When people work together face to face, celebrating can be spontaneous. Without prompting, someone brings in snacks or puts up decorations to celebrate a holiday, group achievement, or personal triumph.
It may sting a little, though, when remote team members get copied on an email about a party they can’t attend or when they see photos of others celebrating.
For people who work virtually, times like these can cause underlying feelings of isolation and disengagement to resurface.
Just like in-person workgroups, virtual teams need the shared identity, community, and enthusiasm that come through celebrating together. Because virtual festivities tend to happen less frequently, virtual team members are often particularly appreciative of celebrations—no matter how simple. Each team has its own culture and humor, of course, so encourage your team members to discuss these ideas and choose how they would like to celebrate virtually.
Create cards together to mail or email.
- As a team, create a card for your customers by using a standard clip art background together with cutouts of team member photos and holiday greetings.
- For the team itself, paste a holiday image on a shared whiteboard and ask each team member to sign it online. Include small photos of each team member in the image to make it personal.
- Seek out one of the fun online ecard sites like jibjab.com and create a customized card with photos of your team members as dancing elves.
Send gift cards.
Virtual teams are often more diverse in their membership than face-to-face teams, so selecting one gift that will suit everyone may be a challenge. Instead, consider these options:
- Give people gift cards to a coffee shop or restaurant that you know has a location near each team member (web searching makes this easy). Make the amount large enough for two people to enjoy, and ask team members to share photos. Set the stage by being the first to share your photo as you wear your Santa hat and drink your peppermint latte with your daughter, for example.
- Give people gift cards to a chain store or online retailer and ask team members to share a photo or description of what they purchased. This is a fun way for everyone to gain insight into each other’s personalities, hobbies, and interests, and it promotes familiarity among team members.
Have a party.
- For a special treat, use a web platform that allows streaming from multiple webcams. Individuals calling from home can walk their camera around to show holiday decorations or introduce family members or pets.
- Ask individuals to come to the party prepared to share their favorite holiday recipe (with a photo) or to discuss holiday traditions that are meaningful for them.
- Have team members dress for the occasion! Consider holding a holiday sweater or funny hat contest with the team voting for the winner.
- During the party, ask team members to reflect on a team accomplishment or event that was particularly significant or to express appreciation for a fellow team member who provided great support during the year.
- Consider adding some simple team activities to help members get to know each other. Individuals could share their most unusual job, guess the hobbies of other team members, or look at photos of desks and identify what the desk reveals about its owner.
If your team is daring.
- Sign up the group for an online multi-player game to discover treasure or solve a problem together.
- Consider using one of the online karaoke sites to have the group sing together for group bonding.
The research is clear: teams that demonstrate good humor and friendly relationships are more productive. Although it takes collaboration, creativity, and effort, your team members will appreciate the enthusiasm and community that comes with celebrating together.
About the author
Carmela Sperlazza Southers is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies who specializes in increasing organizational, team, and leader effectiveness in the virtual work world.