Money & Business

Crowdsource: Holiday Cheers

By / Dec 1, 2016 (Handout photo)

How EDUCAUSE’s Teaching, Learning, and Professional Development department connects across the miles during the holidays.

A little thing like remote work doesn’t stop EDUCAUSE’s Teaching, Learning, and Professional Development department from celebrating the holidays.

For the last three years, the TLPD team, which is scattered across the country, has had its own virtual holiday party, complete with hot drinks, games, and some good ol’ fashioned conversation.

“Because we’re remote we don’t have those watercooler conversations over the course of the day or the week,” Director of Special Projects Sondra Smith says. And because the catch-up conversations often get lost in the midst of phone-based meetings, “it’s important to have these opportunities to connect and to get to know people a little bit better and more deeply.”

Months before the holiday season, members of the team mark their calendars for a time they can all meet on the organization’s video conference system for an hour of fun. Then, the week before, team members receive gift boxes with snacks, ornaments, and their favorite frothy drinks to enjoy during the meetup.

The trick is planning activities that are inclusive for all team members. “You have to work with the culture of your team and make sure that everyone’s comfortable with however you’re defining holiday and all the ways we’re representing holiday,” department VP Julie Little says.

Planned activities have included sharing holiday traditions or epic-fail stories, completing Mad Libs, guessing the baby picture, having a silly-hat contest, and contributing to a virtual holiday cookbook.

The TLPD team meets face to face only a few times a year, so the virtual holiday party provides an extra team-building opportunity with some technological help.

“It’s easy to overproduce or overdevelop activities when what people really, really want to do is just to have an hour where they’re not doing work but are actually talking to each other,” Smith says.

Alex Beall

Alex Beall is an associate editor for Associations Now with a masters in journalism and a penchant for Instagram. More »

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