Virtual Happy Hours: Keys to a Successful Online Hangout

Virtual Happy Hours: Keys to a Successful Online Hangout

Woman holding wine glass during virtual happy hour

Woman holding wine glass during virtual happy hour

Woman holding wine glass during virtual happy hour

While people focus on physical distancing and self-isolating, we found that Apex employees were starving for connection with their coworkers.

Whether it’s the inviting smile in the hallway on the way to the restroom, catching up in the breakroom as coffee is poured or taking the long way to the conference room to stop by your favorite coworker’s desk are all small interactions we miss when working remotely. Since quarantine, Apex has started holding bi-weekly virtual happy hours to help fill the void of casual interaction and conversation we have with coworkers. It involves slightly more planning than telling people which restaurant to meet up at after a long day, however, it is a chance to “gather” in times when we’re craving social interaction.

There are a few items to keep in mind when planning a company happy hour. Here are a few tips on how we’ve found success with them:

Consider the number of people

Unlike a happy hour at a restaurant, there isn’t room for many different side conversations. If Sally is talking, Tim and Joe can’t be having a conversation because then no one can hear Sally. Too many people can lead to too many conversations happening at once.

Typically, anywhere from 5 to 20 people works best. If more than 20 people want to attend, breaking off into smaller groups on separate conference lines might be beneficial.

Make them consistent

It helps with attendance if employees have a consistent schedule of when these events are planned. At Apex, our virtual happy hours are every other Thursday (because Thirsty Thursday has a ring to it). Employees can plan on attending to make sure their schedule is clear during that time.

It gives people a sense of routine in this ever-changing time we live in now. Make happy hours and virtual connections something employees can count on.

Planning is key

This is by far the most important aspect of a successful virtual happy hour.

Virtual happy hours require some structure so attendees can participate, feel engaged and Sally doesn’t take over the conversation. Logistics like how long it lasts, what platform it will be on, and a few details highlighting the agenda should be sent to employees a few days in advance. They can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 ½ hours, depending on what is planned.

For the agenda, there are so many possibilities. Picking a host or two to moderate the session will be crucial to facilitating the conversation or activity. The conversation can be simple like everyone sharing their favorite quarantine recipe or DIY project. Doing activity-based happy hours take a little more planning, but we’ve found that people have the most fun when an activity is involved.

For examples, our latest two activities have been a virtual scavenger hunt and virtual trivia. The virtual scavenger hunt involved employees and their families running around the house searching for the items on the list. Whichever team/family came back with the item first, won that round. Virtual trivia involved hosts asking questions with topics ranging from company-related to history, sports and entertainment. Employees were tasked with answering the questions and a point total was recorded.

Click here for instructions and an example scavenger hunt list.

Click here for further instructions on trivia and example trivia questions.

For more information about COVID-19 and the workplace, see Apex’s Resource Page.

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