We’ve all had a few years to adjust to the new realities of remote work–and for most of us, they’re great! You get to skip the soul-crushing hours of traffic and wear sweats all day, too. As far as morale-boosting, those two things are priceless. But it’s not enough for your team to love working at home–you want them to love working at home for your company. So how do you do all the fun team-building activities that used to be a snap to arrange, when you’ve got treasured employees scattered across the country? How do you celebrate Thanksgiving remotely, when togetherness is one of its most important themes?
Don’t sweat it! It’s not as hard as you think. We’ve put together a handy guide for how to put on team building activities with a sweet-potato-pie spin. Read on!
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First things first. Before you get caught up in recipes, gossip about that one cousin, and thinking about what you’re thankful for, it’s crucial to pause and acknowledge the significance of Native American Heritage Month. Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without the contributions of Native Americans, and ignoring it is a major missed opportunity for your organization’s DEI initiatives. Incorporating educational sessions, sharing resources about Native American heritage, and offering meaningful financial support for your local tribal nations sets a respectful tone for your Thanksgiving celebration.
Begin the festivities with a heartfelt Thanksgiving message to your team. A message that encapsulates gratitude and camaraderie can set a positive tone. It’ll only ring true if you’re showing your gratitude year-round, and with more than just words–but since you’re here, we’re willing to bet you already are.
Boosting morale and fostering a positive work environment is crucial, especially in remote teams. Combining the concepts of hosting a Gratitude Workshop and constructing a virtual Gratitude Wall offers a comprehensive approach to expressing and sharing gratitude, contributing to improved mental health and job satisfaction.
To kick off this initiative, start by hosting a Gratitude Workshop on a virtual meeting platform. Encourage each participant to list down three aspects of their professional or personal life they are thankful for. To make it engaging, provide prompts like “A colleague who made a difference” or “A project that made you proud,” but leave it open ended so participants feel free to share what matters to them. This activity can unveil inspiring stories and unknown facets of your teammates, fostering a sense of belonging.
Simultaneously, create a persistent virtual Gratitude Wall using a shared online space, such as a collaborative document or a designated channel on your communication platform. Here, team members can continuously post messages, images, or quotes expressing appreciation. The contributions can range from thanking a colleague for support on a challenging project to expressing gratitude for the overall positive work environment.
Visualizing each other’s responses during the workshop and having a constant flow of thankful messages on the Gratitude Wall serve as reminders of the supportive community within your team. This combined approach promotes unity and positivity, making the remote work environment more pleasant and motivating.
Partake in a virtual Thanksgiving-themed cooking class! There’ll be no crowding in the kitchen when your entire team is on-screen instead of in your way. You’ll share laughs, conversation, and delicious food. And if someone burns the main course, you still get to eat!
Engage a professional chef to guide your team through the steps of preparing classic Thanksgiving meals. Team members follow along in their kitchens, asking questions and sharing their progress live. Virtual cooking classes are an innovative, memorable, and delicious way to bring your remote team together.
If you’re absolutely certain that everyone on your team is a disaster in the kitchen, maybe you kick it back one level of intensity and offer a virtual Thanksgiving happy hour, instead! Your remote team may not be able to enjoy water-cooler conversations, but a casual sip at the tail end of a work day will lift everyone’s spirits (pun intended!) in much the same way.
You could just tell everyone to grab a drink of their choice, but Thanksgiving is a time to go all out. A Virtual Mixology Workshop turns your employees into a bartender for a day. For a bonus, make sure to send everyone a bottle of the main ingredient, too. (Just don’t forget to offer options that are respectful of your sober employees!)
If your team needs a little extra push to get the energy going, a Virtual Thanksgiving Trivia session can be a great way to kick off your celebrations while also serving as an effective ice breaker.
Start by crafting a diverse set of questions ranging from historical facts about Thanksgiving to pop culture references involving the holiday. For instance, questions could range from “Which President declared Thanksgiving a national holiday?” to “Name a popular Thanksgiving-themed episode from a TV show.” If you’re having trouble coming up with your own Thanksgiving trivia, feel free to check out our list here!
Using virtual platforms, divide your team into smaller groups and keep score. This can inspire teamwork and allow individuals who may not often interact to collaborate and have fun. The sense of camaraderie and friendly rivalry can bring life to the virtual workspace.
The ‘Thanksgiving This or That’ game can be a lively and entertaining addition to your virtual celebration. It serves as an easy-going activity that requires minimal preparation while ensuring maximum fun.
In this game, you present two options related to Thanksgiving, and participants quickly choose their preference. For example, “Pumpkin Pie or Apple Pie?” or “Watching the Parade or Football?”. It can be conducted over a video call or even as an asynchronous activity where responses are collected over time.
The quick decision-making nature of the game leads to amusing debates and discussions, making it an excellent ice breaker. It allows team members to share personal preferences, often leading to laughter and lighthearted banter, which can be essential for maintaining team spirit in a remote setup.
The Thanksgiving season offers a unique opportunity to turn collective gratitude into action. Organizing virtual charity drives or fundraisers as a remote team is a wonderful way to give back to the community. This collective effort not only contributes positively to society but also brings your team closer, fostering a sense of shared purpose and achievement.
For instance, you can host an online auction of skills or items, with the proceeds going to a chosen charity. Team members could offer anything from a personalized artwork to a one-on-one professional development session. Alternatively, setting up a virtual fundraising page where members can contribute directly is also impactful. Such initiatives nurture a compassionate culture and enhance team unity through the shared experience of contributing to a common cause.
The significance of employee recognition can’t be overstated (It’s so important that we put it in the introduction AND body text of this article)! Thanksgiving provides the perfect backdrop to acknowledge and appreciate your team’s hard work and dedication.
Try hosting a virtual award ceremony where employees are recognized for their contributions. Categories could range from “Most Innovative Idea” to “Team Player of the Year.” Tailoring the awards to your team’s unique dynamics can make the recognition more personal and meaningful. Celebrating these achievements fosters a sense of belonging, boosting morale and encouraging continued excellence.
Acknowledging and respecting your team members’ personal commitments is a testament to empathetic leadership. Consider making the Wednesday and Friday of Thanksgiving week paid holidays. This gesture not only offers your team the opportunity to spend quality time with their families but also signals an understanding and respect for their work-life balance.
Such considerations go a long way in enhancing employee satisfaction and loyalty. By allowing your team the space to enjoy their personal time, you’re reinforcing a culture of care and empathy.
Thanksgiving may be celebrated in November, but the spirit of gratitude and appreciation can and should extend year-round. Cultivate a culture where recognizing and celebrating team members is a continual practice.
Implement regular shout-outs in team meetings or create a dedicated channel for appreciation on your communication platforms. By regularly acknowledging achievements, large and small, you keep the morale high and ensure that the feeling of being valued isn’t just restricted to the holiday season.
In doing so, you build a resilient and positive work environment that thrives on mutual respect and continuous appreciation.
Celebrating Thanksgiving with your remote team is not just about the festivities but also about building lasting bonds. While distance may physically separate us, the essence of Thanksgiving – gratitude, recognition, and camaraderie – can bring teams closer. So, personalize your virtual Thanksgiving, enjoy, and remember, the spirit of giving thanks knows no boundaries.
Explore our virtual and in-person cooking classes, mixology experiences and more — all hosted by Black chefs and culinary creators.