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The Virtual Office Holiday Party

unnamed-1The holidays are here! You know what that means – eggnog, reindeer, company parties, and Secret Santa gift exchanges. In all the years I’ve worked at Metaverse Mod Squad, I’ve never met any of my colleagues face to face, and I’ve only met one client in person… But, just because we work remotely doesn’t mean we have to miss out on the holiday fun!

InspireUSALogoBlueYellow2010FINALLast week, my fellow manager, mods, and I dressed up in our reindeer antlers, Santa hats, and red Rudolph noses for an online party with the good folks at ReachOut.com.  ReachOut is a client and a fantastic project.  It’s funded by Inspire USA Foundation (http://www.inspireusafoundation.org/) supporting millions of young Americans lead happier lives! ReachOut is primarily funded by CalMHSA (Californian mental health services authority: http://calmhsa.org/).

We used ooVoo, a free video chat and instant messaging app for desktops, mobile devices, and Facebook, which we used with great success for a virtual baby shower last year.  The OoVoo service worked well for the video, but due to some sound issues we added Skype, a voice-over-IP service and instant messaging client (one that I depend on every day for staying connected with my colleagues, clients, family, and friends).

Another excellent tool for online parties is the virtual world of Second Life, where you can meet your colleagues in avatar form. You can decorate, dress up, and dance the night away to real music while you all chat through your headsets. It’s great fun.

Online parties lack many of the natural conversation starters that in-person parties have, so a few ice breakers can really help to get it going. Here are two activities we used at our party with ReachOut:

unnamed-2Twitter Introductions. We’re all a bunch of geeks and social media junkies so, of course, we found it fun and challenging to introduce ourselves in 140 characters or less.  We also shared our introductions by tweeting them through Metaverse Mod Squad’s Twitter account.

Stuff around our work space. Since we work remotely, we don’t get to see the personality and charm of each other’s desks. This little game allowed us to show off the fun, weird, unique items that inhabit our work spaces.

Other online party activities might include:

  • Sharing favorite holiday traditions and recipes,
  • Ugly Christmas sweater contest,
  • Sharing and uploading photos of teammates as children during the holidays (or, more to the point, crying Santa photos),
  • Secret Santa exchanges,
  • Karaoke (for really brave).

ph_grid7_6900_22443Because our company party included our wonderful client, it was important to engage in an activity that strengthened our relationships. As mentioned, ReachOut is an information and support service to help teens and young adults who may be facing tough times and/or struggling with mental health issues. Reading personal stories of abuse, depression, and other issues can be challenging, but the work is also incredibly rewarding. We shared feedback from ReachOut users who expressed thanks for the support they received, and the difference that ReachOut has made in their lives.

After about an hour, we wrapped up our party.  I think our holiday festivities left feeling – not only closer to each other – but also closer to the work we do!

Cosette Paneque
Community and Project Manager

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