By Drew Puig, Brand Launch Manager
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.
14 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.
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.