Teams undoubtedly are the foundation of organizations today, but building a team culture where everyone feels heard is difficult even under the best circumstances. If your team is not all in the same city or office, or if some people work remotely, creating that powerful team connection is even more challenging. As the holidays approach, now is the perfect time to bring your teams together, no matter how far away individual members live. By hosting a few holiday-inspired team engagement activities, you can help your team members bond, build team culture, and spring into the new year stronger and more connected than ever.
While remote working can offer various benefits to companies, it also presents some unique challenges. One of the toughest is creating a cohesive team when members live in different zip codes, states, or even countries. Developing team chemistry is something that happens gradually, and remote workers can’t exactly catch up over the water cooler or chat at each other’s desks. For these reasons, remote workers can feel isolated and disconnected from their coworkers in spite of today’s many team management apps. That simply means that managers need to take extra steps to bring their teams together and close the digital divide. It can be done, and the holidays are the perfect time to try.
The holidays are a wonderful time to share and highlight traditions, but they can also be culturally tricky, especially if your remote team members come from a variety of backgrounds and beliefs. As you develop holiday-themed team engagement ideas, make sure to be inclusive of different beliefs and avoid the assumption that everyone celebrates the same holidays as you or in the same ways.
Here are our seven favorite holiday-flavored remote employee engagement activities to build team culture.
1. Hold an Ugly Holiday Sweater Contest
Video conferencing software makes it easy to bring your employees together no matter where they live. Set an all-hands-on-deck video conference and then add a holiday twist: encourage all of your employees to wear an ugly holiday sweater to the meeting. Give each member the spotlight so they can show off their sweater, and then ask your team members to vote for the winner. Reward the winner for their creativity with a gift card or the hot new tech item of the year.
2. Share Your Holiday Traditions
A simple-yet-effective team engagement strategy is to get your remote team together on a video meeting and ask each person to tell a story about their family’s unique holiday traditions. This is a great activity for new teams where the members might not know each other well. This question lets each member talk about their family as well as their traditions and community. You may be surprised by what you learn about the members of your team, and these stories can help team members appreciate their commonalities as well as their differences.
3. Play Secret Santa
Who says you have to work in the same office in order to do a secret Santa gift exchange with your team? Secret Santa is a great way to spread joy with a touch of mystery to your remote team. It also forces your team members to learn about each other. The key to pulling this off is to give your employees plenty of time to plan, assemble, and mail their gifts. On the appointed day, gather the troops on a video conference call and perform a public unwrapping.
4. Fly Remote Workers Into the Office
If you want to be very generous this holiday season, fly all your team members to the home office to celebrate the holidays together. There really is nothing like face-to-face contact to help a team gel. Buying a couple of plane tickets and a few hotel rooms can be well worth the money if it breaks the ice between team members. The shared experiences and good vibes your in-person holiday celebration creates could help your team work even better in the new year. A happier, more cohesive team means a better work result for you!
5. Hold Virtual Contests and Games
One way to create teamwork is to have people take part in virtual contests as teams. Individual games are also great when you have only a few participants. Here are some ideas you can try:
- Trivia contests themed around the holidays
- An online scavenger hunt where people look for items in their home
- Online bingo
- Online quizzes using quizzing tools
These are just some of the ideas available to you. Leverage virtual contests and games to get people connected and improve team spirit.
6. Make a Gingerbread Home Office
For a twist on the usual gingerbread house, how about a gingerbread home office contest? For a small team, you could send materials to all contestants (e.g., graham crackers, frosting, and candies for decorating).
Have everyone send in pictures of their masterpieces and see who comes up with the most interesting design, with awards for most unique, colorful, and realistic gingerbread creations. Gift cards are always much appreciated, but extra PTO or company swag can also sweeten the deal.
7. Decorate the (Home) Office
Without a shared, decorated office space, it can be hard for your remote team to feel like it’s actually the holidays. But to encourage holiday merriment, hold an office decorating contest.
Employees can decorate their home offices however they’d like and then send a picture. Post the pictures on your company’s social media platform or in a holiday-specific instant messaging channel, and everyone can vote on the best. The winner gets an Amazon gift card to buy something for their home office. Alternatively, you can set up a video meeting to “unveil” decorations with mini-tours from each contestant.
Any one of these holiday-themed team engagement ideas will help your team bond in new and positive ways. These activities will humanize your team members, allow them to spend time with each other outside of work, and give them space to discover commonalities. When team members connect, they feel greater loyalty to each other and a higher motivation to support the team. So, start planning your next holiday-themed activity today to build a team culture.