Thriving and connected remote cultures don’t happen by accident. They aren’t growing wild on candy cane trees in unicorn startup land but they also aren’t only in your imagination. If you want to have a genuine culture made up of things like teamwork and giving back despite being in a completely virtual workplace, you’ll need to do more than wish upon a star.
One of our biggest culture-building events of the year is our all-team holiday party. In this article, we’re pulling back the curtain to show just how, and more importantly, why XWP pulls together this epic annual event for its 100+ community members around the globe.
As Simon always says… we’re starting with “why.” Truly, the reasons behind this festive event are much more important than the finer details of how. We don’t have the luxury of serendipitous hallway meetups and breakroom banter; we have to create social connection on purpose, in clearly defined events. We want to capture all the appreciation, celebration, and accomplishments represented by the incredible people who make up this team.
With the long days of a record breaking year now in the past, individuals across the organization have worked hard to create impactful accomplishments for XWP’s clients, their colleagues, themselves, and their families. It’s a steady stream of output, which brings its own rewards. XWP’s holiday party is a way to balance the output with the input. We talk a lot about work-life harmony, but input/output balance is another important topic that gets less airtime. The XWP holiday party is all about creating an environment where XWPeople can feel the company giving back to them and celebrating who we are, together.
The 5 Components of an Amazing Holiday Party for a Globally Distributed Team
1. Think beyond North America.
We’re an Australian company with XWPeople all over the map. Many team members are in North America, but many are not. There are two main ways we break out of the American-centric mindset that seems to prevail among tech companies.
When a community expands to more than 30 countries, there’s more than one take on the holiday season. The XWP Holiday party lets each person, regardless of location, culture, or belief celebrate a holiday that is meaningful to them and accepted by all XWPeople. That means we get to highlight XWPeople who are celebrating Diwali, Thanksgiving, Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Kwanzaa, and the Chinese New Year. There are so many rich experiences to share!
Finding a time that works for everyone to attend is no small feat. This year we’re choosing…
2. Plan ahead.
Unfortunately, the best holiday parties aren’t planned when autumn leaves begin to change (in the northern hemisphere, that is). So if you’re reading this in November in hopes of a December Holiday Party, it’s not entirely too late, but you’ll probably want to start a bit earlier next year.
Supply drops. Before anyone logs on, our people ops team has already ordered, packaged, and shipped all the swag, gifts, and cheer needed to make the holiday party a success
It might seem like a bit of an ordeal. But have you ever successfully managed to get over 100 people to dress-up, purchase the right food and drink from all around the globe? Trust us, it’s easier sending it out.
3. Survey your Team.
This isn’t just an awards ceremony: they’re boring. We want to make sure, as much as possible, that the components of the party are connected with every individual. So sending out a survey a few months in advance to gather vital information is super helpful and allows a connection to components of the party.
- Awards: Are not selected by managers/leaders. Peers vote and have a say in who is celebrated.
- Media: Whether it is a video wishing the team a happy holiday season, or a picture of themselves as a child, gathering media via the holiday party form is easier. 😀
- Personal stories: Hearing how and why people celebrate what holidays. (these help create our Holiday-Season-Team-Bios). Also to hear those stories about the impact the Community has made the past year.
- Holidays celebrated. Rather than assuming who celebrates what, based on location/culture, we ask everyone. This way we mention it directly and celebrate the holiday together on the specific date and during the party.
4. Programming, not just for web developers.
This is the part of the party that seems most obvious. What are you actually going to do during the party? We’ve broken our program down into these key components:
- Appreciation: Special messages from founders and senior leaders.
- Celebration: A fun sort of awards and prizes for individual and team achievements.
- Fun and Games: There are plenty of online games or ice breaking activities that translate well to a group video chat including raffles and giveaways.
- Videos: A special medley of the people who make up the team sharing a cultural specific holiday greeting.
Getting into the holiday spirit for a party like this shouldn’t be another added burden on top of all the work that XWPeople already do. Not to mention that some of them will be waking up at 4:30am (UTC-7) to join the party this year. We’ve made an effort to reduce as much friction as possible by delivering all of the essentials needed to participate in an XWP Holiday Party right to each person’s home. All they really need to do is open their box, show up, and have a blast.
We don’t mean to claim that we are the only ones to have figured out how to have a smashing success when it comes to throwing a virtual holiday party for your remote team. After all, the number of distributed teams around the world are growing rapidly, and there are many other ideas out there. If you’ve had success with other tactics, please Tweet with us and share ideas with us and other party planners. In the meantime, we hope this article will help your holiday planning come together as seamlessly as possible for your distributed team.