Work happy hours are a great way to get out of the office and keep things light. These fun, informal gatherings encourage socializing while people sip on the drink of their choice or indulge in some snacks. They are a great way of improving collaboration, nurturing relationships, and letting off steam. Hosting happy hours can bring people together and relieve the stress that can come with a normal workday. Credible research shows that millennials in particular enjoy happy hour, with 66% of millennial employees saying unique perks like food and beer keep them engaged. Need more incentive? Work happy hours can:
- Provide some highly valued decompression time
- Increase collaboration and foster discussions that may not happen in the office
- Attract new employees and retain current talent; plus make new people feel welcome
- Reward employees for achievements or other milestones
- Boost overall happiness and mental well-being
Let’s dive into happy hour ideas guaranteed to make everyone - well, happy!
25 Work happy hour ideas and games
Just what should a work happy hour look like? Do you just pick a venue and meet up? Or should there be planned activities? Here are some of our favorite activities for work happy hours. You can also browse our list of team-building activities for work and incorporate some of them into your next happy hour event!
1. Cooking class
Good food is often an element of a successful happy hour event, so why not have people make it themselves and learn something new? There are all kinds of cooking classes, from homemade noodles to five-course meals. Check with local restaurants or specialty companies who put on such events. There are many venues that host such parties. Bonus points if you supply branded aprons or other tools that people can take home.
2. Mixology tutorial
If you’re looking for a class that’s a bit more booze-focused, try bringing in a professional bartender to teach everyone how to make craft cocktails. You can do some research and inquire with private restaurants, or you can bring in a niche professional who offers such sessions.
3. Wine (or whiskey) tasting
If you’ve ever attended a wine tasting, then you know it’s a much bigger experience than just sipping on some wine. Having a sommelier (or mixologist or curator for other types of alcohol) can be really beneficial in learning about different types of drinks, what foods go with them, best practices for serving, etc. A good wine tasting will include 6 different versions ranging from white to red, as well as a palette cleanser and a few light snacks. If your team favors whiskey, you can research the best ways to serve and pair samples. Performing a quick Google search will help you learn the best ways to execute a tasting, but we suggest just reaching out to a local winery or distillery and setting up a group tasting.
Note: You may also want to arrange safe transportation, since the alcohol can really add up in tasting situations.
4. Snack tastings
If you don’t want so much focus on alcoholic drinks, try sticking with snacks. Who doesn’t love snacking? A snack pairing can be a really good idea if you have a culturally diverse staff. Have everyone bring or suggest one of their favorite snacks and the drink that is best served with it. This can range from a fancy hors d'oeuvre to a decadent dessert. Or, simply have everyone research a geographic area and bring in the region’s most popular snack for everyone to try. This is an easy DIY event that you can host without needing a particular space, though you may need room to set everything up.
5. Departmental meet and greets
Do you have different departments that tend to work in silos? In this case it can be a smart idea to organize happy hours where everyone can meet and mingle. You can go as far as assigning tables with mixed groups, or just encourage people to network more organically. A cross-departmental meet and greet is a simple and intuitive way to chat and get to know each other.
6. “Secret word” game
For this game, divide your group into two teams. Give each of them a different, “secret” word. The members of each team will try to incorporate the word into conversation as often as possible, without the other team guessing what their word is. For example, maybe one team is using the word “avocado”. Members would try to sneak in that word as often as possible, but organically, so it’s not easy to pick out. If someone orders a salad, a member might say “I love to put avocado in my salad.” Whichever team picks up on the other team’s secret word first, wins.
Note: You obviously want to make sure the secret word is work appropriate!
Just how much do employees know about each other (or your company)? You can put together a trivia game that everyone can play at your next event. This is particularly fun if you’re hosting people from different locations or offices, or if you have a staff that has worked together for a while. You’ll need to prepare questions in advance and bring them to your venue. If you don’t want to choose questions based on work, try general questions like “Who wrote Jurassic Park?” or “What is the national anthem of Canada?”
8. Guided icebreakers
If one of the goals of your happy hour is relationship building, then try throwing out a few icebreakers. These questions are perfect for getting everyone in the mood to socialize as well as to know each other better. If you want to get conversation flowing, have someone throw out a few questions such as “What is your spirit animal?” or “Which song best describes your life?” If you want more ideas on great icebreaker questions, check out our past article.
9. Outdoor picnic
Who doesn’t love getting out and breathing in fresh air? Put together a picnic during happy hour. Include some delicious food, drinks that you know people enjoy, and a big blanket with fun yard games. Here’s our take on modern and fun company picnics that people want to attend.
10. Sip and paint event
These guided paint activities (and others like them, such as building a birdhouse) have become really popular - and for good reason. Many people really enjoy using their hands, having a few laughs, and then having a memento to take home and display. You can probably find somewhere local to host such an event with a professional guide, or you can host your own. Additionally, many art venues offer DIY kits that you can share with your employees in advance - this is really helpful if you have virtual employees.
11. Scavenger hunt
If you’re interested in getting people moving during your happy hour, try a scavenger hunt. You might be surprised how many “objects” you can find in a bar or restaurant. You can print sheets ahead of time with items for people to cross off, or you can have everyone take photos of the subjects. For example, try using prompts like “two people wearing the same color”, “a sandwich”, “someone using chopsticks” or “a brightly colored cocktail”. Have everyone keep a file of photos on their phone, and whoever gets the most, wins. You could also divide people into teams and try to come up with scenarios that foster teamwork and collaboration too.
12. Finding commonalities
This is a fun and simple activity that is easy to execute no matter where you are. It does require a larger group since part of the activity is breaking people into groups. We suggest starting with groups of 3 - 5. Have each small group sit down together with the goal of finding something they all have in common. Set a time limit for doing so, such as five minutes. They will have to ask each other a lot of questions to dig into possible commonalities. They may find anything from all having a tattoo to all hoping to visit Scotland someday. If you want to add a fun twist, try combining this activity with the classic “two truths and a lie” game. In that case, groups would present their findings to the rest of the attendees. They would share three options of what they discovered, with one of them being false. Then the larger group would try to determine which thing they truly had in common.
13. This or that questions
To encourage more interaction, try this easy drinking game. Have a list of 'This or that' questions prepared and make sure everyone has a drink available. Questions should have two options (for example, pancakes or waffles) and everyone will choose one. Following the question, everyone present will say which option is their preference - and those who chose the other option need to take a drink. You can keep things simple or get as creative as you want, like cats or dogs, night owl or early bird, etc.
14. Name that tune
If you have a music-loving group, this is a particularly fun game. It’s also one of the more interactive happy hour activities. For this activity, you’ll need to create a song playlist in advance. One person will be the host and will play a small portion of a song while participants guess the song.
Note: If you have a diverse team, it’s important to choose songs that span everyone’s culture, so that everyone has a chance to participate. To make things even more interactive, you can have team members go around in a circle and play snippets of their own song. If you want to keep score, simply have everyone jot down their guesses on a piece of paper and tally them up at the end.
Speaking of music, karaoke is a time-tested way to get a lot of laughs and maybe even get people up dancing. Hit a local karaoke bar and encourage everyone to get up there and sing along with their favorite song. It’s important not to pressure people to participate, since this could be tough for people who experience social anxiety (or even just happen to be shy). Make an impact on morale by ensuring your team is a big cheering section for the singer.
16. Talent show
For more silly fun, let employees know that your next happy hour will be a talent show. To execute this idea, you probably need to be in your own office space or another venue where you have the space to yourself. This is also a nice idea for a big outdoor space. Announce the talent show in advance and let everyone prepare an “act”. Or, for even more fun, put people on the spot during the event and see what everyone can come up with at the last minute. You can encourage more cross-department collaboration by having people split up into groups for their talent act, doing things like a group poetry recitation or improv scene. If you want to ensure more networking, divide up the groups in advance.
17. Video game projection
Do you have some gamers in your crew? If so, set up a large projection screen, some comfy seating, snacks, and drinks, and let everyone go nuts. Make sure you have a variety of controllers and games available and plenty of space for everyone who is not actively playing a game at the moment. Keep things really comfortable and casual. This is a great activity for an office-takeover type of event or a fun Friday activity to close out the week.
18. Employee compliments
If your office needs a bit of a morale boost, try setting up a compliment exchange. This activity is completely free and super simple. Have everyone come up with a compliment for the person on their right. You can also just make this activity part of a regular happy hour or other activity. You might want to add in this activity the next time you need to motivate your team in a hurry.
19. Charades game
Did you ever play charades as a kid? If so, why not bring that fun into adulthood? Divide everyone into teams and make sure you’re in a place where people have plenty of space. You can have people write suggestions on a paper and then have people draw from a hat to keep the playing field really even and fun. Pair people who don’t work together for a proactive step in relationship-building.
20. Costume party
Dressing up isn’t just for Halloween! Come up with a theme for your next event and have everyone go all in. You may want to discuss with your team in advance as not everyone loves dressing up - make sure to gauge comfort with costumes and the theme you are considering. Check out our other office party ideas too.
21. Book exchange
Make everyone a bit smarter while they quench their thirst. Request that at your next happy hour, you bring a book to share. Ask people to bring their favorite book, or to choose the professional development book that’s been most helpful. Everyone should share a bit about what makes that particular book so special. At the end of the event, people can borrow the books available or just remember the title so they can find it on their own later on. This is a great way to learn more about your colleagues and learn some new things at the same time.
22. Beer pong game
If you’ve ever been to a fraternity party, this game needs no explanation. A classic drinking game, this option is for crowds who tend to get a bit rowdier. You set up the game with several red solo cups and ping pong balls - and of course, lots of beer. You’ll also need a large long table that you don’t mind getting messy. If you’re not sure how to play, just look up a tutorial on YouTube.
23. Escape room
Escape rooms have become really popular in many cities, and most of them serve drinks so you can make this a happy hour activity. If you’re not familiar with escape rooms, they are professionally designed spaces where groups are “locked” into a room and must solve a series of puzzles or perform a series of tasks to make it to the next stage, until they are free. Not only are they a lot of fun, but they require cooperation and communication. They are a great way to highlight everyone’s different skills and make sure that everyone can contribute, even those who tend to be a bit quieter at work. Check out other ideas for work outings, too.
24. Office bingo
Bingo is a classic party game. You can buy a basic bingo set at any toy store or online. Simply set up a comfortable space somewhere, find plenty of seating, and hand out the bingo cards and chips. Make sure you have a moderator who will pull and call the numbers. Up the ante by having prizes available that people will be excited to win. Ensure there are plenty of drinks and snacks within easy reach as well. This is a good option for a DIY-style happy hour event, where you just want to bring everything in yourself without finding a venue or managing catering.
25. Show and tell
Seeing what is most important to your colleagues is a good way to get to know more about them in general. Ask everyone to bring an item that can fit in a brown paper bag to your next happy hour. Then, go around the room and have everyone share what they brought and why it matters to them. If your group is too big for that, have people get into pairs and share their items with one another. If you are working on inter-departmental relationships, create a list of pairings in advance so that people don’t just pair off with who they are already sitting by.
Keep everyone happy beyond Happy hour
Happy hour is a designated time (usually in the late afternoon or evening) when many bars and restaurants offer discounted prices on drinks and sometimes appetizers. Happy hour is so named because it’s known as a time for people to unwind after a long day, socialize with friends and coworkers, and enjoy relaxation and good company. Many people find it to be a lively and cheerful atmosphere, and adding any of these activities will make things even more fun - and people even happier!
That being said, just like in a restaurant setting, happy hour is a limited timeframe and doesn’t last all day. Even though you can create a delightful happy hour experience, eventually everyone will need to go home. That’s why it’s important to create an overall culture of collaboration and team cohesion. There are plenty of smart ways to create this culture, such as team-building events, employee appreciation, annual company picnics, and more.
We also suggest planning regular team-building retreats where you bring everyone together in one place. Organizing annual (or more frequent) team-building retreats brings the energy of a happy hour in a more focused and prolonged setting. Retreats are essential to nurturing relationships and fostering collaboration, and they should be a part of your regular planning. If the thought of organizing one is holding you back, the Surf Office team is here to support you. We can help you to get out of the office and get creative, planning an exciting retreat that blends work and fun in the perfect balance. Make sure to follow our blog for plenty of actionable team-building tips.