The Slice

15 Ideas for a Virtual Happy Hour Party for Your Remote Employees

December 23, 2021

Zoom, Teams, Discord; whatever platform you use for your video chats, why not turn it towards the classic happy hour celebration? Getting the team together, providing everyone with their beverage of choice, and building a little structure into it can help your entire team grow closer.

Happy hour celebrations have long been a staple for offices worldwide for decades and more.

As long as teams have enjoyed camaraderie and alcohol, so too have they enjoyed happy hour. Employers throughout history have found various ways to encourage team-building and socialization during these happy hour celebrations, so it's a win for everyone involved.

Then 2020 hit and the pandemic shut down bars, businesses shifted to online and remote roles, and teams became increasingly globalized. There was already a shift away from in-person work, and more companies had been aiming for distributed teams before it became a requirement. Still, now it's nearly impossible to gather everyone for a good old-fashioned happy hour.

What can you do?

A virtual happy hour!

Zoom, Teams, Discord; whatever platform you use for your video chats, why not turn it towards the classic happy hour celebration? Getting the team together, providing everyone with their beverage of choice, and building a little structure into it can help your entire team grow closer.

Before we get into specific ideas, let's discuss some of the specifics of the party to help narrow down our choices:

The Setup

Happy hour needs to be enjoyable for everyone involved, and it can't be happy without accommodation and drinks. So, let's set that up!

For your virtual happy hour celebration to go off without a hitch, you need four things:

  • A scheduled time for happy hour that works for everyone.
  • A plan for what to do during the happy hour, so you don't end up with a bunch of sullen silence on the Zoom call.
  • Drinks for everyone on the house.*
  • Something for the teetotalers to do.

Luckily, we've got you covered for every one of these.

*Note: while we can provide the drinks, you still need to pay for them.

Your schedule.

You have two options for scheduling your happy hour. You can choose a time you know works for your team (or tell them to clear their schedule for the time you've chosen.) Or, you can leave it to us. Let everyone tell us their availability, and we pick a time that works for everyone on the team.

It might be a little tricky if you have a truly global workforce (we only serve the US and Canada for now), but we'll do our best.

Your drinks.

What's a happy hour without the drinks? Once more, you have two options; you can tell everyone to have their favorite beverages on hand or work with us to set up specific drinks for everyone to enjoy.

We even have cocktail kits we can send out as part of the party.

What about the folks who don't drink? We've got you covered there too. All of our happy hour party setups have non-alcoholic options available for anyone who makes that choice during registration. And, of course, you can always let them bring whatever they have to the table.

Your plans.

Happy hour is about socialization, but it's also about building a stronger team; otherwise, everyone might as well just be drinking on their own or in their usual small social groups. A company happy hour helps build those social connections that aren't already present.

Luckily, we have plenty of ideas for how you can guide a virtual happy hour to be a more "productive" evening. Here are our fifteen favorites!

As a note before we begin, some of these games have the potential to go wrong. Alcohol plus pandemic isolation can lead to some bad vibes, and that's bad for everyone on the team. The goal of these party games is to avoid all of that, so you must know your team when you're planning them. Make sure you don't accidentally include any landmines.

Also, you might consider a "red card" system. Designate a moderator, and if anyone feels uncomfortable, they can direct message the moderator that they're raising a red card. The moderator then cuts off the discussion and changes focus; no outing someone or shaming them for feeling uncomfortable, just a friendly and easy way to move on past tricky topics. After all, we're all here to have fun.

1: Group Art

By now, everyone should be familiar with the "wine and paint" group activities.

Everyone gets their beverage of choice, takes up a paintbrush, and follows along to replicate whatever the instructor is painting. With this remote happy hour version, you don't even need paints if you don't want to set that up. Instead, have everyone pull up the paint program on their computer or use an online paint program like Kleki.

Set a prompt and a time limit, and have everyone share their art at the end.

2: Pet Show and Tell

Just about everyone has a pet, either an old furry friend or a new adoption from the pandemic.

Whether it's a traditional cat, a unique breed of dog, or something more exotic like a bird or lizard, one thing brings us all together: we love sharing and talking about our pets. So, why not just do that? Give everyone a bit of time to show off their furry (or feathered, or scaly) friend, and talk about such fun details as "what they got up to last week" and "why you chose the name you did."

3: Standard Show and Tell

If you don't want to alienate people who don't have pets, or you want to do something a little more standardized, you can set up a regular item-based show and tell instead.

Pick a specific prompt or category, have everyone think up an item that meets that description, and show it off.

Ideas include "favorite book you've read recently," "your most prized possession," or "something to show off your current hobby."

4: Movie Watch Party

Between your group, you probably have every streaming service covered. Whether you do a screen sharing view or use a third-party app like Teleparty, you can set up a watch party for a movie or show everyone might want to see.

New releases, seasonal classics, bad movies; there are options for every team and taste. As a bonus, you can all roast the movie together.

5: Tipsy Escape

Over the last few years, one of the hottest trends in team-building and social gaming has been the proliferation of escape rooms. The pandemic put a damper on the in-person escape room industry, but many producers have started creating virtual experiences instead.

Whether it's a web-based escape game, an app, or a collaborative roleplaying experience, there's something for every group. Just make sure to find one that can be accomplished as your team gets slowly more and more inebriated throughout the experience.

6: Ruined Paradise

The "ruined paradise" game is a collaborative storytelling game. You divide your group into two teams; the paradise team and the ruins team.

Each team takes turns adding something to the story or scenario. The paradise team adds something that makes the situation better or closer to a paradise, while the ruins team adds something that makes it worse, harmful, or unpleasant.

  • Paradise: "Everyone has a million dollars!"
  • Ruins: "Yeah, Zimbabwe dollars."
  • Paradise: "But they're collector's items, so they're in high demand now."
  • Ruins: "Sure, but since everyone has them, you have a hard time selling yours."

By the end of the tale, you can have everyone decide if paradise is indeed ruined or not.

7: Food Decorating

Decorating something like Christmas cookies or a gingerbread house is a seasonal classic, but you know what can be done at any time of year? Cupcakes! Send everyone a kit for baking and decorating a set of cupcakes, and see what they all come up with. For a more guided experience, give people prompts to replicate, Nailed It style.

You can also judge them at the end, based on factors like "use of color" and "creativity." Frame it however you like.

8: Fridge Cribs

The boomers and older millennials likely remember when MTV played music videos and was at the forefront of popular culture. Cribs, where celebrities showed off their houses, one show they had back then.

Well, you can do the same. To avoid it being an invasion of privacy, though, pick something innocuous to show off. In our case, we like the Fridge Cribs idea; show off the interior of the fridge and freezer. It's simple and amusing to see how different people organize their food, and it doesn't show off more than your team wants to share.

9: Werewolf

The classic game Werewolf (or Mafia) is a fun challenge for getting your team divided and conquered.

There are many different variations on the theme, like Town of Salem or Among Us for video game versions of some of the more complicated tabletop variations.

Pick something that won't get too muddied as people get a little tipsy.

10: Most Likely To

Back in high school, many of us participated in annual voting for people "most likely to" do something, like "be a CEO" or "succeed" or "join a pro sports league." Most of those predictions turned out to be nonsense, but it just goes to show how much fun a lighthearted version can be.

So, pick prompts like "most likely to help you move" or "most likely to forget a birthday" and see who on the team seems most likely to be that person.

11: Useless Talent Show

Everyone has a "useless superpower" they can show off in some form; maybe they're aces at stacking coins. Perhaps they've got double-jointed shoulders.

Maybe they have an excellent memory for one particular lousy movie from the 90s. Whatever the talent, have them show it off.

12: Global Snack Tasting

This one requires a little prep time. Put together packets of exotic snacks from around the world, like salmiakki (Scandinavian salty licorice), kanikko (Japanese fried crabs you eat whole), or marmite chips from Britain. Send out these packages to your team ahead of time, and when happy hour rolls around, get everyone to open them and give new snacks a try in a guided tour of weird culinary tourism.

Who knows, maybe someone will discover a new favorite! Just avoid things like that Icelandic fermented shark that can make a home uninhabitable if you open it indoors.

13: Collaborative Geoguessr

Geoguessr is a Google Maps-powered program that plops you somewhere in the world on Streetview. You can be in Paris right next to the Eiffel tower, or you can end up in the Australian Outback with a hundred miles between you and the nearest civilization.

The goal is to pick your location on a map and see how close you can get. Stream your screen and play a few rounds, with the team contributing their attempts to guess where you are.

14: Minority/Majority

Is your team a majority of cat people or dog people? Do they prefer tea or coffee? Have everyone come up with a singly-divisive prompt like those examples, and ask the group which they are. The group with fewer has to take a drink!

As always, make sure to enforce rules to keep these lighthearted; no "is in debt" or anything that brings bad vibes into the happy hour.

15: Wikipedia Race

Wikipedia is an immense collection of human knowledge, interlinked through every relationship you can think of. The premise of the wiki race is to take advantage of those links. Pick a start page, like Kevin Bacon, and a destination page, like Vitamin C, and see how quickly you can get from one to the other.

The trick is, you can only do it by clicking links on the page, not by using the search bar. The first person who reaches the destination page wins!

So there you have it; fifteen of our favorite happy hour games and events you can host. These will help you bring your team together while enjoying a little tipple at the end of a workday. Of course, this only scratches the surface. We're sure you have your ideas, so why not give them a shot too? After all, a fantastic happy hour event can have several games throughout the gathering.

Are you thinking of throwing a happy hour party for your virtual team? Do you have any questions for us? Leave us a comment or drop us a line! We'd love to help you plan your next party, and we specialize in remote teams spread throughout the country (and throughout the world). Whether it's a pizza party, a drinks party, or a lunch party, we have you covered. Let's chat!

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