Happy Hour Alternatives for Remote and Virtual Employess
Knowing where to invest culture dollars should be your #1 priority

Great Alternatives to Happy Hours for Virtual and Remote Employees

Building a great team culture is a moving target. The common team culture tropes — have a pizza party or a happy hour — are plays from an outdated playbook.

Picture 10-person team of software developers. They put in extra hours to meet a tough client deadline. The project gets completed on time and the client is over the moon. The manager of the department wants to reward and recognize the team for nailing this tough project. He has a team happy hour at the local wing bar to celebrate. This effort by the manager is great in theory, but not in practice. One employee doesn’t drink. One hates loud bars. One is vegan. One lives on the other side of town. One has a sick kid at home. The other five are virtual employees who live hours away. The only person who was happy about this happy hour is the manager who picked it. Not the most motivating experience for a developer who just put in extra hours.

Today’s workplace is vastly different than it was even a few years ago. The COVID-19 disruption ushered in an unprecedented increase in virtual and hybrid teams. Happy hours and pizza parties no longer work (and they rarely did in the first place).

One of the things Whistle believes in is the democratization of culture budgets. This means getting money — cash money, not gift cards or coupons — deeper into organizations rather than having one or a few people decide on culture activities for the whole company. Not only does this help engage employees better in a modern office, it also promotes a sense of inclusion and belonging to employees from different backgrounds.

Let’s go back to our 10-person software developer team. Instead of the happy hour that no one liked anyway, imagine if the team’s manager loaded $25 into everyone’s digital wallet with a thoughtful note of appreciation. This simple gesture showed the team that the manager recognized their efforts and rewarded them for the hard work they put in, and everyone — regardless of where they live or how they feel about hot wings — can now choose how they want to enjoy their reward. Everyone feels included and no one feels pressured to go to a situation they don’t feel comfortable in.

Democratization of culture budgets does not mean that you can’t hold team bonding events anymore. Instead, it opens up exponentially more options. Here are a few to consider with your hybrid and remote teams:

  • Have a food-delivery race. Buy everyone on your team lunch by putting money into their virtual wallet. Get on a video call and have everyone order whatever lunch they want. Press “purchase” at the same time and see whose lunch comes first.
  • Have a photo competition. Today’s smart phones have great cameras. Watch some YouTube tutorials together and then challenge your team to take the most artistic photo of something in their office — doesn’t matter if it’s HQ or their home office. Give out prizes to the winners.
  • Have a virtual potluck. Give everyone on your team some cash to make their favorite recipe. On a virtual call, have everyone take a few minutes to show off their dish and explain how they made it. You can have themes such as “your favorite childhood food,” or “food that starts with the letter “B”,” or “something I’ve never cooked before.”
  • Encourage everyone to learn a skill. Use your culture budget to pay for everyone on your team to take a virtual class on whatever topic they find interesting — not something directly related to work. Set time to have your team show off their new skills.
  • Have a podcast club. Start a channel on your team chat where people recommend their favorite podcasts. Even better, if you can find one that everyone enjoys, set some time at the end of the week where everyone can get together and discuss that week’s episode.

These alternatives to happy hour don’t just reflect this new reality, they present a unique opportunity to uplevel your team culture. The possibilities are endless and the impact for team morale and engagement can be huge. The only limitation is the creativity of the manager. Picking the wing bar for happy hour might have worked in the 90’s, but today’s workplace is distributed, diverse, and requires a better way to build great culture.


There are many factors that influence employee loyalty but Whistle is the first employee loyalty app specifically designed for that purpose. By leveraging Whistle and integrating with other programs, Whistle can help companies improve both their top and bottom line.

In a recent case study, Whistle helped a manufacturing company reduce turnover by 26% in just 90 days through a redesigned onboarding program. Whistle’s employee loyalty app brought the company’s on-boarding process into the digital age and put it in every employee’s pocket. Employees raved about the mobile-first experience and cash reward system. 

Companies are using Whistle to help people-managers improve relationships with their direct reports, rethinking incentives and rewards, and even changing their approach to culture – building a more inclusive workplace and helping to attract quality candidates.

Contact us for a free demo and better understand how much you can improve employee loyalty when using an employee loyalty app!

Additional posts you might find interesting

Timely reward in construction
New feature - recognition
FAQs, Freuently Asked Questions
Tis the season to practice gratitude
Why incentives fail
Reduce quiet quitting with employee loyalty
Magic Links Whistle App
Jennifer Ernst-Employee Loyalty Leader
Employee Loyalty Definition
Metrics in Whistle
Employee Loyalty App featured image
Employee Hierarchy of Needs
Whistle Press Release
Bank professionals prefer cash rewards
Great onboarding
Making friends with friction white paper