At Gallardo Labs, while we have been working 100% remote for 5+ years now, we have never done a virtual team happy hour before. Shocked? Well, since work/life balance is core to our success, the idea of “inviting” people to stay after hours to video chat with the same people they’ve been video chatting with all week just didn’t fit our team model. But in the light of our worlds being turned inside out lately (or technically outside in), we thought we’d give it a shot…because we needed it. Here’s how we did it and what we learned:
While coordinating a day/time, we tried to make it as casual as possible. IRL happy hours aren’t planned weeks in advance. They typically happen on Friday and are planned the afternoon of or the day prior (depending on how stressful that particular week was). So we actively tried not to give our planning too much thought. Since everyone is stuck home anyways, we didn’t have trouble coordinating schedules. Thursday we announced it was happening at 5pm on Friday. I blocked off 2 hours on everyone’s calendars since we have multiple time zones to work around and made sure the team knew they could come and go as they please. (I wasn’t a big fan of the calendar blocking since it could look a work meeting, but we couldn’t figure out a way around it…open to suggestions!)
Happy hours never have planned activities (unless they are taking place at a 5yr old’s birthday party). But they do allow multiple mini-conversations to happen at once, so the topics are always flowing. In a virtual happy hour, everyone is part of one single conversation. If a topic fizzles, it can be super awkward.
We decided to have two very simple conversation starters in case this happened. We focused on ones that would help us loosen up and get to know each other beyond our star-quality professional selves. In the meeting invite, I sent along two activities to plan for:
Two truths and a lie: Everyone thinks of 3 short stories to tell us about themselves. 2 of them must be true and 1 must be a lie. Everyone tries to guess which one is the lie. (Some laugh attacks were definitely caused with this one.)
10 things: It’s simple. Just tell us 10 random things about you! (Note: we ended up talking and laughing so much with the first exercise that we didn’t even get to this one.)
Well right now it’s obviously at home, but we’d recommend picking up your laptop and sitting somewhere outside of your designated workspace. The entire idea of happy hour is to unwind from work. If you’re sitting at your desk, you’ll still be mentally at work. Bonus: you get to see people’s houses as well. It was our little version of Cribs (minus the chandeliers).
Virtual happy hours are not just for the cool kids. Everyone and everyone on the team should be invited. If they can’t make it, no biggie. If they can make it, ask them to bring their partners, kids, and pets. As much as we all love our work team, let’s face it – we love our family more. For us, it was beyond awesome to get to see kids running around, significant others getting to share in our stories, pets chilling in lap, and even a newborn baby!
Food & Drink
You can’t have happy hour without drinks (and if you’re drinking alcohol and a lightweight like myself, I’d recommend not having those drinks without food!). If you’re a leader in the company, treat your team to their favorite food and drink. What we did is just have them order it from their preferred local delivery service, save the receipt, and we send them the cash.
All in all, our first virtual happy hour was a HUGE success – and yours can be too. I think we all woke up today refreshed, slightly hung over, and ready to forge ahead next week trying to make some good in the world. Cheers!