office and give a glimpse of where they’ve been filling in their spreadsheets all these months—even if your office is half your bedroom closet or just the kitchen table. If you’re comfortable letting your coworkers into your life a little more, you can give a tour of your whole place. Maybe avoid showing your team where the magic happens, though. But extra points if you pull out your copy of Scarface!
Show and Tell
Take a cue from your kid’s kindergarten class and play show and tell. Coworkers can show off what they’re cooking for dinner, the paint-by-number they just finished, or that dress they bought right before lockdown that they never got to wear to the office. For more awkward-yet-hilarious fun, make everyone choose the most embarrassing book or shirt they own and share it with the group. We’re all friends here, right?
Of course, the easiest and most fun way to kill time is to play a game. You can play Pictionary using the Zoom whiteboard, Name that Tune, or even charades. Classic bridal and baby shower games can also be a lot of fun to play with coworkers. We’ve made some specifically for work parties. You won’t have to worry about awkwardly inappropriate questions that will earn you a call from HR on Monday morning. Download and send to each member of your team, or use our digital Powerpoint bundle designed specifically for virtual happy hours. Simply share on your Zoom or Teams call!
Be prepared for downtime
Even if you plan ahead with games and drinks, you might struggle to fill the full hour. Keep some tools in your back pocket to pull out and get the party started again. Cue up that awesome new song you just heard the other day and play it for your team. Ask everyone to go around and share what they’re watching or reading. Share that hilarious TikTok you were just watching. Or keep a list of conversation starters handy in case everyone’s feeling particularly shy that day.
Virtual parties can never replace real human interaction. But if staying home means we can stay safe and healthy, I think it’s a worthwhile tradeoff for now. Plus, how many real-life parties have you attended in sweats? With a little preparation and some tricks up your sleeve, your next virtual happy hour or Zoom birthday party can be a lot of fun—well, as fun as any work event can be, at least.