When I first started my company, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I’d never built a startup or run a nonprofit before. But the pandemic had just begun, and I knew I needed to do something to help the 40 percent of Americans who couldn’t afford a $400 emergency long before COVID-19 further destroyed our social safety nets.
So I reached out to my neighbors, my co-workers, and my friends of friends.
A few weeks in, we secured a team of more than 30 passionate individuals who worked on nights and weekends building a functioning platform to help the people who needed it most. Everyone was remote, and everyone was a volunteer, so I learned quickly that building a community online was not only harder than doing so in an office, but that it was even more important.
Community is what makes the late nights easier. It’s what helps us show up for each other on the tough days. And it’s what allows us to celebrate all of our wins, whether it’s a successful campaign or helping a neighbor, even from afar.
[ Related read: 9 ways to show gratitude to your team. ]
This holiday season, I’m planning several special ways to celebrate with my remote team. And in the spirit of neighborliness, I’m sharing my eight best ideas with you:
1. Get crafty together
Remember when the holidays meant homemade cards and pipe-cleaner snowflakes? Bring back some of that unbridled creativity (albeit slightly elevated) by sending craft kits to your employees’ homes and hosting a Zoom session where you can craft together. One idea is a festive wreath kit – bonus points if you buy yours from a small business – but you can also do this activity with snow globes, ornaments, and other items.
2. Raise a glass
Virtual cocktail hour is way more fun than it sounds. Try inviting a professional to assist your team in whipping up spiced eggnog or a hot toddy. Mulled cider would be great for a nice mocktail, too. If you have the budget, broaden your event to include not only your employees, but their families and partners as well. If you’re planning to send a nice bottle of bubbly, send enough for two. It’s a nice way to get to know the people who are important to your team members.
3. Share a holiday recipe
One of the best things about my team is its diversity. I love learning about everyone’s different holiday memories and what dishes show up on their celebratory tables. In our mid-December team meeting, I’ll ask each person to share the recipe for one of their favorite personal or family dishes along with a photo of them enjoying it. As a bonus, I’ll collect all the recipes into a book to share with the entire team.
4. Give back as a team
Your all-virtual team might not be able to take a soup kitchen shift together, but you can collaborate to raise money for a cause you care about. Have employees nominate charitable organizations they want to support and offer to match their contributions if your company is able.
5. Secret Santa, virtual edition
Who doesn’t enjoy a little gifting? Use online tools to set up a “Secret Santa” drawing – with a budget included – and have employees either buy gifts with enough time to ship, or, considering today’s supply-chain reality, give digital books, gift certificates, or donations.
6. Host a virtual scavenger hunt
Catering to employees with young children, give everyone a set amount of time to find as many holiday-themed items as they can and see who can check off the most – think everything from ice skates and wrapping paper to holiday cards and gingerbread cookies.
7. Go on a holiday tour
If your team is nationally or globally distributed, ask team members to describe how holidays such as Hanukkah, Las Posada, Kwanzaa, and others are celebrated in their region. From local delicacies to videos of lit-up trees and bustling holiday markets, you’ll get to celebrate all around the world.
8. Gift holiday team swag
Everyone loves a cozy sweatshirt, and one that features your company’s logo on it makes a fun team Zoom uniform. Send a quick survey first to make sure you’re sending out swag that people will actually use – are your people more into pullovers or portable speakers?
With a little creativity, you can celebrate the holiday season in a memorable way, regardless of your team’s size, location, or budget. Happy holidays to you and yours!
[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]
What to read next
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
Keep up with the latest advice and insights from CIOs and IT leaders.