Okay, any event that mixes work and play can feel a little awkward, and possibly even stiff and stilted. And yet, there’s no denying the sort of benefits that go hand in hand with in-office socializing. Where else can you strengthen bonds with your team and your boss in an atmosphere where everyone is encouraged to let their hair down (within reason)?
So, the question now is, how do you bring about this same spirit of camaraderie within a remote team? While telecommuting allows you to hire anyone regardless of their geographical location, having a workforce that’s scattered all over the globe does present logistical difficulties when it comes to organizing the annual office Christmas party.
If you’re willing to make a few adjustments, on the other hand, the following suggestions ought to make company-wide festivities possible regardless of actual distance:
1. Consider flying in your workers for a party.
If your entire remote staff resides in one area or one country, you can consider having someone plan a special dinner some place that’s accessible to everyone, and then shoulder the costs for bringing them to the said location. It’s okay if some people can’t make it to the party: what’s important is that everyone got invitations so they will feel included.
If your company employs workers from various far-flung countries, an alternative would be to deploy your senior officers to those locations so they can host celebrations in respective satellite offices and thus catch up on how everyone is doing.
2. Failing that, use technology to arrange virtual holiday celebrations.
Let’s say your work force is too scattered or that your company isn’t making enough money yet for you to foot travel expenses. One way to still bring in the festive spirit this season is to have a remote party with your remote colleagues.
Basically, it’s just like having a Skype team call, except there’s no work agenda and everyone is encouraged to dress up in festive casual wear (i.e., those ugly holiday sweaters with reindeer or snowmen on them, or if you work in tropical countries like the Philippines, perhaps a Santa hat will do).
The thing with virtual parties is that they need more structure than an in-house party, so you guys can have games like “Two Truths and a Lie” to get the conversation started. As with any formal social interaction, steer clear of any religious or political topics just to be on the safe side.
3.Distribute gifts that will appear especially hand-picked for remote employees.
Company-branded gifts, such as the rather tired logo-stamped mugs, are great and all, but your employees would appreciate more thoughtful gifts that are uniquely tailored for their equally unique working set-up.
Some companies send their remote workers a snack box of the sort of food served at headquarters, for instance, while there’s also a firm that once dispatched personalized slippers to their telecommuters (possibly as a nod to how the latter sometimes do their work in comfy loungewear).
If you’re in a pinch, having your people treat their families to lunch or dinner on the company dime (you can either give gift certificates or add a meal allowance for this purpose to each paycheck) is also a great way to make them feel valued, not to mention show their loved ones that yes, remote work is a legitimate way to make a living, working in your pajamas at home notwithstanding.
Now, what about the costs? Flying people in for a party doesn’t come cheap, and neither does flying out a manager to a satellite office just to hobnob with staff there, sure.
But bear in mind that it’s important for all your telecommuters to feel like they’re more than just mere cogs in the company wheel, and given the sheer amount of money you save by hiring remotely (not to mention the levels of productivity and profitability a great team can bring in), it probably won’t hurt your balance sheets that much, if at all, to give a little something back this time of year.