Building Company Culture During a Pandemic: Virtual Happy Hour Tips and Ideas

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By Alexis Karis

It has been 9 months since the pandemic upended our work environment as we knew it and forced many of us to work remotely. For our team at Double Forte, who live in or have re-located to Hawaii, Rhode Island and other states in between, remote work will be with us for the foreseeable future.

We’re in the midst of the next normal which means we’ve opted out of in-person interactions and opted in to tele-everything. More frequent video calls have resulted in the dreaded Zoom Fatigue. At Double Forte, we already had familiarity with Zoom, using it for client calls and staff meetings between our offices in New York, Boston, San Francisco and Sacramento. But, we still had an office full of colleagues to visit and interact with each day, Zoom-free.

Even with Zoom Fatigue, there is still one virtual meeting that I look forward to weekly, and that is our Double Forte Happy Hour. Every Thursday afternoon at 5 p.m. ET, I join my colleagues on Zoom for some much-needed team bonding, away from our emails and client work.

Sometimes we meet our colleague’s new puppy, or wave hi to their children as they pop in to visit. Most times, we have a fun theme or a game to play, and laughter almost always ensues. The benefits of our weekly company happy hour last much longer than our 45 minute-1 hour Zoom call – the things we learn about each other or the jokes we share during these meetings are referenced to or laughed about long after happy hour is over.

In a recent piece for Forbes, Mike Fong writes, “This is a scary time for many employees. Introducing laughter and fun can help break up the monotony and anxiety of quarantine and give your team members something to look forward to.” Maintaining company culture is always important, but it is especially important in the midst of a global pandemic when employees aren’t able to be together physically.

Below I’ve pulled together a few tips for making happy hours work for your team, and some ideas to get you started with a few themes from our own Double Forte Happy Hours.

Have a Set Time Each Week

Scheduling your happy hour for the same time each week ensures that colleagues will be able to plan their schedules around it. Though exceptions should be made to fit a client’s schedule, teams should be encouraged to leave time for the company happy hour each week. Our client work is of the upmost importance but building in time for team interaction and socializing in a remote-work environment is extremely important as well!

Assign Each Colleague a Happy Hour to Host

In a rotating schedule, assign each colleague to serve as host of their own happy hour. Not only is this efficient for planning purposes, it is equally as fun to get a better sense of each team member’s personalities based on the themes and games they pick. Each happy hour will be as unique and fun as the last!

Happy Hour Themes and Ideas

  1. Scattergories – Play this creative-thinking category-based party game virtually; just make sure one person has the game so they can read off the categories.
  2. Heads Up! – Have everyone download the Heads Up app to their phone before happy hour. Colleagues should check that their screen is NOT set to ‘Mirror My Video’ on Zoom (so that others can read the words on their phone). During the game, when someone’s turn comes up they’ll need to “hide self view” so that others can see their screen, but they can’t see their own answers.
  3. Bingo – Email virtual bingo cards to members ahead of the happy hour. One person will need to have a bingo set in order to pick numbers!
  4. Never Have I Ever – Prepare questions for every team member and then draw a name. Whoever is drawn will answer the question with a yes or no. If it is a yes, they must tell the story behind the yes. After the person has answered, everyone else on the call will say if they have ever done what the question asks.
  5. Name that Tune – Prepare a playlist of classic or pop songs, and have team members race to guess the name and artist before their colleagues do. We found Slack to be the best method for sharing answers for this game.
  6. Virtual Trivia – Prepare a trivia game via PowerPoint to display questions and a Google Spreadsheet to calculate points. Divide colleagues into teams and have each set up a Slack channel to discuss answers.
  7. Self-care Hour – Have each team member come to the meeting with their favorite face mask or skin care tips to indulge in a little self-care for happy hour.
  8. Show and Tell – Ask each colleague to bring one item with them to the Zoom screen from their home or workplace that reveals something about them that their team may not know. To take this idea further, create a theme for this item, such as “Your Favorite Hat” and have each team member wear a hat of their choice and explain the story behind it.
  9. Majority/Minority – Prepare a series of either/or questions to ask your colleagues. What’s better: Chocolate or Vanilla? Coke or Pepsi? Morning or Night? Mayonnaise – Yes/No? Nicolas Cage films – Yes/No? Colleagues will take turns answering each either/or question, and will see what side each person falls – the Majority or the Minority.
  10. Create your Own Real Housewives Tagline – This one is FUN. Have colleagues watch this video to get a sense of the Real Housewives taglines, and have each colleague create two taglines of their own. Have everyone share their taglines with you ahead of the happy hour. During the happy hour read off each tagline and have colleagues guess who is who!
  11. Icebreakers – Use the QuizBreaker application to send out icebreaker questions ahead of happy hour, such as “what was your first summer job?” and have colleagues guess who did what.
  12. Two Truths and a Lie – Have each colleague come to the meeting with two truths and a lie prepared. As everyone takes turns telling their two truths and a lie, colleagues must guess which of the items is a lie. You’ll be surprised how much you learn about each other!
  13. Fashion Show – Ask the team to come to the meeting wearing their favorite fashion trend for 2021. Send out a few articles beforehand to give colleagues ideas and inspiration!
  14. Create a Limerick for Limerick Day (May 12th) – Pair up all team members and ask them to write a limerick or two about each other. During the meeting, have each pair read off their limericks to each other. Laughter will ensue!
  15. Halloween: Spooky or Sweet – Continuing the theme of holidays, ahead of Halloween, have each team member come to happy hour with a costume or hat. Have everyone tell a spooky or sweet story about a Halloween memory.