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7 ideas for alcohol free team socials

We may all be upset about the impact of lockdown working on social interaction with our colleagues, but when it comes to alcohol consumption, keeping socials virtual for now could have a positive bearing on what we drink. Recent research from Drinkaware, which predates the pandemic, revealed a whopping 43% of adults admitted to drinking on work social events due to a feeling of needing to keep up. The advent of virtual socials helps to redress the peer pressure that so many of us clearly feel on this score.

Lockdown socials, whether held over the likes of Zoom or facilitated in a more socially distanced manner, are in a unique position to take the focus away from drinking and put the spotlight back onto the event itself. With the nation turning increasingly towards booze as an escape from the worries of lockdown, we feel that employers can help mitigate the effects of this recourse to drinking by providing team events that bring people together and promote healthy fun.

Alcohol-free work social events should be on the agenda long after lockdown is over, as part of diversity strategies that respect cultural choices and personal preference, through working to address what appears to still be an automatic association between hospitality and drinking. With this in mind, here are several alcohol-free team social ideas for you to roll out whilst we all adhere to the latest guidance on working safely. Each can very easily be tweaked to suit scenarios where teams can come back together physically.

1. Your favourite events, gamified

Whether it’s an escape room experience, go-karting or an exercise class, games consoles and other tech now allow you to live that experience in a pooled but virtual fashion, from within the safety of your own home. These more energetic socials are perfect by nature, since they make alcohol consumption impractical and instead replace the need for something feel-good with a hit of endorphins.

2. A mini campfire experience

Encourage your team to gather for a later evening social virtually by encouraging everyone to light candles and grab a hot chocolate. Taking turns to share horror stories, compare notes on the day and laugh at the small things will help colleagues to see each other in a different light. In effect, the later evening virtual gathering, “firelight” and drink are designed to imitate a camping experience. Whilst gathering with “work people” later in the evening may not go down so well with everyone, it’s potentially a perfect antidote to homeschooling parents of younger children, who would like to wind down and socialise on their own time once the kids are in bed.

We admit that this is an option where it would be tempting for some to pour a glass of wine or its equivalent, so make the emphasis on the hot drinks and mandate the no-alcohol directive by sending a surprise delivery of hot chocolate or tea to your happy campers’ home addresses!

3. The board game experience

Perfect for problem solvers and likely to appeal to diverse personality types, playing board games via video conference works just as well alcohol-free as it goes when drinks are included. Given the array of multi-participant games on the market, if appetite is strong for this sort of social, a calendar of forthcoming game evenings can be a real comfort to colleagues in its promise of something to look forward to every week, fortnight or month.

4. An evolved silent disco

Some people completely get the premise of a silent disco, whilst others don’t. For those who do, facilitating this virtually is a great excuse to come together and enjoy music. Crazy dancing is entirely optional. You can step things up by pairing colleagues together for dance-offs in individual video chats. 

5. Storytelling and problem sharing

This is one that shouldn’t be underestimated: inviting everyone to speak in turn about a given topic or their best and worst moment of the week can be a real conversation starter. It can also change colleagues’ perceptions of one another for the better. What’s missing in so many video video calls during the working day is that deeper level of interaction, which we can take for granted in a face-to-face scenario. In creating the space and time to reflect on each other’s accounts of their daily lives, you can re-introduce the vital component of meaningful and purposeful communication between your team.

6. Buddy-up challenges

Buddying up is a popular concept in larger organisations, where newly recruited employees are partnered with a colleague of a similar level of seniority. This can be applied to virtual challenges, where two colleagues with similar interests - or fears - partner up to motivate each other through a challenge. It may be a run, walking a bit further every day, tackling a complex recipe, starting a mindfulness programme or having a difficult conversation with someone at home. Keeping people checking in on one another in this more targeted and intimate way is hugely social and conducive to better mental wellbeing.

7. Volunteering

Volunteering represented a very different type of workplace social pre-lockdown; enabling team members to give something back whilst exploring their own interests, whether alone or in small groups. Options for volunteering may well be less numerous right now, but those that are still feasible will get people into the great outdoors, encourage interaction and truly give something back. Enquire about community tidy ups and food runs for the more vulnerable. Conducted in a respectfully distanced manner, volunteering in this way allows your team to video diary parts of their day and come together later on to discuss how it’s all gone.

All of these options are designed to facilitate the feel-good factor; an important component of looking after everyone’s mental wellbeing at work this Christmas.

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