Learning & Development

3 Holiday-Themed Ways to Connect With Your Hybrid Team

Hybrid work is officially the new normal. The majority of us hopefully see this as a huge step forward, considering the many benefits it’s bringing to employers and employees alike. From increased flexibility and greater hiring opportunities to better work/life balance, remote work is the gift that keeps on giving. However, as we adapt to this new remote reality, we must keep in mind that our traditions and culture are potentially shifting, as well. One that’s top of mind, considering the time of year, is the time-honored tradition of the end-of-year holiday office party. The subject of many sitcom episodes, holiday events are a key part of team relationship-building and company culture, so it’s important to bring them to remote work life.

hybrid team strategies

One of the biggest challenges hybrid teams face is the inability to connect in a casual environment. One unsurprising fact: Remote employees reportedly feel two times less engaged and disconnected from their company’s culture and employees compared with in-person workers. As we continue down this hybrid work path, it’s crucial to increase our focus on avoiding employee burnout and prioritizing employees’ experience.

Here are some fun teambuilding activities HR leaders can use during online meetings, presentations, or virtual hangouts to build positive morale and increase employee motivation all holiday season long.

Make the First Five Minutes Fun

The first 5 minutes of a meeting can be awkward. We’ve all been there, waiting while others turn on their cameras, adjust their mics, and chat briefly about the weather. How about this: Instead of checking e-mail or sitting quietly for the first few minutes while people trickle in, meeting leaders can create seasonal live polls as a conversation starter. This avoids the silence and gets your people engaged from the moment the meeting starts.

Start by asking some of the following: What’s the best holiday cookie and why? What’s your favorite holiday memory? If you could have any beverage at a holiday party, which would it be? What holiday ritual from a culture other than your own would you love to be invited to? Unpopular opinion: Which holiday food would you want to get rid of completely? Personally, I would get rid of the Christmas ham in a heartbeat. Nobody ever talks about a life-changing ham. The point is, personal conversations about childhood memories and best holiday times don’t just happen, but you’ll notice that once you open the floor for sharing, many will jump in, and the conversation will carry on naturally. You’ll notice people start to get really creative, so sit back and enjoy getting to know your teammates better.

Get People Talking

Getting employees to connect is key to fostering team spirit. Team connection has always been essential, but it’s challenging now that many teams haven’t met in person for a very long time. Amid the great talent shuffle, some teams have never met in person. Employees who aren’t actively engaged in conversation, especially those who started virtually in the past 20 months, can easily feel isolated and disconnected.

Encourage conversation with icebreaker topics like “this or that.” For example, would you want to experience Christmas in 1700 or 2100? Candy canes or gingerbread cookies? A fancy holiday party or a casual one? These low-pressure questions will help incite a casual hangout that sparks fun debates. Employees will get to share their stories, laugh, and enjoy that casual environment they’ve been lacking.

Don’t Forget to Check-in

We’re all busy, especially around the holidays. Between the end-of-year reporting and new year planning at work and personal life and travel plans, people can feel overwhelmed quickly. In a hybrid work environment, the visual signs of burnout that we knew how to tune into might go overlooked.

Regular “pulse checks” are important for gauging employee satisfaction and identifying early signs of burnout. Typically, these surveys are short, three- to five-question surveys that are sent weekly or monthly to check in with employees. They are great for gathering feedback that can be later turned into actionable items to boost company culture. In the early pandemic, these were essential for understanding our employees’ concerns and tailoring our updates to address their collective anxieties. Short, frequent check-ins are also known to increase employee engagement. A leader’s most important task is to inspire and support his or her team. Take this time of the year to check in. Ask team members how they are feeling, and use that feedback to ensure you can best serve them for the upcoming post-holiday season.

Here’s to the Upcoming Year!

In the shift to long-term hybrid work, there will be many critical conversations about how to maintain efficiency and productivity, but fun should not be overlooked as a core pillar of success. Creating an environment with a wide range of fun and interactive activities can be a game-changer for your company’s culture that will help attract and retain more employees as remote work becomes standard practice. Grab your fun questions, and get ready to start creating some different—but very fun—new holiday traditions with your hybrid teams.

Jeff Vyduna is the CEO and Cofounder of Poll Everywhere, the first audience response system to use mobile devices. Poll Everywhere was founded in 2008 and participated in Y Combinator. Previously, Jeff was the CIO of a school district in Guatemala City, as well as a Senior Consultant at Deloitte Consulting, where he put several audiences to sleep with boring presentations and crowded slides.