Many companies are beginning the season of holiday parties, a festive work atmosphere, and having kickoff meetings for the year ahead. And now that 56% of companies allow remote work, the winter holidays present a new challenge for companies: including remote workers in your office's festivities and kickoff events. While your company or hybrid team may have a good handle on remote work, remote celebrations are an entirely different beast. But that's no excuse for leaving your remote employees out in the cold. Here are a few suggestions to make sure that everyone is able to join the party this year.
This approach may feel old fashioned but, frankly, it's still the best option. Your remote employees are just as much a part of the team as your in-office employees, so why shouldn't they get the chance to celebrate with everyone else? The gesture is sure to make your staff feels appreciated, and the benefits of giving your full team face-to-face time together will go a long way towards team unity and good morale. If the cost of airfare and accommodations seems prohibitive, look for other meetings in December and January that might require these employees to travel to your headquarters anyway and see if you can arrange your celebrations around those meetings.
If you can't bring all of your employees to the party, bring the party to them. Depending on the size and locations of your remote teams, you might be able to organize regional get-togethers, sponsored by your company, of course. If that's not practical, show your appreciation by helping remote workers celebrate where they live with a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant or tickets to a special holiday event. Find ways to make their celebration as identical to an in-office employee's experience. Are you taking your in-office team ice skating? Find a local skating rink and make arrangements for your remote employee to go skating with friends and family. The sky's the limit.
Why not put some time on the calendar that's just for socializing? Don't set a formal agenda; just let your team kick back and relax on a video conference call. The trick, of course, is to make this time fun for both remote and in-office employees. Serve your favorite holiday snacks and beverages, and don't forget to send care packages to your remote employees so they can enjoy the same refreshments. Delivery services like Postmates, Grubhub, and Drizly make this easier than ever. To kick start the party, play a game. There are dozens of options for online games that everyone can play, from icebreakers to trivia to board games. Jackbox Games makes fun and easy-to-play party games that show the action on a TV or computer screen, and each player uses their own mobile device to play. Set up a screen share and have a blast!
Consider having a remote office or employee host one of your annual kickoff meetings using a video conferencing camera. If you travel for kickoff, choose a location that is easy for multiple offices or employees to attend. If your company doesn't have the resources for travel, use video meetings as much as possible and make sure that everyone is in the loop for planning no matter their time zone or location.
It doesn't always take a grand gesture to make your remote employees feel included. There are plenty of little ways to spread holiday cheer to everyone. Ask everyone for their favorite holiday song and make a playlist to share with your team. Organize an optional gift exchange with a low spending limit and offer to send and receive gifts to and from remote workers by mail. Then, have everyone open their gifts during that social video conference that you've already scheduled. Even something as simple as designating an Ugly Sweater Day can be a huge hit. People are sure to get a kick out of the ugliest sweaters, and remote employees will feel more connected when they see that they're in on the fun.
The holiday season can be enjoyed by all near and far and small considerations for remote employees will go a long way. Remember - if you want to know how to best serve your remote employees, just ask them!