By Bond Collective Staff
If you need a way to bring your team together, build camaraderie, and strengthen work bonds, try holding a work happy hour. Work happy hour gives your team members the opportunity to socialize and connect with their workmates and talk about something other than the big projects and deadlines that are looming.
But what exactly is a work happy hour? And what can you do to make your work happy hour more fun (other than uncorking a bottle of wine, of course)? In this article, the experts at Bond Collective explain this concept and give you 14 of the best ways to take it to the next level.
What Is Work Happy Hour?
Happy hour is a period of the day (usually from 4-7 p.m.) when bars and restaurants offer their drinks at reduced prices. They may also offer specials on hors-d’oeuvres, appetizers, and other menu items. Happy hour is designed to draw people through the doors and get them to spend money during a typically slow time of the day.
Work happy hour borrows on that concept and repurposes it, not to make money but to give employees a way to build relationships and let off steam after a hard week’s work.
Work happy hour is typically held at 5 p.m. on Friday, although some businesses start earlier or do it on different days (or even every day). Work happy hour is really a way to get coworkers to mingle and get to know one another, but alcohol is pretty much standard as a way to help people relax and unwind.
The simplest form of work happy hour is gathering everyone together to share a drink and talk. However, sometimes that’s not enough to unify your team. You may need a bit of novelty to pull your employees out of their shells.
Here are some ideas to kick your work happy hour up a notch.
24 Simple And Effective Work Happy Hour Ideas
1) Tap The Energy Of Your Coworking Space
Coworking spaces, like Bond Collective, are a great resource for businesses of all sizes that want to keep their overhead low while still maintaining a professional image. They’re also a great resource for inspiration and creativity — especially during work happy hour.
Instead of restricting your work happy hour to the ten people on your team, open it up to everyone in the office. This gives your employees the opportunity to find a new perspective on work, relationships, and life in general.
2) Add Some Variety
Not everyone likes beer, so add a bit of variety to your work happy hour by offering wine and mixed drinks as well. Remember to also include non-alcoholic beverages for those who may not want to drink alcohol for whatever reason (maybe they’re driving home, are on a restricted diet, or have a family history of alcoholism).
This improves the likelihood that all of your team members will find a beverage they enjoy and no one will feel excluded.
3) Don’t Skimp
Few things squash the buzz of your work happy hour like running out of drinks after only 20 minutes. Plan on two glasses of wine or two bottles of beer per person. If you’re worried those estimates are too low, buy more than you need and save the extra for your next work happy hour.
4) Don’t Forget The Food
After a hard day’s work, your employees need to refuel. That means food as well as drink. Hire a local caterer or have food from a local restaurant delivered for your employees to munch on between drinks.
5) Make It Formal
Drinking and socializing is the purpose of work happy hour, but you can add a new dimension of fun by making it a formal affair.
If you hold your work happy hour on Friday, try dressing up instead of down — make it formal Friday instead of casual Friday. Set a minimum dress code (e.g., skirts and blouses for the ladies, button-down shirts and ties for the gents), but give your employees the freedom to go full formal if they want.
You’re aiming for a high-class affair (like the Met Gala), so fancy party dresses and tuxedos aren’t out of the question.
6) Use Your Outdoor Space
If the weather is fine and you’ve got the outdoor space, use it. Move your work happy hour to the roof or patio. Holding your happy hour in an outdoor space gives your employees the opportunity to breathe in a little fresh air and enjoy the sights and sounds of the city around them.
That can help them relax and unwind just as much as — if not more — than the drinks you serve. You might even consider decorating your outdoor space to liven the mood and transport your employees to another place. If you’re at a loss for ideas, use the next two suggestions as inspiration.
7) Hold A Garden Party
You may not have access to an outdoor space where you work, but chances are there’s a botanical garden or park pavilion nearby. Why not quit work early and throw a garden party happy hour?
You can even combine several of the suggestions on this list and have your garden party be a formal, catered affair. That would be a nice change for your employees who are probably used to coffee and sandwiches at their desks.
8) Pick A Theme
Everyone loves to play dress-up. Why not tap into that desire for your work happy hour? Instead of just gathering in the conference room for beer and bar snacks, pick a theme for the evening and give your employees the option to dress accordingly.
One of our favorite themes is the 1920s (a la The Great Gatsby). The glitz, the glamor, the flapper dresses — it all makes for an escape from the norm that can quickly become an incredibly enjoyable evening.
9) Step Outside The Familiar
Instead of always offering an “open bar” during your work happy hour, consider stepping outside the familiar wine-and-beer mindset and trying a wine tasting or martini bar. If your employees are game, you can really change things up and arrange for a hard alcohol tasting (a.k.a. shots).
10) It’s 5 O’clock Somewhere: Be Flexible With Times
There is no hard and fast rule that says you must hold your work happy hour at 5 p.m. If your work comes to a natural stop at 3:00, 2:00, or even lunchtime, there’s no reason you can’t start happy hour then.
11) Investigate The Neighborhood
Your team spent all day in the office (probably all week, too). Work happy hour is a marvelous opportunity to get out and investigate the neighborhood.
Check out a few of the bars in your area or try a new restaurant, coffee shop, or cafe. There’s nothing that says you have to drink. The idea of work happy hour is really all about being together and celebrating the end of the workweek.
12) Plan A Potluck
The next time you hold a work happy hour, arrange for your team members to bring in their favorite meal and beverage to share. Organizing a potluck like this reduces the expense, increases the fun, and gives your employees a chance to try new things.
13) Substitute Coffee And Tea
Yes, happy hour is usually about imbibing a few adult beverages in order to unwind after work, but why not switch things up now and then? Instead of wine and beer, substitute coffee and tea.
Arrange for your favorite coffee shop to deliver various types of coffee, tea, and pastries. You might even hire a barista for the evening to make drinks and serve your employees. Think of it as a coffee and tea tasting.
This is a great way for your employees to discover the new midday pick-me-up that will help them stay focused and on-task. Plus, serving coffee and tea get will get them energized for the rest of the evening.
14) Give Your Employees Something To Talk About
However you choose to structure your work happy hour, and whatever food and drink you choose to serve, start the party off right by giving your employees something to talk about.
Gather everyone together and announce the month’s birthdays. Celebrate successes and milestones. Or read some of the week’s best quotes heard around the office. Keep it short and upbeat, and then let your employees talk about it amongst themselves.
15) Provide Background Music
There’s a reason why bars and restaurants play background music for their guests: it makes it easier to converse with those nearby without feeling as if everyone in the room is listening.
Take a lesson from these businesses that depend on atmosphere for their livelihood when incorporating work happy hour ideas into your schedule.
The most important decision you have to make is not the type of music you play — it’s the volume. You want the music loud enough so that it fills up the space between groups, but not so loud that it interferes with the conversations in those groups.
The right volume for your work happy hour will depend, in large part, on the size of the space, the acoustics, the number of attendees, and the intensity of their conversations (as well as other variables).
You may have to adjust the music numerous times over the course of your happy hour to keep it at the right volume. If you’re going to be busy doing other things, it’s beneficial to hire a DJ to monitor the background music for your gathering.
As for the music itself, we suggest smooth jazz, oldies (as in American Standards), or classic rock. Stay away from heavy metal and rap unless your work happy hour idea includes an appropriate theme.
16) Scatter Conversation Starters
A great way to get everyone talking amongst themselves is to scatter conversation starters on all surfaces around the space (even seats).
Simple “table tents” on cardstock work well, but this does take a bit of preparation. For a simpler solution, try printing multiple ideas on a single piece of paper and then cutting the paper into squares or strips.
Share a tweet that made you laugh really hard
Recommend a movie
Guess where this is (include a map or a Google street view)
Show off your most recent photo
What emoji do you use the most and why?
Share your phone background or lock screen (and why you chose it)
Tell a joke
Get creative and tailor the conversation starters to your team, or search online for plenty of generic ideas for conversation starters that will really get everyone talking.
17) Offer Even More Novel Beverage Options
We mentioned substituting coffee and tea in place of alcohol earlier in this article. But for an even more unique twist on work happy hour, offer novel beverage options.
Popular alternatives include:
Hire a catering company or partner with a local business that specializes in one of those options for a truly distinctive work happy hour that will keep everyone talking long after it’s over.
18) Host A Town Hall
Hosting a town hall is a great work happy hour idea to incorporate into the rotation once in a while.
Bring in the CEO of your business or a panel of managers and allow employees to ask questions and hold informal discussions about the company for 30 minutes or so before switching to some other activity or open conversation.
A good way to control the questions so this doesn’t devolve into arguments and hurt feelings is to ask employees to submit a question or two that they’d like to ask the individual or panel.
You can then arrange for a number of employees to ask their questions in order to drive the discussion forward.
19) Invite A Guest Speaker Or Panel
In a similar vein, consider inviting a guest speaker or panel to visit your work happy hour to discuss a topic of interest to your employees and your business.
The topic doesn’t even have to be business-related — just something that would be of interest to your team (e.g., government leaders, popular restaurant owners, local “famous” people, etc.).
Allow the guest(s) to speak for 15-20 minutes or so at the beginning of the work happy hour, end with a question-and-answer period, and then give attendees the opportunity to mingle amongst themselves.
20) Arrange For A Learning Experience
Another fun work happy hour idea that everyone will love is to arrange for a hands-on learning experience of some sort.
If you have the facilities, a short cooking class (e.g., how to prepare a quick, healthy lunch) is an ideal way to start the festivities. Other ideas include:
How to mix common drinks
The art of small talk
There are plenty of options for topics that would interest your team, so get creative and tailor the experience so that everyone gets involved and has fun.
21) Help Attendees Wind Down
There’s nothing like a massage to help your team wind down after a hard day’s work.
Most people carry stress in their shoulders and neck, so hiring a masseuse or masseur to give free five-minute shoulder/neck massages is the perfect way to make your happy hour even better.
You can either make it first-come, first-served or put out a sign-up sheet so that everyone gets a turn. Either way, the combination of food, drink, conversation, and a free massage will get everyone’s mind off the pressures of work.
22) Start The Day With A Happy Hour Brunch
For a truly unique idea, try starting the day with a non-alcoholic breakfast or brunch.
End-of-the-day work happy hours are great, but many team members have other obligations to attend to and may not be able to stay. Moving your event to the beginning of the day is a great way to help everyone stay relaxed and productive for the work to come.
Consider hiring a local restaurant to cater the affair and provide pancakes, waffles, eggs, and unique toppings.
During the meal, stimulate conversation by asking attendees to share their favorite topping ideas with others.
23) Get Creative With The Fare
Food is a big part of what makes a work happy hour idea successful. We discussed the basics of this earlier in the article — always include some type of finger food, munchie, or treat — but don’t be afraid to get creative with the fare you offer.
Options that are sure to please include:
If these options are beyond your cooking ability, hire a local restaurant or bakery to provide the food so you don’t have to.
24) Start The Work Happy Hour With A Bit Of Comedy
Comedy does wonders to get people to relax and unwind. And that’s exactly what you want for your event.
To kick off the festivities the right way, consider hiring a local comedian to perform a 15- or 20-minute set for all attendees. After that, invite him or her to stick around, get to know your team, and enjoy the drinks and food on hand.
Another option might be to hold an open mic toward the end of your work happy hour to give team members the option to “perform” for and “entertain” their coworkers.
If you choose this option, give your employees plenty of advanced notice so they have time to prepare something for the event.
Listen To Feedback
Regardless of which work happy hour idea you choose, ask for — and listen to — feedback from your employees.
Don’t be afraid to try something new. But if it doesn’t go over well, change it. That’s the only way you’re going to know what works for your team. Because, really, it’s all about what brings your team together and improves the way they work.
Choose The Right Space For Your Work Happy Hour
If you really want to make your happy hour a success, choose the right space for the event.
A space that’s too large or too small or doesn’t have the right mix of seating options can hinder your ideas before they even get started.
The best option is to hold your work happy hour in an open, professionally decorated workspace with plenty of sofas, chairs, benches, and tables. This gives attendees easy access to the entire room and sufficient seating and table options for both small- and large-group gatherings.
Where can you find spaces like these?
The coworking spaces at Bond Collective are the perfect solution for all of your work happy hour needs. We provide:
Private meeting rooms
Private phone booths
Guest reception and greeting
Access to other portfolio locations
And other industry-leading amenities
With access to Bond Collective’s spaces and robust infrastructure, your work happy hour will go off without a hitch and bring your team closer than ever before.
For more business advice and to learn about the advantages of coworking spaces for startups, digital nomads, remote workers, and enterprises of all types and sizes, visit Bond Collective’s many locations in the United States, including workspaces in New York, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Illinois, Tennessee, and Texas.
Call us today or visit BondCollective.com to find out more about everything we have to offer.
And while you’re at it, schedule a tour to experience first-hand how the boutique work environments at Bond Collective can benefit your business.