The Slice

45 Holiday Party Ideas for Virtual and Distributed Teams

December 16, 2021

How do you bring these workers together? How do you make a distributed team feel like, well, a team? It’s about more than just task lists, collaboration tools, and shared duties. It would help if you encouraged socialization and leisure, as well. Holidays are a great opportunity. All you need to do is figure out, well, what to do! Here are our top 45 ideas for virtual holiday parties, spanning many holidays worth celebrating.

Now more than ever, millions of people are working from home. Businesses have adapted to the pandemic by shifting large swathes of workers to WFH positions, minimizing those in the office. At the same time, increased global communications have allowed many businesses to work with fully remote, distributed teams. It’s entirely possible to have a workforce of dozens or hundreds of people who have never been in the same room as one another and maintain a functional, effective business.

How do you bring these remote workers together? How do you make a distributed team feel like, well, a team? It’s about more than just task lists, collaboration tools, and shared duties. It would help if you encouraged socialization and leisure, as well.

Holidays are a great opportunity. Everyone knows of the traditional office holiday parties. Still, those don’t work when you have workers scattered across the country or worldwide, and they’re even potentially dangerous, with pandemic surges growing week by week.

Luckily, virtual communications tools like Zoom and Teams allow you to create digital spaces for leisure as much as productivity. All you need to do is figure out, well, what to do! Here are our top 45 ideas for virtual holiday parties, spanning many holidays worth celebrating.

Christmas Season Party Ideas

When most people think of the holiday season, they think of the year-end celebrations that include Christmas and New Year’s. There are dozens of midwinter holidays you can celebrate in December, many of which have deep cultural significance worldwide. Always remember to be inclusive; if you employ remote workers from areas where Christmas isn’t the go-to holiday in December, make a note of the holidays they DO celebrate, so you can make something fully inclusive and never leave anyone out.

1. Ugly Sweater Party – One traditional office staple makes a beautiful transition to the digital space. Have everyone get an ugly sweater to wear for an informal gathering. As a bonus, this party idea works in conjunction with nearly any other as well.

2. Secret Santa – Give everyone the information for a colleague, and have everyone set up a wishlist. Set a budget -- $25-$30 is usually a good bet – and let the gift exchange begin.

3. White Elephant – Imagine the Secret Santa, except nonsensical gag gifts instead of wishlists. It can be pretty fun, especially when some more absurd and creative gift-givers get involved.

4. Cookie Decorating Contest – Have everyone bake or buy a simple set of cookies and decorating tools. Then give everyone time to trim, show off their creations, and judge them to pick a winner.

5. Holiday Escape Rooms – Escape rooms are a great team-building challenge, and with the power of video games, they’ve become a staple for remote teams as well. Find an appropriate holiday virtual escape room and challenge your team to beat it.

6. Festive Scavenger Hunt – Build a list of items, either household holiday decorations or things you can find in a holiday section at a store or even decorations around town, and send people out looking for them. The person or group to gather the most significant list wins.

7. Gingerbread House Competition – Send out a gingerbread house decorating kit, ask everyone to decorate their houses, and see who comes up with the best designs.

8. Nailed It! – Similar to the cookie or gingerbread decorating challenges, except this time, everyone tries their best to replicate a professional design.

9. Holiday Bingo – Build bingo boards out of holiday-themed prompts. Designate a host to read out the prompts, and each person checks off if that one applies to them. Bingo winners get a prize of their choosing.

10. Karaoke Party – Who doesn’t love a good round of karaoke? Make it holiday-themed with songs appropriate for the season, or go full-on caroling.

11. Holiday Movie Watch Party – Screen sharing makes it easy to watch a holiday movie with a team. Pick a good one to watch with some popcorn or a bad one to riff on throughout the film.

12. Collaborative Fairy Tale – Pick a holiday-appropriate fairy tale and give everyone a role. Read through the fairy tale with as much or as little acting as your group finds appropriate.

13. Best of the Year – Pick topics or events, whether in-office or part of the culture, and have everyone pick the best of the year. The best action movie? Best meme? Make it fun and informal.

14. Tree Trimming – Give everyone a paper tree and a pack of decorations, and let them go to town decorating trees to judge at the end of the night.

15. Virtual Tree Trimming – The same as above, except use graphics and clip art for people to trim their trees digitally.

16. Wine or Cocktail Tasting – Virtual bartenders can guide everyone in assembling cocktails (or mocktails) or in a guided wine tasting with a festive twist.

17. Collaborative Goodie Boxes – Have everyone make a treat (with enough for everyone) and send them to the office. From there, your organizer sorts them out, repackages them, and mails a goodie box out to everyone to enjoy.

18. Name the Tune – Build a playlist of holiday songs and play brief clips of them, and ask everyone to name that tune.

19. Tradition Sharing – Many families and groups have their strange holiday traditions. Some of them might even stick around for next year! Now’s the chance to share them and get everyone involved.

20. Local Video Show – Have each team member go around town and take a quick video of local decorations to show off to the group during the party.

21. Wellness Gifts – Put together gift baskets with health and wellness gifts to help everyone relax during their year-end vacations and start the new year fresh.

22. Hot Chocolate Tasting – A party for the less alcohol-enthused, hot chocolate tasting party is like a wine tasting without the buzz.

23. Holiday Card Creation – Have everyone make a homemade holiday card. Send them out to each other, or pick an organization like  Jude to send them to.

Party Ideas for Other Holidays

There is all manner of holidays scheduled throughout the year, of varying levels of importance. Check out a site like Holidays Calendar to see what holidays happen on a day of your choosing and schedule a party that fits your goals. It doesn’t have to be a big one, either; plenty of people celebrate unofficial holidays just as much as the big ones.

24. Halloween Dress-Up – Who doesn’t love getting dressed up for Halloween? Set a theme, or let everyone go wild with the (work-appropriate) outfit of their choice.

25. Kindness and Good Will – November 13 is World Kindness Day, but there are many pay-it-forward and philanthropic holidays throughout the year. Set up a contest or trivia challenge, have everyone pick a charity, and donate to charities for each individual’s win.

26. Holiday Whose Line – Whose Line Is It, Anyway? Improv challenges can be an excellent time for a small team. Pick a host, draw prompt ideas from a virtual hat, and see what your team comes up with.

27. Holiday Pictionary – Using the power of MS Paint or an online drawing tool, choose holiday-themed prompts and play a good old game of Pictionary.

28. Zoom Background Challenge – Zoom (and other virtual meeting apps) usually have easy ways to change your background. Give everyone a theme relevant to the holiday and see who comes up with the best background idea.

29. "Introducing a Special Guest" - Use a service like Cameo to hire the talent of your favorite actors to say something personalized for the group, to add a little something special to the mix.

30. Holiday Paint-Along – Send out supplies to the team, including a canvas, easel, and set of paints. Then have an artist or guide lead the group on painting a lovely holiday scene.

31. Voted Most Likely – Pick a list of light-hearted, holiday-themed prompts and vote who on the team seems most likely to do (or have done) the prompt, then see how right you are.

32. Themed Jeopardy – Who doesn’t like a good quiz show? Once you’ve chosen your holiday, come up with trivia related to it, ranging from easy to challenging—select players and award points based on the questions. As a bonus, you can make the points exchange for prizes later.

33. Charitable Acts – Have everyone on the team submit an idea for a charitable act they can all perform together. Get the group to vote on their favorite and submit a generous donation collectively.

34. Collaborative DJing – Get everyone to submit a song or two relevant to the holidays and add it to a playlist to play in the background throughout the evening.

35. Spontaneous Snow Day – Set up a morning all-hands meeting, and instead of discussing anything work-related, declare a snow day and let everyone take the rest of the day off. If deadlines are looming, let your employees take a rain check on it to use it at another time.

36. Spooky Ghost Stories – Have everyone find or come up with a scary story for the Halloween season and read it to the group. The story with a terrifying plot wins!

Assorted Additional Party Ideas

This last section includes a handful of party ideas you can use any time of year. They aren’t necessarily tied to a specific holiday, but they can work whenever you think your team needs a break. Give them a try! You might be surprised at how effective a simple party without a holiday can work without the pressure.

37. Virtual Cooking Class – Get a meal-in-a-box delivered to everyone, and hire a chef to lead cooking it, so everyone gets a great meal to enjoy and a dining experience they won’t soon forget, right in the comfort of their kitchen.

38. Roleplay Guessing Game – Before the meeting, give everyone a simple role, like “bartender” or “rock star.” Have them act out their part throughout the party, and have everyone guess the positions at the end.

39. Online Scavenger Hunt – Come up with digital items and task everyone with finding the relevant URL, JPG, or webpage you’re looking for. Give out special awards for the best results for each prompt.

40. Pet Talent Show – Everyone has had at least one meeting derailed by an affectionate cat by now, right? So why not make a day of it; have everyone show off a unique and fun talent their pet has (or show off their pets; we all love our furry friends.)

41. Pet Costume Contest – Instead of dressing up for the party, you can dress up your pets and have a pet costume contest! Whether they love their onesie or all they’ll tolerate is a hat for a few minutes, put them in costume, and show them off.

42. Team Talent Show – Give everyone a 3–5-minute segment on the virtual stage and let them show off a talented, open-mic style. You never know what hidden talents your team has!

43. Everybody’s Birthday – This simple party idea designates one day to be a birthday party and celebrate everyone’s birthday. You can still acknowledge the actual birthdays of your employees, but with this party, you make a more extensive, non-specific event out of it.

44. Pizza Party – Who doesn’t love a good pizza? With services like ours, you can easily order pizza delivery for your entire roster at a scheduled time to coincide with a virtual gathering. That way, no one gets left out, and the responsibility isn’t on each employee to bring their pizza.

45. Coffee Break – Sometimes, a party doesn’t have to be a big event. Schedule a quick break time, get everyone a cup of coffee and a pastry from their local coffee shop, and give everyone a chance to socialize and relax before getting back to the grind.

Whatever your virtual party ideas, make sure to keep them collaborative or light-heartedly competitive. You don’t want to end the night with complex feelings, office drama, and broken teams! You know your team the best, so plan your party around them, not the other way around.

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