A Holiday Advent Calendar for Remote Teams

It’s December and that means the countdown to the end of the year is officially on. This time, instead of reminders about how we can’t spend the holiday season celebrating with our friends and families, we’d rather be thinking about creative ways to come together for some shared fun. Sure, the usual shindigs are off-limits but creating opportunities for shared experiences is more essential than ever. Also, we refuse to let an opportunity for having some fun slide. But that’s just us. 

To this end, we have for you this jolly little advent calendar. We originally made this for ourselves but figured it would be useful for remote teams everywhere who are thinking about ways of coming together for some socially-distanced holidaying. 

And just like 2020, our holiday advent calendar is different. Instead of a box with small compartments stuffed with mini somethings, this one is full of appropriately distanced activities – quick, simple, and fun ones. The recommendations are all digital-first so that even if you and your team are far apart, like us you can easily and safely come together for some shared fun this holiday season. 

Some housekeeping…

  1. Be sure to pick a coordinator who will be in charge of sharing tasks with the team. You can choose to share a task a day or send all 12 in advance. It’s entirely up to you. 
  2. Some activities are most successful when teams are given a heads up. Apply discretion wherever you feel it is necessary.
  3. While you can rely on our recommendations as they are, feel free to adapt them to your unique situations and preferences. 

12 Days of [Remote] Holiday Celebrations

 

Holiday Advent Calendar

Day 1: Deck up that desk

Type of activity: Solo 
Preparation required: Yes
How to go about it: On Day 1, you decorate your [home] workstations to a holiday theme. Christmas is a classic choice (think red, white, and green) but you can just as well have a theme of your choosing. Best to announce this desk-off at least a week in advance so that everyone has ample time to collect and create their holiday setup. On the day of, have the team share pictures of their workstations or do a live-showcase over Zoom or a channel of your choosing. 

Day 2: Game night

Type of activity: Group
Preparation required: No
How to go about it: Our team loves coming together for a bi-monthly game night – we are big fans of old-timey favorites – Mafia, Cards Against Humanity, and Spreadsheet Battleship. It’s easily the best way to take the edge off and unwind. So, on Day 2, set aside an hour for some team play. Let Zoom run in the background for all your banter and verbal arm twisting. Make sure to tell your fellow mates to come prepared with a fun holiday avatar/name (Dashers in the house give me a grunt!) to keep things topical.

Day 3: Make a difference day 

Type of activity: Solo/Group 
Preparation required: No
How to go about it: The spirit of the holiday season comes alive in the act of giving, whether it is giving your time to a neighborhood community center, helping those who are less fortunate, or writing a cheque to a charity. No matter your preferences, this day, take the time to do something nice for a cause you are passionate about. You can select a charity to contribute to as a team or make a donation in an individual capacity. 

Day 4: Movie night

Type of activity: Group
Preparation required: Some 
How to go about it: If it was a regular holiday season, you’d find us dusting off our projector to screen Home Alone on one of our office walls. However, this year, we are gearing up for a socially-distanced online watch party instead. Hosting a watch party is as simple as downloading an app and an extension to your desktops/smartphones. You can even use (paid) apps like TwoSeven and Metastream to chat while watching the movie (all of these apps work with Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Twitch, and YouTube). So, on Day 4, be ready with a movie and a subscription to a suitable service to watch a movie together. If you have the budget for it, have some movie snacks home delivered to your team before the party. 

Holiday Advent Calendar

Day 5: Ugly sweater day

Type of activity: Solo
Preparation required: No
How to go about it: Ugly sweaters are a ‘thing’ during the holiday season and we are no one to mess with a tradition as time-honored as this. On Day 5, your task is to wear a holiday sweater (or any knitwear) that gets people to go “ugh”. If the weather outside demands a more sensible piece of clothing, at least make sure it’s tacky. Then, turn on the video and let the ugly sweater party commence. Nasty comments, optional. 

Day 6: Gratitude all the way

Type of activity: Solo
Preparation required: No
How to go about it: 2020 has been about great stresses, fear, and worry. But as we find ourselves at the far end of this rather long and trying year, giving thanks and recognizing all that we are grateful for feels like the right thing to do. On Day 6, appreciate each other for displaying solid effort, working through struggles, and taking spirited actions. Each person can write a gratitude card or a note for other members of their team, or send one to a fellow mate they have come to admire most these last few months for their remarkable efforts. 

Day 7: Les Quizerables

Type of activity: Group
Preparation required: Yes
How to go about it: We love to get quizz-ical! So much so, that every new teammate that now joins us is nearly badgered into hosting a quiz night. Of course, it helps that it’s creative, cerebral, and makes for a great ice breaker. So, for Day 7, we are refreshing an old-timey tradition and recommend the same for you to get your team to tune into a fun, shared experience. To choose what kind of quiz you should do, poll your team to gauge topics of interest – pop culture, general knowledge, office-related, teammate trivia, and the likes. Then, decide on a quiz master and encourage them to choose a format – ‘one against everyone’ or ‘team against team’. Also, visual aids are incredibly helpful; we usually cast questions on a PowerPoint.

Holiday Advent Calendar

Day 8: Bingo Night

Type of activity: Solo
Preparation required: Yes
How to go about it: You can’t end 2020 without doing ‘the most 2020 thing’ there was – online bingo. If you weren’t exposed to this internet thingamajig, check out ‘Working from home during a global pandemic‘ Bingo by McSweeny’s (one of our absolute favorites) that was shared widely on the gram. Under the trappings of Instagram Stories, people connecting over shared experiences was the real point of such a bingo. The ask is simple: checkmark the things you did and then share this card with your friends. So, Day 9 of the holiday advent calendar is for a 2020-inspired bingo night. Find or create a bingo card to a theme of your choosing and when all of you have had a chance to check and share your cards with everyone, go fish! Also, we love these bingo templates on Canva, in case you wanted to create your own bingo card. 

Day 9: Holiday scavenger hunt

Type of activity: Group/Solo
Preparation required: Some
How to go about it: The easiest way to understand a scavenger hunt is to imagine the Amazing Race. Much like it, a scavenger hunt is an activity where teams or individuals compete to find objects, solve riddles or reach a location as fast as they can. A list of activities is shared on the day-of, with a time limit for completion. Then, teams/individuals rush to collect ‘proof of completion’ and return to a designated spot as fast as they can to claim points. A socially-distanced version of the scavenger hunt can be played using an app like Goosechase, or done the (more or less) traditional way – with an organizer who provides a list of activities and keeps track of the leaderboard. Our scavenger hunts are fairly simple – we hop on a video call and a designated organizer screams out, say, an object that we must find in our home or shares a puzzle to solve on the group chat. Points are allotted to the person(s) who complete the task soonest, and at the end of the hunt, the person with the most points wins a prize. Easy peasy. 

Day 10: Wrap it up

Type of activity: Solo
Preparation required: Some
How to go about it: We are the kind that takes particular joy in wrapping (and unwrapping) our gifts – holiday ones and every other kind too. Even if the wrapping is not on point (and it never is), just the appearance of a gift-wrapped goodie is enough to cheer the spirits. On Day 11, the task is to wrap the oddest thing you can find in your house (pans, pants, plants – it’s all a fair game). Bring the said wrapped object to the video call and get others to guess what’s underneath all that foliage. You can play it like you would play ‘20 questions’.

Day 11: Bring-your-quarantine-companion-to-work Day 

Type of activity: Solo
Preparation required: No
How to go about it: When social isolation was enforced, some of us looked outwards – to our closest circle of people, our pets, and even plants – to ride out any feelings of loneliness and despair. Some of us looked inwards and pursued creative activities to preserve sanity. In recognition, Day 11 is dedicated to your quarantine Obi-wan. That person, object, or activity that has been the anvil to your rocky life these past few months and has helped you ride out the storm. On this day, bring your quarantine companion along to the group call and show them some gratitude. If it’s an activity, today’s the day you show it off to the rest of your clan. 

Holiday Advent Calendar

Day 12: Remote Secret Santa

Type of activity: Solo
Preparation required: Some
How to go about it: ‘Tis impossible to think about the end of the year celebration without Secret Santa. It is one of our most favorite team activities in December and as with every year, we will be working with a budget and picking a date for opening presents together. Only that this year, we will be sending gifts to one other online instead of parking it under a decorated tree. On Day 12, pick names from a list generator (we’re using drawnames, but you can use a tool you prefer) for the remote Secret Santa. Following which your task is to place an order for the gift item to be delivered to the recipient’s address. If you want to heighten the anticipation some more, pick a Secret Santa coordinator from amongst you and use this person’s address to send your gifts. Any way you choose, it’s all right!

Finally, as our gift to you, here is the [editable] ppt of our holiday advent calendar. Tweak it any way you want!

On that note, we hope you are just as excited about doing this virtual holiday advent calendar as we are. Do tag us in your celebrations and we’ll match it with a shout-out online. 

Happy holidays! 

Graphics by Mohanraj Selvam