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All work and no play makes for a dull company, which is why every now and then, we at Brevo like to throw parties. Even now, we try to find the time to come together and rock out—we just happen to do it digitally.

Virtual video conference parties can be fun, but they’re not exactly easy to put together. It’s difficult to replicate the feel of a physical gathering, and we have to acknowledge the reality of Zoom fatigue. Still, it’s all we got, and it’s important for coworkers to meet virtually for recreational purposes! 

When you get right down to it, connecting through the internet allows us to come together, build strong bonds, and make meaningful attachments. So we put together a list of best practices that can make your virtual gathering a night to remember.

1. A Theme Makes the Dream Work

A theme-less party is like a burger without toppings—it’s fine, but why settle for plain? Your party needs a theme, a concept, an idea that people can get behind. The theme can dictate your virtual party’s general vibe.

It’s also a chance to dress up! A Christmas or Halloween party will compel your guests to come correct in festive costumes or attire. And if the virtual party doesn’t fall on a particular holiday, that’s just more room to move around in! How about “Disco”? Or “Summer in the 90s”? Or “Mall Punk”? Organizers get a chance to go bananas with key words while guests get to make sense of the theme like a puzzle. 

Consider as well a collaborative effort where the whole team decides on a theme together—that can take the form of a poll or a brainstorm. Themes are like creative prompts for your guests, that allow them to express themselves in unique ways.

2. You Get A Freebie! And You Get A Freebie!

Y’know how party invitations are automatically more enticing if they say there’s an open bar? That still applies to online gatherings, believe it or not, even though the new normal doesn’t let drinks flow as freely. When a company sends physical favors to their employees for the party, like free food and booze (and non-alcoholic options too!), that’s them saying “Hey, we’re bringin’ the party to you.”

Remember: “eat, drink, and be merry” isn’t just a suggestion—it’s a sequence of steps. You gotta do the first two before you can have a good time.

3. Get It Right With Invites

Setting the rhythm of a party happens as soon as people show up. A few early birds come in, hosts get a chance to give their ice breakers a test drive, and people get to ease into the feeling of being in the group. More people enter the virtual room, turn their mics and cameras on, and find themselves in a conversation finding its footing. The last batch of people come in fashionably late, and by this point the gathering has settled into a kind of groove, with people talking and listening and acclimating to the atmosphere.

This isn’t something you can achieve when everybody comes in at the same time, all at once, which can be overwhelming. So here’s a tip from Business Insider: stagger your invites! Make an invitation plan that lets people attend gradually, in portions and increments.

4. Hands Up, They’re Playin’ Our Song

Speaking of rhythm! Nobody wants to show up at a party and be met with dead air, or the plain white noise of chatter. Ideally a playlist of bops is already doing its thing in the background. A solid party playlist can help build an atmosphere, and get your guests in the right mindset!

Ideally, you’ve got somebody manning the DJ booth equivalent of your chosen platform. There are also services that allow people to “pass the aux cord around,” so to speak, and people can take turns playing their favorite tunes.

5. Game Plan

It might be common sense at this point for anyone who’s ever held a Zoom party, but your gathering likely needs games. Putting games in your itinerary lets people know what to expect from the night. Not to mention prizes!

Games do a good job of helping wallflowers feel included too! Trivia nights, competitions, and song-and-dance presentations have a way of getting people out of their shells. Remember, the goal isn’t to turn your introverts into extroverts! It’s to bring people together.

As we enter the fifth month of quarantine restrictions, it may seem like it gets harder and harder to work from home each day. Although the idea of it all may have been appealing back in the day (imagine filing reports and attending morning huddles in your pajamas!), the honeymoon has soured and the muddled distinction between work and home life may get particularly draining. After all, how do you focus on your work duties when your TV is right there begging you to go on a Netflix marathon?

Thankfully, we here at Brevo are learning to adjust to this newfangled setup. Along the way, we’ve picked up a few tips and tricks to best harness and maintain focus during work hours. Check out the productivity hacks our team members use to keep their work-from-home game on point!

“My morning routine is very important to me. If I fail to wake up at 6AM and I miss my morning run and meditation, I know my day will fall apart. I also make it a point to call my teammates at the start of the week so we can write out to-do lists together. Additionally, I’ll sometimes switch up my workstation for the day. It’s nice to have a change in scenery every now and then.”

- Imran, Director

“I make it a point to meditate first thing in the morning. In these uncertain times, taking ten minutes to stay still and breathe really makes a difference in managing my anxiety. I also start the day by writing an extensive to-do list, breaking down all my big tasks into bite-sized steps. Most importantly, I have a hard-and-fast rule about never working from my bed — I just know I’ll get way too comfortable and never get anything done.”

- Jeremiah, Copywriter

“It was pretty easy for me to adjust to working from home, since all I need to do my job is fast Internet and a computer. It was harder though to separate my work life from my home life. So, when I wake up I try to create some time just for myself. I often go to our garden before clocking in to breathe and mentally prepare for the day. I’ve also designated a specific workstation outside my bedroom. I think it has helped me set clear boundaries and maintain a healthy work-life balance.”

- Trisha, Community Manager

“The biggest challenge was tuning out all unnecessary distractions, especially when all my video game consoles are right there. I’ve started to wake up a few hours earlier than usual so I can mentally prepare for the day and list down all of my tasks. I also moved my workstation to our living room, where my brothers are also busy working. I found that being surrounded by busy people simulates an office environment, which helps me focus and keeps me from getting distracted throughout the day.”

- Rafa, Account Executive

“I found it hard to focus at first because my mind is wired to feel at my most comfortable at home. One thing that always helps is coffee, so I make sure that I have it in the morning. I also started working by the window, a place that was both comfortable and conducive to my productivity. I don’t like spending a long amount of time staring at my screen, so I like being able to look out the window and let my eyes rest for a bit. Taking short breaks also helps in avoiding burnouts and regaining my focus. I try to stand up, walk around the house, or play with my dog for a bit every now and then.”

- Carissa, Graphic Designer

Admittedly, the work-from-home isn’t perfect and can cause a lot of annoying inefficiencies. (Ever been on a Zoom call with a coworker with poor signal?) But by writing thorough to-do lists, delineating specific workstations around the house, and taking time for yourself before clocking in, you can keep a high level of productivity even from the comfort of your home.

How do you improve your focus and productivity while working from home? Sound off in the comments below!

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