Mandatory stay-at-home and social distancing orders may have halted your favorite weekly happy hour and closed your favorite bars and restaurants.
However, the need to stay safe and healthy doesn’t have to make you feel socially isolated — or prevent you from enjoying your favorite cocktails, beers, wine or other beverages along the way.
Get inspired for successful virtual happy hour ideas that’ll help you stay connected with your colleagues, friends and family long after COVID-19 releases us from its claws
What Is a Virtual Happy Hour?
Virtual happy hours take the idea of a typical happy hour, but host them online via a video platform. Guests join the platform sipping their beverage of choice, all from the comfort of their couch.
Popular apps used to host these digital gatherings include Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts and Houseparty. Zoom alone saw significant growth after COVID-19 triggered its first stay-at-home executive orders, reporting over 50 million new users between March and April 2020.
However, virtual happy hours are not a new concept. Remote teams have been using them for years to help geographically dispersed colleagues get to know one another, often employing games, icebreakers and other activities to nurture that same in-office camaraderie.
Virtual happy hours work well for other groups, too. Consider setting up happy hours with your friends and family to remain connected regardless of what’s happening in the world — especially if you live far from these loved ones.
Tips for Setting up a Successful Virtual Happy Hour
Wow your friends, family and co-workers alike with these general ideas for hosting a successful virtual happy hour.
- Think ahead if it’s for work: Planning is essential when coordinating a virtual happy hour for work. Send an e-invite a week or two in advance to prevent springing your little social gathering on people at the last minute — especially the introverts of the world. Preemptive invites also allow co-workers to schedule their days accordingly. By the time 5 p.m. rolls around, they’ll have a cleared schedule and be ready for a little fun. Feel free to keep things more casual with friends and family, though — no Google Calendar invites necessary.
- A-OK the alcohol: If planning a happy hour with colleagues or work professionals, make sure to directly mention that sipping alcoholic beverages during the meetup is OK. After all, the goal is to mimic a regular, in-person happy hour. Encourage co-workers or your team members to homebrew their favorite cocktail, decant a go-to wine varietal or bust out their favorite beer. Everyone can share what they’re drinking and why it’s their drink of choice.
- Ensure everyone uses grid or gallery view: Nearly every video platform, including the ones noted above, has a grid-view setting. Grid and gallery views permit participants to see everyone at once on their screen, just like you would if you were hanging out face to face. That means you can see others’ reactions in real time, pick up on body language and register other essential nonverbal cues, just like you can in person. Plus, it’s a fun nod to the Brady Bunch theme song.
- Play music: Consider creating a special playlist for virtual happy hour gatherings. Music choices can softly stream in the background, mirroring the music and other white noise at a bar or restaurant happy hour. The background playlist can help put colleagues at ease and fill the air if conversation pauses for a few moments.
- Keep it lighthearted:Start your screen-based happy hour with a positive prompt, such as asking colleagues their favorite childhood TV show or a dessert they can’t turn down. From there, keep topics and conversation light. The aim of any happy hour is for people to relax and let loose, plus provide a positive distraction during these tough times of social isolation. Happy hour positives go a step beyond that, also giving colleagues something to look forward to after a long workday, even during “normal” times.
- Stick to a time limit: While virtual happy hours offer levity and connectivity, that Zoom-meeting fatigue is real. Stay within the time frame you included in your invitation. Respect people’s time and let them move on to other priorities after their workday, including family time, personal hobbies, pure relaxing and more.
Virtual Happy Hour Games and Activities With Co-Workers
Get your favorite co-workers online for any of these virtual happy hour activities.
1. Trivial Pursuit
Popular apps like Houseparty contain trivia games players can access as soon as they enter the call. All you have to do is pick a category and difficulty level, then let the app generate questions. Right and wrong answers, points-tracking and more all register live, keeping the upbeat competitive energy alive.
Who knows what you’ll discover about your colleagues? Judy from accounts payable may be an amateur film buff, while Doug in IT knows a surprising thing or two about fashion fads from the ’70s.
Virtual Scattergories gives call participants a fast-paced game to play online, still leaving plenty of room for conversation and cocktail-sipping.
Like its namesake board game, begin the game by randomly picking a letter of the alphabet. Next, use an app or website to generate a list of categories. Example categories may include topics like “produce,” “cities,” “furniture,” and so on.
Set the timer for a few minutes, then leave every player to write down as many words beginning with the chosen alphabet letter fitting that category. The co-worker who comes up with the largest number of original answers wins!
3. Home Scavenger Hunt
Take your virtual happy hour to the next level with an interactive — and innately quirky — scavenger hunt that’ll turn co-workers into explorers of their homes.
Create a list of hunt prompts, aka items or trinkets co-workers are likely to have around their house. Some examples might include:
- Something you received as a gift
- Something you made yourself
- A secondhand or hand-me-down good
Get inspired by dedicated apps like Scavify, which help generate prompts for you to keep the game long and lively.
5. “Would You Rather”
Try a rousing — but office-appropriate — game of “Would You Rather.” This activity is an excellent way to get to know your co-workers a little deeper, inspiring hilarious, surprising and maybe even some touching conversations that wouldn’t ordinarily occur in the office.
You can even borrow “Would You Rather” question ideas directly from pre-existing lists online, all exclusively written to strike up creative conversations — plus take the work out of generating all those entertaining prompts yourself.
6. The Deserted Island Game
A favorite of onboarding icebreakers to corporate retreats alike, the Deserted Island Game is yet another great way to liven up your virtual happy hours with co-workers.
To play, draft a list of tools all participants will choose from. You don’t have to rip tools straight from a survivor’s handbook. Throw in some curveballs to keep it entertaining. For example, your island tool kit may include:
- Sewing kit
- A flare gun
- A machete
- A bottle of premium whiskey
- A cell phone
- A raincoat
- Beginner’s garden produce seed packet
- First-aid kit
- Hammer and nails
- An unused diary
- A pot and pan set
Let everyone review the list and select only three items they would want on their deserted island. Then, go round-robin-style around the call, asking everyone to share what they picked and why.
For further conversation, give players another few minutes to swap out one item from their list after hearing from others. Ask why they changed their mind or who inspired their rethinking. For a bonus round, let people pick a celebrity or famous figure they get to be stranded with.
Virtual Happy Hour Games and Activities With Friends and Family
It’s not just co-workers who have dominion over happy hours. Grab your favorite glass of wine, slip on your comfiest sweatpants and cozy up to your screen with these happy hour game ideas perfect for the long-distance loved ones in your life.
1. Truth or Dare
The beloved childhood favorite makes a fun virtual game to play with old and new friends alike. Its rules transfer easily to the virtual setting, since it doesn’t require any real setup, just you, your pals and whatever outlandish, risque, weird or wacky questions and prompts you can think of.
Try out similar games if Truth or Dare doesn’t quite match your tastes, such as the dare-free Truth or Truth or Two Truths and a Lie. You can even download apps that generate questions and dares for you, letting everyone sit back to soak in the game in full contestant mode.
2. Virtual Chopped
Bring a home-approved, happy-hour version of the popular Food Network show to your virtual shenanigans using home bar-cart staples.
To play Virtual Happy Hour Chopped, preselect one or two of any of the following:
- A spirit or liquor — e.g., whiskey, gin, vodka
- A mixer — e.g., seltzer, ginger ale
- A modifier — e.g., bitters, herbs, fruit
- A garnish — e.g., lemon wedge, mint leaves
Have your friends make a homemade cocktail of their choice. The catch? They must incorporate the one or two ingredients you selected, sharing their concoction with the group. Then, use the rest of your call to rate each other’s drinks for non-taste-related criteria, such as presentation and creativity. The winner gets bar-master bragging rights for eternity.
Quiplash calls itself “the game of wits and wittiness” — and that it is! Prepare yourself for an upbeat clash of cleverness as you and your friends answer offbeat prompts generated by the game, then vote on your favorite user-submitted anonymous answer. The contestant whose answers generated the most votes throughout rounds wins.
The best part? It requires phones or computers to work in the first place, making it a born-and-bred virtual happy hour game.
4. Virtual Olympics
Going a little stir-crazy at home? Virtual Olympics is your answer.
Devise mini-races and sporting events using readily available at-home items, such as balloons swapped for balls, jump ropes, hula hoops, exercise balls and more. Or, keep it simple by challenging each other to push-up, sit-up, planking and sprint competitions.
Then, make the games even more official by having everyone come up with a uniform, plus craft a flag beforehand, complete with a virtual opening and closing awards ceremony.
5. Virtual Book Club
If competitive games and hands-on activities aren’t your forte, consider organizing a virtual book club with your friends, one integrating some adult beverages, of course.
Have a friend select the reading material for the month — or every few weeks, if your squad includes some diehard bookworms. Then, craft a signature cocktail themed around that book. For example, an iconic 1920s-inspired gin gimlet for The Great Gatsby, a “tequila mockingbird” for To Kill a Mockingbird or any of these other creative literary-inspired drinks.
Harness your inner artist by having a virtual paint night with your loved ones. Just make sure to set up your call to be hands-free. We don’t want any acrylic paint on phone screens.
For extra fun, incorporate any of the following twists to your virtual sip-and-paint night:
- Paint a portrait of another caller.
- Play virtual Pictionary.
- Select a world-famous piece of art, then have all participants attempt to replicate it — in 15 minutes or less.
What Not to Do During Your Virtual Happy Hour
Just as there are best practices to set up a successful virtual happy hour, there are some don’ts — especially for online work happy hours.
- Don’t over-invite: Social etiquette might have called for inviting the entire office to in-person happy hours before. However, its virtual counterpart works best when you keep invites at 10 people or fewer, depending on your planned activity. Having a smaller number of people allows everyone to freely participate in the games or activities you’ve set up.
- Don’t over- or under-schedule: Given their setup, weekly virtual happy hours with co-workers don’t work out quite as well as weekly in-person happy hours. On the other hand, friends and family may be more than thrilled to have one evening every week designated toward collaborative games and some delicious beverages.
- Don’t overlook your setup: Test your devices’ audio, video and screensharing capabilities, find good lighting, then settle into a cozy spot in your home. All this ensures the happy hour will look and feel right, especially if you’re its organizer.
- Don’t forget to end on a positive note: Consider ways to end the happy hour beyond just a hodgepodge of pixelated goodbye waves. Ask a thoughtful departing question, wish everyone well and suggest the next happy hour’s date in a few weeks.
Order Your Happy Hour Wine and Liquor From Marketview
Marketview Liquor is ready to make your virtual happy hours with co-workers, partners, friends and family unique — and convenient.
If you have any questions about our wine and liquor offerings, please let us know, so you can start planning your next virtual happy hour!