16 Virtual Holiday Party Ideas for Your Remote Team

When the Earth completes another circle around the sun, it’s an ideal time for a company celebration, especially if your team is working remotely. End-of-year holiday parties are perfect times for summing up the year, celebrating everyone’s hard work, and making sure remote employees stay engaged.

For remote workers, it’s even more important to have that time with peers to celebrate, even if it’s not in person. We gathered our team’s favorite holiday party activities for remote team members and some tips on how to organize them — read more below and get into the holiday spirit!

Everyone’s Favorite: Secret Santa

This first one is a classic among virtual holiday party games, as everyone loves Secret Santa! The only trick with virtual Secret Santa is to organize a smooth name draw. Luckily, you can use a Secret Santa Generator tool to make sure even the People teams who organize the event can participate in the gift exchange without spoiling the surprise for themselves!

Draw the names 4 weeks in advance, so everyone has time to buy and ship the gifts for their coworkers, and on the day of the Zoom holiday party, everyone has a gift to open and show to the rest of the team. Oh, and set a budget limit for the holiday gifts to make it easy for employees to know much they need to spend.

If you want to organize Secret Santa with a twist, try making it into a White Elephant. In this version of the gift exchange, your team gets each other wacky, impractical, or funny gifts — so it’s only with teams with a good sense of humor!

Sharing holiday traditions

If your team is remote, chances are your team members have different backgrounds and belong to different cultures. Some of them celebrate Christmas, while others celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, which is why the end-of-year festivity isn’t a virtual Christmas party but a holiday party.

Many remote teams use the end-of-year holiday party to share different holiday traditions. Have your team members prepare a couple of slides to share different traditions and rituals they practice for the holidays - anything from gift-giving to Christmas trees or Hanukkah menorahs. It’s a great chance for the team to bond and learn about each other — while in a festive mood, of course!

Even if you don't dedicate the whole holiday party to this activity, it can be a great icebreaker to start off the session.

A holiday-themed trivia game

If you want to test how much your team loves the holiday season, there’s no better way to do it than organize a holiday trivia. The topics of the quiz can vary from pop culture references to traditional holiday celebrations, but it’s best to keep them in the domain of common knowledge.

Here are some examples of trivia questions you can include:

  • When did the first Home Alone movie come out?
  • On which date is it acceptable to start streaming All I Want for Christmas Is You?
  • True or false: Hanukkah is the most popular Jewish holiday
  • Which three words are used to describe Grinch in How The Grinch Stole Christmas?

Additionally, make sure the virtual game is festive and fun for your team: play some festive music, design the quiz to match the celebration theme, and make it the best time of the year for your team!

Competitive spirit: Gingerbread house building

For the competition lovers in your team, there’s no better way to wrap up the year than with a good old DIY contest. Gingerbread houses can be difficult to make, but the process is undoubtedly fun, especially when you get to the part of...well, eating your creation.

Send a grocery list to your employees (or, better yet, ship everything they need to their homes) and provide detailed instructions on whether you’re looking for the most beautiful gingerbread house or the most unusual one.

If some team members aren’t good with making things from scratch, here’s a solution for that, too. Give those team members the role of the jury and let them select the criteria for choosing the winner of the competition.

To spice things up and create a really exciting virtual event, get your team inspired by sharing an episode of The Great British Bake Off — it will help them hone their presentation skills and make the party that much more interesting.

Ugly sweater contest

If your team has a well-honed sense of humor, don’t look any further for a fun game. Give your team an office holiday party allowance and send them shopping a few weeks before the event with the task of finding the ugliest holiday sweater they possibly can.

You can get really creative here and include oversized sweaters, vintage or second-hand catches, funny creatures, or even hand-made stuff if you have knitting superstars on your team. Then on the day of the party, turn on the video call and let your team members do the catwalk in their ugly, comfy sweaters. Pick the winner based on who produced the most holiday cheer by their teammates.

Holiday Pictionary

Pictionary is one of everyone’s all-time favorites when it comes to team-building activities, virtual or in person. And with good reason: it’s incredibly fun to guess what a coworker is drawing, especially if they’re not very good at it.

Divide your team into two or more groups and get down to drawing holiday-themed words. But don’t make it too easy for them! Exclude the simple stuff like Christmas trees or gift boxes and go with more complex items instead, like titles of holiday songs or movies, and watch the laughter unfold.

Mulled wine tasting

Another great idea for teams who love to cook with each other in real-time is making (and enjoying) some mulled wine together. Again, you can blast some cheery festive music in the background, set the timer for your team, and let the wine mulling begin.

If some (or all) of your employees don’t drink alcohol, swap the mulled wine for hot chocolate. It will give you the same effect of bonding, competition, and coziness that comes once the preparation is done and everyone gets to enjoy their special creations.

Bonus tip: Don’t be strict with the recipes, and let everyone use the spices and condiments they enjoy the most. It will give the team another fun way to bond with each other and share recipes for everyone to try out.

A holiday movie quiz

A movie marathon would be an ideal way to spend the last week of the year, but we’ll be realistic and assume most teams can’t spend an entire week on virtual team-building activities. So the next best thing is a movie quiz dedicated to the holiday classics we all love.

To make sure everyone can take part before you create the quiz questions, send out a survey to the team and ask them to share 3-5 of their favorite holiday movies with you. This way, you’ll avoid asking questions about movies most people didn’t see.

Oh, and make sure the team comes to the event with a bowl of popcorn in hand and in their favorite comfy pajamas. What’s a movie night without popcorn?

Festive karaoke

Want to let your team unwind and mildly embarrass themselves during your holiday event? In that case, a karaoke party is the way to go. Organizing a holiday happy hour with karaoke as the main event is easier than it sounds.

You’ll need a dedicated karaoke DJ who will be in charge of playing the music and sharing the lyric screen. Additionally, it’s a good idea to have someone in charge of monitoring the chat, as the chat box is the ideal place for deciding who will be next in line for the spotlight. This person could also serve as a host, hyping everyone up and doing the announcements.

Karaoke is a great way to build relationships and get some laughs at the same time, so if your team is up for it, don’t miss out on it. However, ask around to find out if there’s anyone in your team who isn’t comfortable with this activity to avoid putting them in an awkward situation.

If the karaoke party idea has you curious, here’s a deep-dive guide on how to organize one virtually. You’re welcome.

Holiday bingo

Bingo is another one of the classic holiday games, but it doesn’t mean it’s not fun. For your remote team members, choose a theme and make sure to spend time creating unique and fun bingo cards. Instead of numbers, use words that match your theme, whether it’s the holiday season or something related to your company and the previous year.

And as you’re organizing the game show in a virtual office party setting, you can make the rewards for the winner(s) virtual as well. You can hand out gift cards or subscription services like Netflix but make sure you have appreciation gifts ready for the rest of the team, too.

Dancing it out with a holiday playlist

A virtual happy hour celebrating the new year is a good place for your team to blow off steam and unwind. If you’ve all gone through a stressful year or even quarter, try using this get-together to let it all out.

Create a company account on Spotify and open a new playlist that you will share with your team. Ask all of them to add a few songs that put them in a good mood, regardless of whether they are holiday songs or not (although it would be fun to dance along to Christmas carols and jingles!)

On the day of the party, make sure everyone comes with a drink of their choosing and is ready to dance it out with their team and decompress. A dance party helps your team connect, enjoy a good time, and get into the new year in a great mood, ready for new professional victories.

End-of-year holiday card competition

So many options for competition lovers to choose from! For this one, it’s all about making the coolest (or ugliest, it’s up to you) holiday card. But to make things more fun, make team members create the cards in an online tool like Canva during the holiday party and give them limited time — 15 minutes should do it.

Screen sharing is optional, but if your team isn’t too big, it can be fun to see everyone working in real-time and scrambling to polish up the templates in time. And to make things fair, let your design team be the jury and pick the winners. If they were to compete, others likely wouldn’t stand a chance. On top of all this, these cards make for wonderful virtual gifts your team can exchange with each other.

Holiday scavenger hunt

Holiday scavenger hunts are an ideal opportunity for the holiday lovers in your team to shine, as they are the most likely to have all the items on the list around and close by. Depending on your team’s locations and holiday preferences, create a scavenger hunt list that includes everyone and isn't overly particular.

Some items you can include are gifts from a team member, company swag, candles, colored lights, candy, a holiday shopping list, and an ugly holiday sweater. If your team is up for an outdoor challenge, you can include pinecones and snow on the list as well or have the entire event happen outdoors.

Cookie decorating workshop

If you couldn’t tell by now, our team really loves cooking activities. And we have something in mind for everyone, especially those with kids or just young at heart. Sharing a fun time together while trying to make our holiday cookies look good is a great idea, and there are a few ways to make it even more fun.

If you want to keep it light and casual, include another item in the schedule, like a mocktail and cookie combo. It will make it fun for parents to share their creations with kids after they finish the session.

If you want to keep it competitive, though, it’s good to add a theme to the cookie decoration. A themed game helps keep your team on their toes and makes it a little (or a lot) more challenging. For example, you can ask for specific decorations, like candy canes or gift boxes on the cookies, and see who will put the most creativity into their display.

Holiday costume display

Halloween is not the only time of year you’re allowed to play dress up. An end-of-year video conferencing costume party for a bunch of adult professionals might actually work better for your team.

And while it is a holiday party, we suggest you don’t enforce a holiday theme for the costume display, or any theme for that matter. Let your team show their personalities, characters, sense of humor, and fashion style by letting them be whoever they want. You’re guaranteed to have a cool mix of superheroes, animals, celebrities, and supernatural creatures in one place — and what’s not to love about that?

A festive employee recognition session

Finally, for teams who don’t want to prepare or organize a special, theme-heavy event to celebrate the ending year, a special recognition session works just fine. Choose a host for the event, who will be in charge of welcoming everyone and giving an introductory toast to the team.

If you’re feeling particularly grateful for your team this year, you can divide them into small groups and provide breakout rooms where they can show appreciation to each other in a less public setting.

It may not sound like a special event, but it’s one your team will surely love, as everyone likes feeling seen, heard, and recognized by the team they spend a third of their year with.

Don’t miss the chance to celebrate the holidays with your team

In remote teams, you should use every chance you get for connection, building relationships, and strengthening the sense of belonging. After all, 44% of remote workers say connecting with coworkers is the biggest challenge of remote work.

A good virtual holiday party might seem like a hassle to organize, but it pays off as it showcases and maintains good company culture, improves the wellbeing of your team, and gives People teams — yes, you! — a chance to have some fun, too. You deserve it!

And if you want to give your remote teams a chance to see each other face to face when they need to or organize a holiday party in person - try using Gable.

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Andrea Rajic