Blending in-person and virtual can be challenging when it comes to creating out-of-work experiences that people will actually enjoy. Here are some ideas to help mix it up (literally, in some cases). 

As our office dynamics have transitioned to more virtual formats, effective team building and ice-breaker activities are more important than ever. The objectives of team-building has also changed, says Sean Hoff, managing partner of Moniker, a team-building and company retreat specialist. 

“Before, in-person meetings and incentives experiences were meant to build camaraderie and trust. Now, in the virtual world, it's more about building connections and making sure people don't feel isolated.”

The Idea Hunter offers everything from mixology, painting and charcuterie masterclasses to seasonally-themed workshops such as BBQ 101, holiday wreath decorating and even how to prepare a home garden for spring planting.

Think small groups, dynamic conversation and custom kits

“Team building in smaller groups of four to seven people works much better and is more manageable from a virtual perspective than having 100-plus participants,” Hoff explains. 

“We've also discovered team-building experiences that incorporate an element of dialogue or two-way interaction, for example, with actors or bantering with the host, are much better received than when groups are just completing a task or a game on their own.”

The Idea Hunter ramped up its selection of workshops for corporate groups when lockdown began and now offers anything from mixology, painting and charcuterie masterclasses to seasonally-themed workshops such as BBQ 101, holiday wreath decorating and even how to prepare a home garden for spring planting.

“You get higher engagement when the workshop includes a kit that you can send to participants,” advises Hailey Dawood, owner of The Idea Hunter. 

The beauty of kits is that they can work both for face-to-face and online get-togethers and the best part is that a kit delivered to a participant’s home helps build anticipation until it’s time to unbox the goodies.

Remember: everyone loves a DIY mixology activity

Espresso Martini anyone? Cocktail culture never seems to go out of style and the virtual happy hour is still going strong. 

With three retail stores in the city, Cocktail Emporium is a Toronto go-to for all things drinks-related, including bar tools, glassware and interesting ingredients, and they offer customized corporate gift sets.

Toronto's renowned custom cocktail bar BarChef offers in-person—at the office or at their location—and virtual cocktail classes, thanks to pre-sent ingredient kits complete with in-house bitters, infused syrups, bar tools and more. 

“Right now, we’re seeing cocktail culture evolve quickly where bartenders are using dairy, different sugars and spices to infuse and change flavour profiles,” says Greg O’Brien, co-founder with his wife Sarah O’Brien, of Bar From Afar, which offers both single-spirit and mixer kits featuring clear instructions and all the ingredients required to create classic speakeasy-style drinks and mocktails virtually. 

Tap into creativity and engage the artistic community

If your group members are feeling a little been-there-done-that fatigue, look to IRL team building for inspiration on how to inject some creativity into the hybrid activities and layering in a virtual element. Get the team involved by asking them to develop fresh new storylines for trivia nights, murder mysteries and virtual escape rooms, or even develop a custom game just for your group.

Another idea: engage the local creative community and ask about hybrid customizations to traditional in-person workshops. And if you’ve booked an entertainer, musician, visual artist or dancer as part of your virtual gathering, consider mixing live and pre-recorded content, advises Dawood. “Participants want to engage with the artists. When we organize a dance workshop, for example, we pre-record the dancer’s performance and then include them live to chat with participants and teach dance steps.”