Remote Team Bonding
Swag Ideas, Team Building

7 Ideas For Alternatives to Virtual Happy Hour Event for Engaging Remote Employees

As offices shuttered their buildings and bars did the same, teams looking for the timeless bonding experience of the after-work drink turned on their webcams and gave the virtual happy hour a try.

In many ways these events can be successful de-stressors for remote employees, whose needs for social interaction outside of the workplace haven’t vanished just because their office has. With a little bit of planning, virtual happy hours can be engaging and fun events for teams looking to blow off a little steam amidst the craziness of 2020.

Related: Virtual Happy Hour Ideas

However, the problem with all happy hours is that not everyone in an office drinks, or feels comfortable drinking around co-workers. On top of that, each remote employee’s home life is different, and there are lots of times where remote happy hours don’t make sense for them time or energy wise. 

In order to engage these members of your team, you’ll need to get creative and plan for activities that offer the same team-building and camaraderie as happy hours. Inclusive and fun events are a cinch to pull off when you’re properly inspired. Here are some ideas we love to help you plan engaging virtual activities that serve as alternatives to virtual happy hours:

Organize virtual concerts

Not everyone likes to drink. But who doesn’t love music?

In the wake of the pandemic and lockdown, virtual concert experiences began springing up everywhere. It’s easier than ever these days to share a concert experience without ever leaving your house. Check out some of the lists of who’s playing and when by checking out places like Billboard and Live Nation, and set up a poll in your work channels. Once you’re all decided on who to see, buy tickets and sign in over webcam to watch together. 

Another great alternative is to find smaller, independent artists in your area who would be willing to play an exclusive show for your workplace. This option is great because it is more intimate, customized for your work and supports local artists!

Swag Idea: Skullcandy Headphones 3

Set up a virtual game night

Virtual game nights are a great way to get employees involved in team building outside of the workplace. 

Some of the easiest games to set up are the classics: trivia, pictionary and the like. They translate surprisingly well to a virtual medium, and it’s a not-to-be-overlooked bonus that most people already know the rules! Try breaking up the office into teams of people who don’t usually work together. You can spice things up even more by offering a prize to the winning team: Swag.com distribution can help get them where they need to go. 

There are also lots of fun team-building, digitally native games that can be found online. These are designed to be played over Zoom, and usually cost only a small fee. 

Switch your happy hour to a lunch hour or coffee hour

The goal of a virtual happy hour is to bring people together in a way that doesn’t have to do with work. It’s about making time to connect as regular people, not necessarily about the drinks!

With that being said, you can easily replicate the feeling by setting up a virtual lunch hour or coffee hour, sans alcohol. Choose a day (or offer a few different time slots) and take an hour or two off of work to just talk as a team. If you’re doing lunch, let people choose what they want from their restaurant of choice and order it on the company.

If you’d rather do a coffee-based event, we can help! Try sending your employees a kit of coffee making products, from a branded mug, to beans and even biscotti! We’ll help you get people excited for these events on a regular basis. 

More Inspiration: Swag Ideas for Coffee Lovers

Host a virtual movie night

Nothing brings people together like sharing a laugh, cry or scare over a good movie. 

Create an internal poll or voting system to see what films are popular around the office. You can also set up different groups that people can self select into depending on the movie they want to see. Using an app like Teleparty makes it easy to sign in from multiple locations and start movies at the same time. You also have the option of having a live chat within the app, so you can banter about the action throughout the film. This also works great with TV shows if you set them up on a rolling basis!

Swag Idea: Sherpa Blanket

Start some clubs

A great way to bring people together is focus on the things they have in common! Start some clubs around common interests and watch them flourish. 

There are of course the classic routes: starting a book club is always popular, as is starting a movie club. But the more creative you can get the better. We’ve seen people have luck starting gaming clubs (like when they play Call of Duty in The Office) and even cooking clubs. Really, all you have to do is suggest that people brainstorm some ideas, and it’s likely that these things will form on their own! The more the merrier.

Promote wellness clubs or virtual workouts

Bringing people together for wellness’ sake has many benefits. 

For one, it’s likely to improve your employee’s moods and productivity across the board. Companies with robust wellness programs report higher performance and more satisfaction than those without. But more importantly, there is a sense of shared commerederie that comes with physical exertion that’s hard to beat! If you’re able, try setting up a socially-distanced running or biking club. If everyone is too far apart, make some time to do virtual yoga, or a HIIT class over Zoom. 

More Inspiration: Ideas for Promoting Employee Wellness While Working Remote

Throw a virtual talent show 

This is a fun one that allows everyone on your team a moment to shine!

You’ll be surprised at what your remote team members get up to when they’re not on the clock. Organize an hour or so for anyone who feels comfortable to show the company what they’ve got! Giving people the chance to express themselves and show off their hobbies and interests in a fun way that’s not related to work is essential to team building, and understanding the special dynamics each individual brings to the table.

One more note: be inclusive and understanding!

Everyone’s schedules and home life are different. Team building exercises, like a happy hour or any other alternative, are a privilege and elective activity that have to be enjoyed in order to work. 

Keep these things in mind when planning your events. Make sure they are clearly optional, and occur at a time when most people will be free. For folks with children at home, understand that they might have to leave early, or not participate at all. 

These ideas can hopefully spark some creativity when it comes to planning alternative events to virtual happy hours. Remember to keep it fun, keep it light, and listen to feedback after each one you set up. Good things take time, and as we move into a new world of remote work there will be lots of opportunities to figure out what things work best for your organization. 

What have you done to keep remote employees engaged at work? Let us know at blog@swag.com for a chance to be featured.