This year’s office Christmas party is beginning to drag. You’ve made small talk with everyone in the room, but these are the people you see every day so it’s a little difficult to find some new topics of conversation.
And then, across the room you spot an old friend: a colleague you sat next to for years until they took up a new position at another branch of the same company. You can see them searching the room for a familiar face to chat with, so you quickly wander over, sit yourself down and excitedly ask them how life is all those hundreds of miles away in the other office.
And your friend can show you the reality first-hand just by turning their camera around, because they’re still in that office, and the two of you are chatting over an open video calling connection the company has set up for this year’s party.
In fact, a half dozen offices in a half dozen states are connected by video this year, and it’s bringing a whole new social dimension to the tired old office party ritual.
Host a Virtual Christmas Party With Your Remote Colleagues
This kind of high-tech, interconnected party isn’t a stretch at all if your company, like 65% of North American businesses, uses virtual communication regularly.
All it it would take to turn that tech from work to play would be to gather it from conference and huddle rooms and place it on the tables around the party, making sure to use plenty of decent-size screens and wide-angle cameras. Then you’d need someone to dial each device into a common group conference video call across the company’s branch offices and leave everything turned on.
So while you’re deep in conversation on a laptop link to your long-distance friend, a few people from your building are trying to get the attention of the active speaker cam in front of a wall-mounted Google Hangout, a few others are waiting their turn at the virtual karaoke, which is getting pumped into every office at an ungodly volume, and two others are racing the other branches’ best cyclists on video calling stationary bikes (it’s nice someone finally found a real use for those).
Socializing With Video Chat
Your personal conversation could be interrupted at any minute when the boss and master of ceremonies makes one of their regular all-points bulletins announcing the start of another interoffice contest via video conference.
At least they’ve come up with some novel virtual twists on the Christmas party classics:
- There’s the mystery voice contest, where the boss tries to identify a mystery employee by audio alone while staring into a blacked chat window
- Interoffice charades, with the actors’ audio muted to prevent anyone filled with too many Christmas spirits from yelling out a verbal clue
- A shared-screen version of Pictionary, with contests using a universal whiteboard setup
- And finally a remote game of Telephone, with members of each office whispering the contents of the blandest office memo they can find into the webcam of the next branch
It’s all good fun, and if you don’t feel stupid while playing, you’re not playing right. The real highlight, however, is how it lets colleagues separated by hundreds of miles make connections with each other with no travel necessary.
Getting Personal with Remote Personnel
When your friend gets called away to organize the final touches of their office’s Christmas skit, you go over to the laptop attached the big screen and quickly type a message asking if one of your favorite telecommuters is around. And of course they are, because there’s never been a party better suited to their work from home arrangement. And in this scenario, your commuting-from-home friend doesn’t feel out of the loop, like an afterthought the office conferenced in but who doesn’t get the full benefits of working onsite. Instead, they’re one of many: one of many telecommuting from home, and one of many groups calling in to join the fun, participating in games, conversations, and maybe even some alcohol.
This last part becomes clear once you two get to talking. You detect a subtle slur in your friend’s speech and realize the East Coast employees have been at this party three hours before any of your team even fired up their chat windows.
That would explain why the New York office manager is currently professing their tear-stained love for everyone in the room.
There’s one at every virtual party.
Image Source: Flickr CC User U.S. Army Corps of Engineers