5 Clever Ways To Bring Festive Cheer To Remote Workers

Some remote workers join in the festivities on their laptops
Bruce Mars on Unsplash

Get your game on

Joe Flanagan, lead project engineer at Tacuna Systems, says his company is hosting its first-ever online gaming tournament this month. With some of its 36 employees based in the office in Golden, Colorado, and others working from home–and all but one of the team ardent gamers–they have selected to play Red Dead Redemption 2 and Call Of Duty: Black Ops. 

Flanagan says: “There is only one non-gamer alien in our midst and he works in the main office, where we will be hosting games like darts and mini-golf, so he can either enjoy those or join in the fun as the tournament's audience.”

Host a virtual party 

Jenna McCarron, chief of staff for California-based collapsible straw creator FinalStraw, says ideas for this year’s party included a silent disco on Google Hangouts, and an ugly sweater competition on Slack.

McCarron says: “One thing we have learned in 18 months of working remotely is that, being dispersed across a couple of countries and several time zones, we relish opportunities to get to know one another without pretence. We never have to brush our teeth to ‘go to work’ and pants, quite frankly, are optional.”

She adds: “In the spirit of staying true to our company culture we will be gathering, virtually of course, in our coziest Christmas jammies with the bevvy of our choice to toast the many successes that we have accomplished this past year remotely, together. We will have holiday tunes and some disco music too!”

Bring them all together

Some companies with remote workers pay to bring the whole company together for one big event. Timothy Allcott, partner at U.K. independent building consultancy Allcott Associates, says: “Although we have to fork out for overnight accommodation for those that live far away, it’s well worth it. On a business level, it’s an opportunity to exchange ideas, and gripes. And on a social level it allows everyone to get to know the people they’ve been working with all year. 

“The connections built at these parties have meant that we have been able to set up a fantastic WhatsApp group that our surveyors use to swap stories and exchange advice. This helps everyone feel connected throughout the year, not just at Christmas.”

Leon Rbibo, president of LA-based jewelry company Laguna Pearl, agrees. In the past, his company has tried to gather for the holiday on video chat, but he says it didn’t accomplish the objective of unifying the team, a quarter of whom work remotely full time. 

He adds: “Now, we align our next-year planning sessions with our annual holiday party and offer to fly anyone in for a week who is up for the trip. We start on a Monday and plan our marketing and business strategies over four days. The week concludes with a holiday party that everyone can take part in, regardless of whether they work remotely or in our L.A. headquarters. I've found it to be a real team builder and a chance for everyone to blow off some steam and relax before things ramp up again in the new year. Some things just can’t be replaced by technology.”

International secret Santa

Digital marketing agency Exposure Ninja, based in the U.K., runs a global secret Santa with a £20 budget, including mailing costs. They use a random generator to match up employees–spread all over the world–and the HR team gets everyone to fill out a list of hobbies and interests to inspire gift-buyers.

There’s also a Christmas quiz on Slack and an extra competition only possible for employees who work from home. General manager Charlie Marchant explains: “We have a prize for the best-decorated tree and it gets incredibly competitive. The top prize is awarded based on popular vote i.e. how many Christmas tree emojis a picture of the tree receives on our main Slack channel. Our employees love this. After all, we also get to sit next to our trees all day, every day!”

Family and friends first

Stuart Cooke, founder of SEO agency Levity Digital, based in Northern Ireland, believes that Christmas is a time for being with your friends and family, not at work functions. So, his fully remote team is given vouchers for local restaurants in their home towns. He says: “This means they can enjoy a night out with their friends and/or family on us which, let's face it, is much more appealing than a staff party that you feel obligated to attend.”

Brett Helling, owner of gig economy news and information site GigWorker, has an all-remote team spread across several countries. He also sends gift cards so his employees can enjoy a festive dinner with their family and friends.

Helling says: “Along with that, we’ll include thank you notes hand-written by our leadership team to appreciate the accomplishments and hard work of our employees for our company. We feel that personalized notes of appreciation are the best way to express gratitude.”

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The Holidays are coming and–with the rise of remote teams scattered across states and countries–it’s not only culture that’s being transformed: the infamous office Christmas party is undergoing a facelift, too.

Here, business leaders with remote employees tell us how they bring holiday cheer to the furthest reaches of their companies, from online gaming tournaments and festive virtual pyjama parties, to Christmas tree decorating contests and week-long trips to headquarters.

Get your game on

Joe Flanagan, lead project engineer at Tacuna Systems, says his company is hosting its first-ever online gaming tournament this month. With some of its 36 employees based in the office in Golden, Colorado, and others working from home–and all but one of the team ardent gamers–they have selected to play Red Dead Redemption 2 and Call Of Duty: Black Ops. 

Flanagan says: “There is only one non-gamer alien in our midst and he works in the main office, where we will be hosting games like darts and mini-golf, so he can either enjoy those or join in the fun as the tournament's audience.”

Host a virtual party 

Jenna McCarron, chief of staff for California-based collapsible straw creator FinalStraw, says ideas for this year’s party included a silent disco on Google Hangouts, and an ugly sweater competition on Slack.

McCarron says: “One thing we have learned in 18 months of working remotely is that, being dispersed across a couple of countries and several time zones, we relish opportunities to get to know one another without pretence. We never have to brush our teeth to ‘go to work’ and pants, quite frankly, are optional.”

She adds: “In the spirit of staying true to our company culture we will be gathering, virtually of course, in our coziest Christmas jammies with the bevvy of our choice to toast the many successes that we have accomplished this past year remotely, together. We will have holiday tunes and some disco music too!”

Bring them all together

Some companies with remote workers pay to bring the whole company together for one big event. Timothy Allcott, partner at U.K. independent building consultancy Allcott Associates, says: “Although we have to fork out for overnight accommodation for those that live far away, it’s well worth it. On a business level, it’s an opportunity to exchange ideas, and gripes. And on a social level it allows everyone to get to know the people they’ve been working with all year. 

“The connections built at these parties have meant that we have been able to set up a fantastic WhatsApp group that our surveyors use to swap stories and exchange advice. This helps everyone feel connected throughout the year, not just at Christmas.”

Leon Rbibo, president of LA-based jewelry company Laguna Pearl, agrees. In the past, his company has tried to gather for the holiday on video chat, but he says it didn’t accomplish the objective of unifying the team, a quarter of whom work remotely full time. 

He adds: “Now, we align our next-year planning sessions with our annual holiday party and offer to fly anyone in for a week who is up for the trip. We start on a Monday and plan our marketing and business strategies over four days. The week concludes with a holiday party that everyone can take part in, regardless of whether they work remotely or in our L.A. headquarters. I've found it to be a real team builder and a chance for everyone to blow off some steam and relax before things ramp up again in the new year. Some things just can’t be replaced by technology.”

International secret Santa

Digital marketing agency Exposure Ninja, based in the U.K., runs a global secret Santa with a £20 budget, including mailing costs. They use a random generator to match up employees–spread all over the world–and the HR team gets everyone to fill out a list of hobbies and interests to inspire gift-buyers.

There’s also a Christmas quiz on Slack and an extra competition only possible for employees who work from home. General manager Charlie Marchant explains: “We have a prize for the best-decorated tree and it gets incredibly competitive. The top prize is awarded based on popular vote i.e. how many Christmas tree emojis a picture of the tree receives on our main Slack channel. Our employees love this. After all, we also get to sit next to our trees all day, every day!”

Family and friends first

Stuart Cooke, founder of SEO agency Levity Digital, based in Northern Ireland, believes that Christmas is a time for being with your friends and family, not at work functions. So, his fully remote team is given vouchers for local restaurants in their home towns. He says: “This means they can enjoy a night out with their friends and/or family on us which, let's face it, is much more appealing than a staff party that you feel obligated to attend.”

Brett Helling, owner of gig economy news and information site GigWorker, has an all-remote team spread across several countries. He also sends gift cards so his employees can enjoy a festive dinner with their family and friends.

Helling says: “Along with that, we’ll include thank you notes hand-written by our leadership team to appreciate the accomplishments and hard work of our employees for our company. We feel that personalized notes of appreciation are the best way to express gratitude.”

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