Teambuilding for the Holidays
The most wonderful time of the year!
As I write this, it is October 2023. Halloween is almost here. After Halloween, we have Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and more coming up. This is the time of year when the weather gets cooler, fiscal years wrap up, and company holiday parties happen.
When my spouse worked at a credit union, her employer would rent out a large room at a conference center. They'd have food catered, hire a DJ, and provide bottles of wine. I went with her once and things got a bit wild. For the most part, though, a company party is a great way to socialize with your peers, meet people in other departments, and learn more about your teammates.
For the last several years, I've been working remotely. My current team is 100% work-from-home and only a few of them are local to me and the home office. One challenge related to having a 100% remote team is that it can be difficult to build relationships. In my experience, remote workers love being remote. But, several video meetings a week aren't quite the same as eating lunch together in the lunchroom or grabbing a drink after work. However, with some creativity and financial investment by management, a remote holiday party can work. At the very least, something is likely better than nothing.
First, I want to mention that my current employer has a team dedicated to employee experience. If I want to buy my team lunch, I fill out a request with a list of my team members and a concierge takes care of the rest. It is so convenient to not have to manage ordering, shipping, and expense reporting. The concierges take care of all of it. I am much more likely to send food, coffee gift cards, and more to my team members with the employee experience support I get.
To get the party started, some party favors may be just the thing. One year around Halloween, I bought a pack of Halloween treat boxes. They were made of card stock and, once folded into shape, could hold a handful of candy. I put one together for each team member and shipped them out. The shipping was the most expensive part, but I believe it was worth the effort and the cost.
Food and drink are basic requirements for any party. Team members may appreciate home-baked cookies or chocolate-covered pretzels. These goods aren't too heavy and can stay fresh for shipping purposes. If baking is not your thing, drop-ship something tasty using a service like Wine Country Gift Baskets. They have baskets with snacks, sweet treats, and wine available. Before ordering anything for your team, be sure to ask about food allergies, preferences, religious restrictions, etc. A gift you can't enjoy isn't much of a gift.
For my current team, one of them joked about us getting t-shirts made, so I looked into it. Ordering shirts, hats, cups, and more with your team's brand is trivial these days. I ordered a team logo on Fiverr and I used a company local to one of my team members called Designs Unleashed to create t-shirts and hats with the team's logo on them. The team thoroughly enjoyed them.
For my most recent team event, I scheduled the event many weeks in advance and asked for the team's input on what the best date would be. I worked around their time off requests so no one would be left out.
For activities, the easiest ones for me to start with are online games and activities. I'm a big fan of Settlers of Catan, so the free online version called Colonist is perfect. It supports at least four players and all you need is a web browser to play. Another good online game is GeoGuessr. This game "drops" you somewhere in the world at street view and you have to figure out where you are. It's a great game to play as one team or split into multiple teams and see which team can get the highest score. My last game suggestion is something from Jackbox Games. This one requires spending some money as the party packs are not free. However, the games are playable on Windows, Mac, and Linux via the Steam client. The game can be streamed or screen-shared for your team members. The players just need a phone with a web browser to use as an input device. They don't even need to install an app. The games in the party packs support a varying number of players. My favorite is "Trivia Murder Party".
For something a little more hands-on, consider LEGO sets, gingerbread house kits, or STEM kits. There are also numerous craft project kits to choose from. Your team could spend some time painting or making bracelets. Projects like this are engaging and fun to do. And, whatever they make, they get to keep as a lasting artifact of your excellent team-building exercise.
There are many more ideas to be found online. However, I suggest avoiding the more wasteful activities I have seen. For example, I saw one game where contestants see who can empty a box of tissues the fastest by pulling them out one at a time. It does look like fun, but you end up with a massive pile of tissues outside of their boxes. You could still use them, but I've seen this game played and I've seen all the tissues just get thrown away. Another example would be anything to do with eggs. There are games where you have to carry an egg with a spoon in your mouth or toss eggs around. The "fun" part is, of course, when someone drops an egg and it breaks. What a waste of delicious food! Instead of eggs, consider using ping-pong balls or plastic Easter eggs.
With remote workers, extra effort and expense may be required to hold an engaging and fun holiday party, but it is well worth it. When I provide time and space for my team to socialize, laugh, and decompress, my team's morale is boosted, retention is improved, and productivity is maintained.
I hope this article inspires some good ideas and some fun parties. Cheers!