Hi! You found our list of the best virtual Thanksgiving ideas.
Virtual Thanksgiving is the celebration of the gratitude holiday through online platforms like Zoom, Webex and Microsoft Teams. Virtual Thanksgiving ideas are examples of the specific ways you can celebrate the holiday, and may serve as inspiration for your own plans. For example, with games and activities like Bingo, scavenger hunts and time capsules. Thanksgiving is on November 26, 2020 in the US.
This list includes:
- virtual Thanksgiving activities
- Thanksgiving team building activities
- virtual Thanksgiving games
- Thanksgiving Zoom ideas
- remote Thanksgiving ideas
- virtual Thanksgiving ideas for work
And more 🙂
Here is everything you need to know to celebrate Thanksgiving with a remote team.
List of virtual Thanksgiving ideas
From online community service projects to recipe swaps to seasonal arts and crafts, here are a few ways to celebrate the Thanksgiving season with your distributed team.
1. Online Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt
Scavenger hunts are great ways to get your team up and moving during online gatherings. To run a lightning online scavenger hunt, give players clues one at a time and award points to the first team that produces the prompted object or action.
Feel free to add other clues, too!
Here is a guide on how to do virtual scavenger hunts.
2. Virtual Thanksgiving Bingo (Fun)
Playing Virtual Thanksgiving Bingo is a great way for teams to interact and learn more about each other. To play, split up into breakout rooms for intimate conversations and to randomize the results. We made a sample card for you to use. Feel free to add your own clues.
Be sure to randomize the groups the groups so that not everyone wins simultaneously. Most importantly, allow time to elaborate and share stories when marking squares. Chances are, your team is a goldmine of golden Thanksgiving tales.
Check out our guide to virtual team building bingo for rules and guidelines.
3. Kindness Quest (Fully Hosted)
Kindness Quest is a 90 minute, fully-hosted virtual event focused on gratitude, appreciation and community service. For example, the team activities include thank you letters, trivia that gives kibble to animal shelters for correct answers, and other small acts of kindness.
One of the advantages of Kindness Quest is that you can participate along with your team. Our energetic, and incredibly kind, hosts will lead the activities and games, which let’s your team focus on enjoying the experience. We highly recommend Kindness Quest for remote teams looking to do activities together that recognize the holiday spirit.
Learn more about Kindness Quest.
4. Virtual Volunteering (Community)
Thanksgiving is not only about giving thanks, but also about giving back to those who may have fewer reasons to rejoice. Many companies and individuals participate in community service projects throughout November. You and your remote crew can donate your time and efforts through an online volunteering option like the ones below.
Virtual volunteering ideas:
- Hire Heroes USA: This service provides career counseling and interview practice to military families. Your team can use field and interview expertise to help veterans.
- UN Volunteers: The United Nations Volunteers program matches participants with a cause in need. Because projects are skills-based, this program is a good fit for professionals.
- Career Village: Another professional-centric service project, Career Village solicits industry answers to questions from interested students.
- Be My Eyes: This nonprofit pairs low-sighted people with volunteers to assist with everyday tasks via a smartphone app.
Many other organizations offer remote volunteer opportunities. You may even be able to find online volunteer options through a local company or a company-affiliated charity. Your team may even decide to launch a new project, like reading or writing to senior citizens, or creating a free tool for a community organization. If nothing else, then you and your team can make an online group donation to a cause of choice.
Here are more ideas to volunteer online.
5. Kindness To-Do Lists
Kindness to-do lists motivate team members to perform random acts of kindness. To launch the challenge, give each teammate a list of tasks to accomplish. Be sure to set a timeframe for the list’s completion. Then, encourage staff to check off every item on the list.
We created a template for the game, and you can add your own positive gestures, too!
At the end of the activity, ask teammates to share and reflect on the experience, and give kudos to the kindest deeds. Feel free to encourage players to continue the kind acts after the game ends!
At work, this game can help boost morale.
6. Native American History Lesson
Thanksgiving commemorates the cooperation between Native Americans and pilgrims, and you can honor the tribes that helped settlers survive by participating in a virtual history lesson.
Here are some online resources for virtual Native American history lessons:
- The Institute for American Indian Studies website and Facebook
- Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian 360°
- PBS We Shall Remain series
- Map of Native American Tribes by State
- Guide To Indigenous Land And Territorial Acknowledgements For Cultural Institutions
- National Archives
Consider also partnering with a Native American cultural association to schedule a more comprehensive guide-led virtual tour.
7. Gratitude Wall
Virtual workplaces often miss out on the many informal thank you’s that bounce around the hallways of offices. Your online team can display appreciation for colleagues by using a gratitude wall.
To create a gratitude wall, simply designate a place online where all group members can post, such as a social media group, a Slack channel, or an online whiteboard application like Miro. You can kick the activity off by posting kind anonymous comments about your coworkers. Then, invite the rest of the team to do the same. You could even play “compliment tag,” and challenge teammates to write a kind comment in turn upon receiving a compliment.
For best results, ensure that all team members receive at least one sincere note of gratitude. Your online gratitude wall will add a public and visual element to the thanks, and will spread warm fuzzies quickly amongst the team. This activity is a great way to circulate positivity and appreciation throughout your virtual office.
8. Virtual Thanksgiving Trivia
Trivia is fun pretty much all year round, and even more so on holidays. You can spice up your next team meeting or holiday party with some Thanksgiving specific trivia.
Here are a few questions to get started with:
And here is a guide on how to do trivia online.
9. Recipe Swap
Though certain dishes are widely accepted as Thanksgiving foods, acceptable sides vary from dinner table to dinner table, and families also have different ways of preparing dishes. By hosting an online recipe swap, you can expose your crew to new experiences. Because dispersed teams are often spread throughout different regions, your online teammates may enjoy various distinct cuisines. Or, coworkers may spill a secret ingredient.
To host an online recipe swap, you can instruct teammates to post on a special chat channel or online page, or invite teammates to exchange recipes and real time tips during a trial-run cooking video call. You could even compile a team cookbook in a PDF or Google Doc that your colleagues can consult yearlong.
10. Remote Thanksgiving Dinner
Though many holidays involve food, few celebrations center around food as much as Thanksgiving. Hosting a remote dinner is one of the most obvious virtual Thanksgiving celebration ideas. To host your online family meal, invite your teammates to a video call and provide a food stipend. The meal does not need to be Thanksgiving-specific or turkey-centric; the important part is to gather your employees and spend quality online time together. Between bites, you and your teams can answer icebreaker questions:
Here are a few virtual Thanksgiving icebreakers to add to the list:
- What was the best dish you ever ate on Thanksgiving?
- Have you ever had a Thanksgiving fiasco?
- If you could eliminate one Thanksgiving dish forever, which would it be?
- If you could invite any famous figure, living or dead, to your Thanksgiving, who would you choose?
- What are you most thankful for this year?
- What do you hope to be most thankful for on a future Thanksgiving?
Here is a list of holiday icebreaker questions for more inspiration.
Food has mighty uniting powers, and hosting a special dinner via Skype or Zoom can help your remote team develop familiarity and rapport. While your meals might nourish you physically, the conversation will nourish socially and emotionally.
11. Hand Turkeys
I once had an epic fail at drawing a hand turkey by sketching the face in the middle of the palm instead of on the finger. Embarrassed as I was at the time, laughing about my goof helped me bond with my new college friends.
Remote work can be just as lonely as the first few months of college, and virtual teammates can enjoy childish fun just as much as bored eighteen year-olds. Sometimes, teams benefit most from virtual team building activities on the silly side.
You can add a dash of nostalgia to your remote Thanksgiving activities by hosting a hand turkey contest. Teammates can submit entries for a chance to win a prize like an online restaurant gift card (because who wants to cook after Thanksgiving?) You could either draw masterpieces and vote via poll during a video call, or create a social media group and invite colleagues to vote with likes.
12. Thanksgiving Time Capsule
Our CEO once told me about his grade one class project to build and bury a time capsule. The children thoughtfully bundled items like newspaper clippings, coins and similar, and set a timer to check back in twenty years later. Unfortunately, nobody ever followed up, and “for the last time sir, we don’t know what you are talking about.”
Your team can create a more successful time capsule by following a one year rule. Here is how it works:
- Each participant contributes one to three messages of gratitude, and saves each one in a digital format.
- The organizer collects the messages, saves them as an archive, and sets a reminder for the Thanksgiving next year.
- Each year, you open up the time capsule from the previous year and enjoy the messages.
The messages can be anything digital: from written messages saved as a PDF, to short voice recordings, artwork and more.
The reason this team building activity is so effective is that it has a long term scope, which will help increase engagement.
Here are more virtual team engagement ideas.
13. Thank You Tag
Thank you tag is an online game that encourages remote workers to connect with colleagues and share appreciation. To play, one team member starts as “it.”
The “it” person messages one teammate a sincere message of gratitude, at which point that person becomes “it.” The game continues for a set amount of time, and each teammate must receive at least one “thank you.”
We recommend asking teammates to track the number of thanks sent and add the score to a team spreadsheet, so you can tally the total number of thanks.
Feel free to encourage creativity in the messages. Besides kind words, teammates can send pictures, videos, artwork, and tiny gifts to show gratitude. At the end of the game, acknowledge the most creative and inspiring thank you messages.
Here is a list of employee appreciation quotes that may help.
14. Glad Handouts
Thanksgiving is a halfway holiday between Halloween and Christmas, and glad handouts is an activity halfway between trick or treating and opening Christmas presents.
First, supply each employee with a handful of treats to give away. These presents could be email gift cards, physical notecards, digital badges, small tokens like candy or stationary, or points redeemable for prizes. One fun option is to install the HeyTaco! extension on Slack, which enables staff to send up to five emoji tacos to teammates per day.
Whatever reward you choose, give each employee an equal number of tokens. Then, encourage participants to disperse the prizes over a certain time period, for instance, one week. This activity encourages teammates to demonstrate appreciation by giving back to each other. Players can also persuade teammates to send tokens by promising and delivering on favors.
15. Virtual Escape Room
Virtual escape rooms can be a fun way to connect teams. This fun goes even further if your people happen to like games, puzzles and challenges. Are the escape rooms Thanksgiving themed? Maybe not, but surely your team will learn to work together better and find appreciation in other’s unique talents and contributions. Also, you always feel little grateful when you escape and the experience is over.
Check out our list of virtual escape rooms for specific ideas.
16. Virtual Thanksgiving Icebreaker Games
Icebreaker games are quick five to ten minute activities that can help jump-start conversations and built relationships. You can start with a classic game like Never Have I Ever, and add a Thanksgiving twist.
For example, “never have I ever…”:
- eaten the entire turkey
- made gravy from scratch
- tried to copy grandmas cookie recipe
- put cheese is mashed potatoes
- made a pumpkin pie
- eaten two Thanksgiving dinners on the same day
Many other games can be adapted in way.
Here is a list of icebreaker games for reference.
17. Online Thanksgiving Happy Hour
Even if your team has done dozens of virtual happy hours, adding a unique theme like “Online Thanksgiving” can be a fun twist.
For example, you could:
- share Thanksgiving cocktail recipes before the call
- send a pumpkin spice kit to participants in advance
- create turkey Zoom backgrounds for attendees to use
- play games like Virtual Thanksgiving Bingo and scavenger hunts
And more. The key to running a successful themed virtual happy hour is to really lean into it.
Here is a list with more virtual happy hour ideas.
18. Celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving 🇨🇦
Canadian Thanksgiving is on a different day than American Thanksgiving, so you can double down on the gratitude this year. Not to mention, Canadian Thanksgiving occurs on Monday instead of Thursday, meaning you can start the week with appreciation.
Beyond the date, the Canadian version of the holiday is largely the same: full of feasts and thanks. You and your team can count blessings, share a virtual meal, and enjoy all the other activities on this list while paying tribute to our neighbors up north. Since Canadian Thanksgiving occurs in October, this celebration is like a trial run for American virtual Thanksgiving, meaning you can find the perfect laptop angle to hide that second helping of pumpkin pie.
19. Virtual Thanksgiving Team Building Activities
As part of your virtual Thanksgiving celebration at work, you can organize one or a series of virtual team building activities. For example, you might to a virtual campfire, a round of holiday themed trivia, a murder mystery or a Kindness Quest.
The reason virtual team building is so effective at Thanksgiving is because both experiences follow a similar spirit and approach. For example, with team building, you do need to show gratitude for your colleagues, and you need to find appreciation for what each unique team member brings to the organization.
Check out our list of virtual team building exercises for more ideas.
Virtual Thanksgiving tips
Here is a list of online Thanksgiving celebration tips to ensure your team observes the spirit of the season.
1. Respect family time
Thanksgiving can be a stressful time. As the end of the quarter approaches, employees are in the midst of holiday arrangements, preparing large meals and coordinating plans with relatives. The end of Thanksgiving brings no relief, as many dive immediately into planning December’s events.
While you want to take time to reflect on workplace accomplishments and blessings and refocus for the end of the year, you do not want to encroach on family time or cause employees extra stress. You should keep in mind your employee’s other obligations this time of year, and schedule events accordingly. Consider taking time out of the workday for your exercises, or invite family members to join in social activities like your remote dinner. You can also plan ongoing bonding exercises like hand turkeys and gratitude walls that employees can complete on their own schedule.
2. Focus on gratitude
There is no better time of year to express gratitude; the holiday literally tells us to give thanks. This season provides the perfect backdrop to highlight the importance of gratitude and teamwork in the workplace. As employees cherish bonds with family members, you can seize the opportunity to strengthen bonds within your teams. You can encourage employees to take stock of good fortune and express thankfulness to teammates. We often focus on improvement and growth in our teams, but dwelling on gratitude can also boost productivity and workplace well-being.
3. Give back to the wider community
Thanksgiving is a season of charity, and thus a prime time to start an online philanthropy effort. You and your virtual team can engage in one of the virtual volunteering measures mentioned above, or your remote company can launch a virtual fundraising campaign. This is a great time of year to highlight social responsibility and take actions that benefit a wider audience. Plus, volunteering can increase self-esteem and mental health. Often, remote workers experience loneliness, but dedicating time to a cause with coworkers can cultivate a sense of community.
Here is a list of virtual fundraiser ideas you can do with your team.
4. Extend the appreciation beyond November
Gratitude is important throughout the year, not just at Thanksgiving. If you limit your practice of gratitude to November, you risk losing the sincerity and the power of those expressions. While you can certainly highlight thankfulness during this time of year, you should incorporate a habit of gratitude into your virtual office year round.
Why is gratitude important in the virtual workplace?
Gratitude fosters a culture of recognition that fuels further teamwork, and thus is essential to any workplace. In physical offices, colleagues can grab each other coffee or snacks, tack “thank you!” sticky notes on each other’s monitors, and exchange a “great job!” when passing in the hallway. You might even think of gratitude as a team building skill.
However, virtual offices provide fewer chances for these casual gestures. The savvy team leader cultivates opportunities for remote peers to express appreciation, knowing that gratitude leads to increased employee satisfaction, higher self-esteem, and deeper relationships among teammates. Gratitude can effectively battle the feelings of loneliness and doubt that often plague remote employees.
Cultivating gratitude is one example of how to manage remote teams effectively.
Thanksgiving might not initially seem like a holiday to celebrate with a remote team, but the season’s emphasis on appreciation makes Thanksgiving a prime opportunity to spotlight gratitude. Gratitude is especially important for virtual teams because the practice can strengthen trust and relationships and stave off feelings of isolation and restlessness.
FAQ: Virtual Thanksgiving
Here are some questions we often see about how to celebrate Thanksgiving virtually.
What is Virtual Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving is a holiday that occurs on November 26, 2020 in the US. Because of the global pandemic, many people and organizations are celebrating the holiday virtually. For example, work teams may do a virtual Thanksgiving scavenger hunt, schools many play virtual Thanksgiving Bingo, and families may do a gratitude ceremony.
How do you celebrate Thanksgiving virtually?
There are many ways to celebrate Thanksgiving virtually. For example, you can do a remote dinner where everyone preps their own mean or orders in. You can also do gratitude activities, thank you cards, Turkey hand art and other fun games and activities.
What are some fun Thanksgiving themed games?
One of the most popular Thanksgiving games is Bingo. You can play this game in person or remotely, which makes it a good option. Plus, most people are familiar with the game mechanics. We also recommend completing a Kindness To-Do List as a way to support your community. Here is a list of Zoom games you can adapt for the holiday.
When is Thanksgiving in 2020?
In 2020, Thanksgiving is on Thursday, November 26 in the United States.
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