Celebrating the Holidays With a Virtual Workforce
This became particularly apparent to my team as we approached the holidays one year.
Our consulting team was formed nearly 15 years ago when completely virtual workforces were quite uncommon. But we literally spanned the country, from Boston to LA.
Each year, as holiday time rolled around, many of our friends, spouses/partners, and even colleagues at Bright Horizons began planning office holiday parties. And we wondered, where was our get together?
This was an important question. Feeling connected can be difficult if you only see each other in-person once - maybe twice - a year.
How could we strengthen our virtual team's sense of connection, not just for the holidays, but all year round?It took a little imagination to realize we could have our own get together - but with a twist. We created our first holiday party, only like our working arrangement, it would be virtual.
The rules are simple: one person on the team is designated as the holiday fairy. She receives a budget and the happy task of creating "party boxes" that are sent to each team member with instructions to leave them unopened until party time. We also choose Secret Pal names for gift exchanges, picking names and delivering gifts anonymously to recipients in time for the party.
At the designated time, we dial into the conference line (and now video chat) and spend about 90 minutes together opening the party box, which contains a variety of fun food, little gifts (warm, fuzzy socks for the winter ; as an example), and a craft. The craft is where things get interesting. As you can imagine, there are some on the team who are naturals with a glue gun while others believe it is an exercise in torture. The fun comes in watching each other figure out how to do the craft (making tie-knot blankets, an ornament, or even a gingerbread house). The year we did the gingerbread houses was particularly fun since it required us to use electric mixers to make the icing etc. By the time we were done, there was icing everywhere. We then open our individual Secret Pal gift and try to guess who sent it.
Connecting matters for a virtual workforceThe tradition has held ever since. In fact, the format has become such a success that we've replicated the process for baby and wedding showers. It is a wonderful, creative way to celebrate as a group ; even when we're not together.
That's our strategy. I'm sure other virtual teams have their own. In this age of virtual offices and widely dispersed workforces, these kinds of approaches can effectively bridge the divide between geographies. And they're essential.
After all, we may work effectively from the privacy of our own, individual offices. But it's still critical that we always feel like a team - connected and comfortable reaching out to each other.