Virtual happy hour ideas for remote team-building
Engagement 5 minute read

Virtual happy hour ideas for remote team-building

Megan Orr | September 3, 2020

Looking for some creative virtual happy hour ideas to spice up your office happy hour? We’ve compiled a few unique suggestions and discuss why virtual happy hours can be a great team-building tool for remote teams.

Happy hour can be an essential part of team culture and an opportunity for employees to celebrate successes and strategize over bumps in the road together. However, with many teams currently doing remote work, you may be looking to change things up with some innovative virtual happy hour ideas. 

A normal happy hour promises fun settings like a new bar or restaurant and getting to unwind (in-person) with the people you spend the entire week working with. However, with virtual happy hours, an extra hour or two of screen time might be no one’s idea of fun right now. 

Anne Catambay, Vice President of Global Marketing at Clarizen, writes this about virtual happy hours: “We hold them every Friday, but I’ll admit that initially I was less than enthusiastic. In fact, I thought I’d hate them. We’re on video conference calls all day and I didn’t relish the prospect of accepting yet another Zoom, Skype video or Webex meeting invite, particularly for a Friday evening.”

However, Catambay found that after her first one, she “was hooked”. She emphasizes how virtual happy hours are a great way to meet new coworkers, or interact with people in your organization that you don’t normally have the chance to. Virtual happy hours are also far more casual than day-to-day virtual meetings (no dress code!), and, as a bonus, they conveniently take place in your own home, so no need to worry about a ride or an expensive tab at the end of the night.

Overall, virtual happy hour activities are a fun and low-key way for team members to bond while still social distancing. Also, workplace happy hours don’t have to center around having a drink. There are plenty of different options for hosting virtual events—what matters is that they are engaging.

This article is the first in a series on remote team-building. Others will include icebreakers for remote teams and virtual team-building games. Continue reading for more information on how to make your work-from-home happy hour less work and more happy!

There are many options to consider when deciding on virtual happy hour ideas that will engage your employees.

Is the team typically close knit when in the office? Do they enjoy games, drinks, coffee? You will also want to consider those who may be working from different time zones and how you can include them as well. 

The key to a successful virtual happy hour is giving employees the resources they need to host their own, in whatever way makes the most sense for them and their team. Participation should be encouraged, but it shouldn’t be mandatory—employees should want to enjoy happy hour if and when it works for them. 

Here are some fun suggestions for your virtual teams:

Virtual lunch and learn

As an alternative to a happy hour, consider hosting a virtual team lunch, where everyone has lunch together over video chat. A lunch and learn is meant to be a digital lunch that has an educational aspect to it. The topics can cover anything from productivity tips to conflict resolution and can be led by subject matter experts in your organization or by guest speakers. 

You can also consider doing a virtual coffee break, which is the same concept as a virtual lunch, just in a shorter time frame (and with coffee or tea instead). Some virtual coffee break ideas include simple things like swapping recipes or introducing pets. Virtual coffee chats don’t need to be structured—they can be more casual.

Hosting events at different times (e.g. coffee break, lunchtime, or happy hour) gives those who work on different schedules or in different time zones more opportunities to take part.  

Cocktail class

For those within your organization who do enjoy the occasional drink, a fun option is taking turns hosting a cocktail class over Zoom, Skype, Google Meet or other video conferencing platforms. The host of the video call can send out a list of ingredients prior for those who want to follow along and craft their own cocktail on camera to ‘cheers’ at the end.

A class-type video conference can be both fun and educational. Many Instagram influencers and companies (local breweries and distilleries, for example) have been doing virtual classes with their followers.

Theme nights

Consider choosing a unique happy hour theme. This is something that can be discussed or voted on via Slack or similar instant messaging systems, which will get your employees involved and excited. Possible themes can include 80s night, funny hats, wacky hair, or holidays (e.g. Halloween costumes or ugly holiday sweaters). 

You can also try a variety of different virtual happy hour games, such as online bingo or trivia. Just like with a regular happy hour, the priority for remote employees should be to have fun and connect with their coworkers.

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