The remote Christmas party

by Rabea Gleissner

Our working culture at Tes emphasises a “remote first” approach. This means that any team member can work from any location. It’s awesome and it allows us to work with lots of lovely colleagues based around the world. It also means that if you want to go off and travel while working, you can go - no questions asked. Or if you want to come to our London office every day, that’s totally fine too.

It works really well in our day-to-day team collaboration. We use video calls, talk on Slack or have conversations about code on Github. All team-wide meetings and knowledge sharing sessions are recorded and meeting notes are shared with everyone. This makes working across different time zones and with different lifestyles a lot easier.

We also try to translate some of the common, non-work related office interactions into our remote first culture. One of those efforts is the weekly Coffee Roulette for which a Slack bot matches you up with a colleague to remotely have coffee with.

So that’s all working well. But we hadn’t yet replicated any larger social events in a remote first style. Until last December…

The idea

When the holiday season came and office Christmas parties were ubiquitous, we decided that we didn’t want to miss out on the fun. The idea of a remote Christmas party was born. This was unprecedented at Tes, so we had to figure out how to turn the idea into reality. Only one thing we knew for definite: it would be “bring your own drinks and food”.

Our Champion of Remote Happiness, Dali, started collecting ideas for activities we could do during the party: anything that would be fun for potentially 60+ people on a Zoom call.

Fun and games

We started off with a competition for the best party hat. Any entries had to be submitted by posting a photo into our Slack channel before the start of the party. So over the course of the afternoon, more and more photos of rather hilarious hats appeared on Slack. It was a great way to get into the mood. When all entries were in, we used a Google form to vote for the best party hat. We awarded points in three categories: use of sound and lights, imaginative use of materials and embodying the festive holiday spirit.

At 5pm we started the Zoom call: the party had begun. It ended up being around 40 people who joined.

The party crowd

A lot of us were wearing our party hats, Christmas jumpers, were drinking mulled wine or cider… it was all very festive. A few of our American colleagues had met up at someone’s house in Miami to celebrate together. It was so nice to see everyone join in and make such an effort!

After a bit of chit-chat and admiring each others party hats, we started playing the first game: “two truths and one lie”. Each person had to tell three facts about themselves and the others had to guess which one was the lie. It was lots of fun and also a great way to learn something new about each other.

The next game was “guess the Christmas song”. We listened to a few seconds of the beginning of the song and whoever sent the correct name in the Slack channel first, won a prize.

Next up the party hat competition winners were announced and more prizes were given away.

We also played a “guess what my drawing is” game via jackbox.tv. Each participant connects to the game with their phone and gets prompts of what to draw. The drawings are then shown on the main screen for everyone to see and guess what they are supposed to be. Of course there were some hilarious drawings and attempted solutions.

Drawful

Funnily enough the jackbox.tv website was blocked on our office network. Luckily we noticed this ahead of time and managed to get it unblocked. Quite ironic how we ended up having to jump through some hoops to make the remote Christmas party work for people in our London office. We’re definitely a remote first team!

Shall we do it again then?

Absolutely! The party was a big success. Most people stayed on the call for two hours or so. It was nice to spend time with colleagues who we normally don’t get the chance to socialise with very often. I would highly recommend it to any remote team!

Now I’m looking forward to the remote summer party…