Even though we’re starting to host cocktail parties or house parties for the first time in a year and unmask at bars, virtual happy hours are probably here to stay. As schools, shops, restaurants, and other public spaces start to open up, the future of work looks like it’s going to be a hybrid model of remote and in-person office environments.
According to a report by McKinsey and Company, over half of the employees want to either stay remote or want a more flexible working model. In fact, since the pandemic started, employees who want to stay fully in-person decreased from 62% to 37%, a whole 25% decrease. Plus, roughly 30% of employees said they would even consider switching jobs if they had to return to on-site work full-time. Even if we no longer have to socially distance ourselves, your remote happy hours are likely to continue in the future.
So, remote work is most definitely in the cards for your company. That being said, it’s no secret that employees are starting to experience greater levels of burnout because of remote work. Polls from Mental Health America reported that 70% of employees had experienced burnout, with a majority of the respondents claiming that it was due to remote work. Blurry lines between personal and professional life, as well as the general isolation that comes from working at home alone, were among the biggest drivers of dissatisfaction. We’ve also found that forcing ideas that work best in-person to become virtual events can be grating as well.
The Dilemma With Distanced Offices
Managers, then, are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Employees want more remote work for its flexibility, but many are unhappy with how their companies handle company culture online.
One straightforward, but vital, solution is to focus on remote team building. Even if you can’t see your team members in person, that doesn’t mean managers can’t improve company culture. 90% of remote workers feel they don’t get enough time in meetings to really get to know their colleagues. Without that water cooler conversation, your employees don’t get a chance to get to know each other in any other environment than, well, work. According to a survey of over 19,000 workers by the ADP Research Institute, workers who felt like a member of a team were twice as likely to be fully engaged. A sense of communication and collaboration in your team will boost employee engagement – it’s just a matter of getting the ball rolling.
This Is Where Virtual Happy Hours Come In
While they might seem a little unnatural at first, there are a plethora of benefits that come with drinking together from a distance. Depending on the company’s goals, remote happy hours can improve team spirit and even provide opportunities to network. Teams that are more engaged with each other are much more likely to take initiative in projects and suggest new ideas.
Other benefits include improving employee morale, team building, increasing productivity, fostering a healthy work environment, instilling confidence in your employees, increasing employee satisfaction as well as showing your employees that you appreciate them and care for their wellbeing.
In addition to the sense of camaraderie and boost in productivity that comes with better relations between coworkers, there are a ton of practical benefits that employees enjoy. For example, it’s much less expensive at home and also, no one will know if you’re wearing sweatpants instead of business casual on a video chat or facetime. We here at LEAD.bot have loved meeting everyone’s pets, too!
Now that you know all the benefits of remote team happy hours and virtual hangouts, here are a few pro tips to get you and your organization started.
Keep it Comfortable for Everyone
While in an ideal world, all of your employees feel comfortable enough with each other to share a drink and skype after work, the reality is that some may feel stressed or pressured into participating.
In order to make sure everyone is comfortable, make sure to emphasize that these happy hours or team-building activities are voluntary and that no one has to drink if they don’t want to. Some employees might have other obligations that make it hard for them to carve out time – communicating that start and end times are flexible will also help keep the atmosphere light.
If you can, try to keep the groups small. We’re all familiar with the chaos of people trying to talk over each other on a video call. Too many participants can be overwhelming, and make the experience less intimate. For us, we’ve found that 10 people talking at once was a little too chaotic and that around 5 people hit the sweet spot.
Provide Structure to Keep Things Fresh
We all know the feeling of being burnt out from video calls. It can be hard to muster up the energy for socializing when your employees feel like their day has been one long zoom session.
Structuring virtual happy hours around a shared activity or game can make remote happy hours something to look forward to. Ever since we’ve been stuck at home, there have been a plethora of online games and resources for shared activities (and oftentimes they’re free!) For example, host a trivia night about your company/industry knowledge or a throwback to your summer camp days with a game of virtual werewolf. There are also plenty of services that will send out matching gift baskets, so everyone at the happy hour can enjoy the same experience even from a distance. Drinking games are also a great, informal way to get to know everyone. Also, don’t forget that non-alcoholic activities can be just as fun – virtual book clubs, charades, online board games for a game night or even making mocktails together is a great, low-key way to get to know each other.
We’ve found that the famous Milk Bar has a delicious sampler box of sweet treats and Good Taste provides a flight of wine samples for a virtual wine-tasting night. For non-food-related activities, Ryptic team building has a fun virtual paint night where participants receive art supplies in the mail and have a session with an expert artist to guide them.
Another way to drum up excitement is to create a theme for your happy hours. Maybe you all time warp back to the 60s for a disco-themed hangout, or perhaps there’s a murder mystery afoot and your “dinner guests” have to figure out the culprit.
Make Life Easier with a Virtual Happy Hour App
LEAD.bot can help your remote team happy hours go smoothly, especially on Microsoft Teams. LEAD.bot is a Microsoft Teams and Slack app that helps team bonding by matching employees into smaller groups. Every week, the bot creates a channel or chat with new group members, so you can be sure that your team is always connecting with fresh faces. Plus, the integration has a matching program that looks for team members who share fewer channels in common. LEAD.bot gives you and your or the chance to meet people who they might never have had the chance to talk to otherwise, in-person or online.
Integrating it into your socializing routine is as easy as inviting LEAD.bot to a Team or channel of your choosing and adjusting the bot’s settings. You can customize the number of people per group and the frequency at which these matches are sent out, as well as change the group size for matching. For example, if you wanted monthly get-togethers for your team of 15 people, the bot can send virtual happy hour invites for Friday at 5 p.m., and set up chats for 3 groups of 5. Because Slack and Teams have built-in video chatting capacities, starting the hangout is just a click away. If Slack or Teams calls aren’t your things, you can always take the party over to other video conferencing platforms like zoom or google hangouts.
To learn more about LEAD.bot and how it can help your organization, check us out at LEAD.bot.