Virtual Happy Hours: The Key Ingredients for a Good Time

By Anastasia Alm on April 23rd, 2020
During this time, it’s more important than ever that companies do what they can to facilitate meaningful connections in the workplace. From fostering more effective communication to generating a deeper appreciation for one another’s eccentricities, getting to know your coworkers on a personal, not-just-work level has true benefits. Although some companies, like San Francisco-based Handshake, have been doing virtual happy hours for weeks now, some of us are just catching on. And it’s not too late to join the fun! We at HNM started hosting virtual happy hours for our employees across the country and have found some key ingredients for a good time. Check out these top tips that you can bring back to your team.

1. Create the right environment.

Good lighting and minimum ambient noise are musts. Sit where you’re comfortable, whether at your couch or outdoor patio. Keep the group to 5-10 people, or assign a moderator to keep the conversation flowing smoothly and ensure that everyone is part of the conversation.

Use grid view, so you can see everyone’s faces and are able to tell when someone is trying to speak up. Be a good listener because side conversations don’t work well in a video call.

2. Pick some icebreakers and conversation starters.

Ask your group to share something that has made them laugh or smile during quarantine, or have them describe a childhood pet.

Play Two Truths and a Lie, in which each person shares two truths and one lie about themself and the group has to guess which statement is a lie.

Have each person privately message you, the moderator, an interesting fact about themselves in a game of “Whodunit”. Then, you share a list of the facts in a group chat, and each person takes a turn guessing who-did-what.

Use the whiteboarding feature on Zoom and an online word generator to play Pictionary. Or just pantomime the words you get in a game of Charades.

Before you get started, be sure to peruse our guide to Zoom etiquette.

Whatever icebreakers and conversation starters you choose, remember to keep the conversation light and avoid topics that stir anxiety, such as politics and finance.

3. Mix up the theme.

Trying your hand at a Quarantini (an improvised martini essentially made with whatever liquor you have in the house) can be fun, but the traditional happy hour routine of grabbing a drink and chatting loses its pizazz after so long.

When that happens, mix things up with a new theme like a cooking class or an art project.

You can choose a cooking class in the happy hour territory, too. For instance, walk your group through a twist to an old fashioned, an introduction to mocktails, or a spunky appetizer.

Zappos, often revered for its positive work culture, hosted a group art project led by its own artist in residence. Krissee Chasseur, Zappos’ brand aura research and development lead says, “We sent out a materials list ahead of time—just a few simple things that anyone could find around their home—and during happy hour he taught us a really cool technique for making shadow puppets with paper and string. We asked everyone who was crafting along with us to activate their cameras and mics so people could follow along with their work.”

Whether you’re making shadow puppets or painting wine glasses, find art projects that are approachable to all skill levels and don’t take longer than an hour.

Try a talent show or trivia night, like Handshake did to mix things up. Involve an expert in the conversation, like a meditation guru or yoga instructor.

Or if you really are over happy hour, forget the concept altogether and do virtual work lunches instead, in which team members order a work-sponsored lunch via Uber Eats or Grubhub and meet over video.

With the right environment, a handful of upbeat conversation starters, and interesting themes, you’ll be set for success with your virtual happy hours.

Like these ideas? Find more inspiration to promote positivity in the workplace on our social media channels. Follow us on LinkedIn today!