Virtual office Christmas party: ideas and inspiration
From festive baking, craft workshops and virtual escape-room games to wine tasting, karaoke and comedy nights, here’s how to throw a great virtual Christmas party
GOOD, CLEAN FUN
Virtual Secret Santa
Secret Santa – whereby everyone in the company anonymously gifts one other person – can still be played remotely. First things first, set a budget. Then, use a gift exchange generator, such as Elfster, to communicate who’s giving to whom to all those participating.
No hunting for bargains on the high street this year. Instead, why not browse the wares of independent craft-makers at the Online Crafty Fox Market (Saturday 5 December, 11am - 5pm), or via NotOnTheWestEnd, a virtual marketplace selling jewellery, home decor, gifts and more, made by out-of-work theatremakers.
Whether you’ve had new members join your workforce who you’re yet to meet in person, or the remote working has left you feeling out of touch with one another, an ice breaker might be in order before a day of virtual socialising. Yolking From Home by Steamed Egg offers online team building events for up to 150 participants. Orchestrated by a live host, the games are designed to encourage colleagues to get to know one another and communicate under light-hearted pressure.
But first, fitness
If your workforce shares a love of exercise, you could get your office Christmas party off to a healthy start with a group fitness class. Stretching the City is an organisation hired by businesses to look after their corporate wellbeing schemes. Ordinarily, the company would send in teachers to lead fitness classes on site, but with employees now dispersed and working from home, Stretching the City has taken its business model online, offering hour-long yoga and Pilates sessions over Zoom for up to 100 participants at any one time.
For something a little more upbeat, look to boutique gym group Frame, which offers an entire range of ‘party’ classes which can be enjoyed online, including 80s aerobics, Frame rave and making your own music video.
Bond through baking
Artisan bakery Bread Ahead made a name for itself serving some of the best-loved loaves in the city. But the bakery also runs masterclasses out of several of its branches and, since the pandemic, has launched a virtual e-baking platform. For an office Christmas party with a delicious twist, tune into one of its festive tutorials. Launching on Sunday 29 November and running throughout December, these classes are a chance to perfect your mince pies, Yule logs and festive party foods.
Alternatively, take creative control into your own hands by ordering a biscuit-decorating kit from Biscuiteers for each employee. Then you can all decorate your own over Zoom, awarding a prize to the winning design.
If you and your colleagues are creative types, why not get arty together at a virtual craft workshop? Tea and Crafting offers a range of different workshops over Zoom. Among its Christmas range are classes in lino printing, vegan candle-making, wreath weaving and Christmas crackers – just ensure you sign up and purchase your kits well in advance. The best bit? You’ll walk away with your own hand-made decorations or gifts.
Meanwhile Sculpd offers DIY pottery kits, candle-making kits and corporate pottery masterclasses. Kits are sent out in advance so that all you have to do on the day is log in and get sculpting in one of its expert-led workshops.
You could also let creativity flow and stress levels melt away with a virtual drawing or painting masterclass. PopUp Painting Live offers private tutorials for groups in which you’ll be guided through re-creating a masterpiece in under an hour. All materials are sent out to homes in advance, so you don’t need to worry about art supplies. Its Zoom-based sessions can hold up to 30 attendees.
Gourmet recipe kits from London’s best restaurants
While restaurants and bars might not be open, you can still bring professional standard catering (and mixology) into the homes of your workforce thanks to many top restaurants offering nationwide deliveries of recipe kits. The evolution of the takeaway, these easy-to-assemble meals can be compiled at home and are a sumptuous solution to catering for a virtual Christmas party held over Zoom. Certain restaurants, including Vivek Singh’s delectable Indian restaurant The Cinnamon Club, are specifically marketing their delivery services to large groups, offering to drop off meals to over 20 households per order.
Wine tasting events
If, ordinarily, the drinks would be the focus of your Christmas party, why not make it so in the digital sphere with a wine-tasting masterclass? Mayfair’s Hedonism wines hosts private virtual tasting events every Friday, for which bottles must be ordered in advance. Meanwhile, for wine tasting with a touch of playful, sensory magic, look to Vignette Wine. Run by wine connoisseur Sophie Griffiths, tastings can be personalised depending on your group’s preference in colour, region and price point.
Several of London’s top cocktail bars including Tayer/Elementary, Swift, Hacha and Lyaness are offering pre-batched versions of some of their signature creations which can be delivered to your door (postcode depending). Or, make an activity out of it, by buying the ingredients for your chosen tipple then shaking and stirring alongside Ryan ‘Mr Lyan’ Chetiyawardana – one of the world’s best mixologists and the man behind Southbank bar Lyaness – via his series of online cocktail-making workshops on MasterClass. You could also make the experience more interactive, tailoring it to your colleagues' tastes, with a virtual mixology masterclass hosted by The Cocktail Service.
If the sound of clinking beers was formerly the bell signalling the end of a hard week's work (and you’re the one with the company credit card responsible for getting the rounds in), why not surprise your colleagues with a pick ’n’ mix crate of craft brews? Beer52, Beer Hawk and Signature Brew’s Pub in a Box are three suppliers offering such services.
Quizmaster Kate Butch
Personalised quizzes, whereby one eagle-eyed member of the team puts together a quiz riddled with in-jokes about the company and the habits of its employees, can still be enjoyed on Zoom and can be a great ice-breaker for your virtual office Christmas party. (Just make sure all employees are clear on the deadline for sending in any photos, facts or anecdotes, and suggest that everyone has a drink to hand should things get awkward.)
However, if you’d prefer to outsource your entertainment, there are a number of stellar services boasting professional quizmasters keen to host your event. Last Home Standing is a fun-loving, fast-paced virtual quiz comprised of true or false questions, challenges, and games sure to get everybody laughing. Each corporate quiz comes with a comedian host, live DJ, producer and prizes for the winners.
Another quizmaster offering bespoke corporate gigs is the award-winning London drag queen Kate Butch, whose Nightmare Before Quizmas quiz includes five Christmas-themed rounds hosted by Butch herself (who also delivers a knock-out drag-queen speech), plus a live DJ, producer and bundle of prizes.
THEATRE AND COMEDY
Are you an arts-loving team missing the West End and all its glittering magic? Several innovative theatre companies have boldly reworked and recorded shows so that audiences can enjoy them online. (Our festive pick of the season is Jack Thorne’s A Christmas Carol at the Old Vic.)
If it’s the bright lights, larks and laughs of late-night entertainment you’re craving, comedians, too, can be found online – and hired to curate a show just for your workforce.
Bringing the tomfoolery of pantomime season into homes across the country is stand-up star and one-man-band Tom Houghton. The comedian offers bespoke corporate packages that see costumes and scripts delivered to the homes of all watching – nay, participating! – colleagues, as you’ll need to help him tell the tale.
Those with a generous budget might look to The Comedy Club, a directory of over 1,000 comedians, including some of the biggest names on the circuit, who are available to hire for private functions. Meanwhile, those with no budget at all could book in for a virtual night at The Covid Arms (tickets cost just £2), where comedian Kiri Pritchard-McLean hosts a monthly comedy night on Zoom joined by several big-name guests. Money made is split between the acts performing and poverty-tackling charity The Trussell Trust, so do be generous if you can.
ESCAPE ROOMS AND IMMERSIVE ADVENTURES
Murder on the 28th Floor
Once a popular go-to for office socials and team-bonding outings, escape rooms are gradually reestablishing themselves in the digital sphere. Book a virtual session with Escape Live and your team can take on one of 15 rooms, deciphering Shakespeare’s scripts, fighting pirates or escaping the jungle. Trapped In The Web offers five themed rooms, each with its own storyline, clues to crack and puzzles to complete.
The Panic Room is another experience that has shifted its offering online. Here, you can take on one of seven challenges and, unlike with physical escape-room games, there’s no time limit. And if your office are avid Harry Potter fans, book yourselves onto the Hogwarts Digital Escape Room. Created in America, the experience includes team-building challenges, quizzes, puzzles, and a chance to explore the famous school of witchcraft and wizardry from home.
Part escape-room game, part immersive experience, The Mermaid's Tongue by Swamp Motel is a 90-minute virtual escape room requiring at-home gamers to work remotely in teams to find a missing artefact before a society of faceless villains get their hands on it.
Then there’s District Theatre’s newly launched Murder on the 28th Floor, a 40-minute interactive whodunnit, held over Zoom, in which your team will be joined by live actors who have taken over your own abandoned office to stage (then hopefully help you solve) a murder mystery.
LEAVE IT TO THE DJ
Once games have been played, drinks drunk and merriment made, those still standing will be ready to let their hair down. For a good old-fashioned singalong, look to karaoke app Karafun, which boasts an impressive catalogue of 35,000 songs. A party pass costs £4.99 and gives you unlimited access to the database for two days.
DJs across the globe have been spinning the decks from their kitchens while we've all been isolated, pumping tunes into our homes via Instagram Live. Enter a private room on the Houseparty app, then dance together but remotely to the music of DJs including legendary LA DJ D-Nice, whose Club Quarantine has attracted famous faces from Beyoncé to Mark Zuckerberg. Alternatively, immerse yourself in the Berlin club scene via United We Stream.