Every day, nearly 10,000 people reach retirement age. In 2020 alone, the number of Baby Boomers retiring increased by over 3 million from the previous year. While not everyone retires from their career at age 65, it is likely that this year will bring with it an opportunity to celebrate one of your coworkers as they head off into retirement. But with many offices spread around the globe or still maintaining work-from-home standards, how do you properly celebrate your coworker in this digital age? Enter the virtual retirement party.
While having virtual social events may be a hallmark of the COVID-19 pandemic, we think the idea is here to stay. As more and more companies ditch the 9-to-5 office environment, there will be plenty of opportunities for virtual celebrations. Ready to become a virtual party planning master? Start here with our guide to throwing a momentous—and memorable—virtual retirement party.
Why Should You Hold a Virtual Retirement Party?
Retirement is an incredible accomplishment. It represents years of hard work and devotion. Spending a few hours celebrating years of accomplishments is well worth the time, even when done virtually.
The moment of retirement is an opportunity to honor and encourage friends and coworkers. And just because you’re not all in the same city, state or country, it doesn’t mean the moment should pass by unacknowledged. A virtual retirement party is the perfect way to let your coworker know you will miss them, but also that their time with your company has left a mark.
Ideas for Holding a Virtual Retirement Party
A virtual retirement party may take place on a screen rather than in a home or event space, but that doesn’t mean it is any less of an event! In fact, taking your retirement party virtual enables more guests to attend from other parts of the globe. Truly make your event one to remember with these tips for hosting a virtual retirement party.
Use Apps to Facilitate Engagement
The first step to throwing a memorable virtual retirement party is to create a buzz about the event. Sending out virtual invitations through an app like Evite makes the party feel more tangible to the guests, including the guest of honor. The app also allows guests to sign a virtual “guest book” and leave fun comments to prepare for the big day.
Build on your party momentum by inviting all your coworkers to contribute to a retirement memory book. Getting the entire office to collaborate and share memories and photos helps facilitate engagement and excitement for the celebration.
Set Up a Countdown
What better way to build anticipation than to create a countdown to the big day? Virtual countdowns are easy to set up and serve as a fun way to honor your coworker throughout their last days and months with the company. Platforms like Counting Down To and Time and Date let you create a countdown clock to share with coworkers. You can even choose a retirement party theme and save the clock to your internal website or flash it up on company Zoom meetings as a reminder of the upcoming event. However you choose to use it, a countdown is a great way to add some lighthearted fun to your highly anticipated virtual retirement party.
Send Physical Gifts
While the key event will be virtual, sending physical gifts is a great way to show the guest of honor that you appreciate them. Need some retirement gift ideas? Even small, personal gifts can make a big statement! From a book by the retiree’s favorite author to travel essentials for their first big trip post-retirement, these tokens will remind recipients that they are loved. Also, don’t forget to print your office memory book and have it shipped straight to them.
Pick a Time That the Entire Team Can Attend
Whether you’re using Zoom, your own internal conferencing tool or any other video conferencing platform, finding a time when everyone can attend is essential. In-office retirement parties are an opportunity for everyone in the company to celebrate. Virtual retirement parties are no different. Choose a time when the board, committees and entire staff can pause their workday and properly celebrate.
Plan the Activities
Another way to ensure a successful virtual retirement party is to plan the activities. Video conferencing can sometimes be awkward (although, hopefully we’re all past that by now!), and being unprepared for a party can just add to that awkward feeling.
Instead, entertain guests with some fun virtual games that get people interacting, laughing and enjoying the moment. Games are a simple way to engage the entire list of attendees at your virtual retirement party while also easing the slight tension of online interaction. The best part is that virtual games are simple! We’ve even listed a few that you and your team might enjoy.
Two Truths and a Lie
A fun and easy way to get to know each other, and the guest of honor, is to play “Two Truths and a Lie.” Each person shares two facts about themselves that are true and one that is a lie. Guests have to guess which is which. Hand out points for each correct guess and designate a winner at the end! Fun prizes can be anything from office bragging rights and a virtual medal to a coffee gift card for the winner’s local coffee shop.
Another great virtual retirement party game is Heads Up!, a virtual take on classic games like charades. Send a link to your party guests before the big day and have them download the Heads Up! app on their phones. Divide guests into teams and enjoy a laugh with your coworkers. When it’s your turn, simply hold the phone up to your head and try to guess what is on the screen based on the clues from your team. When you get it right, you get to move on to the next word or you can skip a challenging word at the risk of losing points. Either way, your virtual party guests will have a great time.
Never Have I Ever – Office Edition
Never Have I Ever is a classic party game that comes in many forms. For a virtual retirement party, however, we recommend trying this Zoom-friendly office edition. Start by having everyone at the party hold up five fingers. The first person to go says, “Never have I ever…” followed by something they have never done around the office or during the workday. For example, “Never have I ever watched TV during a work Zoom meeting.” If anyone has done this before, they have to close one finger. Once all five fingers are closed, that person exits the game!
Plan a Virtual Escape Room
Familiar with the excitement (and tension) of Escape Room? Now you can play online with your entire company. Your virtual Escape Room is like the real thing, except instead of being in the room yourself, you and your party guests get to experience the room remotely. An Escape Room guide joins your virtual retirement party and locks themselves in the room with a camera. Your guests then look for clues and help direct the guide to escape the room. The entire process takes about 60 minutes. You must schedule this in advance, so be sure to plan ahead!
Don’t Make It Lengthy
Amid planning your coworker’s virtual retirement party, be sure to keep it fun, festive and also timely. A long, drawn-out event reminds people of lengthy work meetings, not celebrations. Keep the party on schedule with specific games and activities, and set aside a predetermined amount of time for speeches, memory sharing and well-wishes. Let guests know in advance how long the party will be, and then allow room for people to stay on longer if they wish.
Ideas for Mailing Gifts
Sending gifts to your retiring coworker is one way to make the celebrations last a little longer. Gifts also leave a tremendous impact, especially if they arrive in the days after retirement when your coworker may be missing work or their old routine.
These are a few simple gift ideas, but you can find more retirement specific gift ideas on our blog!
Send Gift Cards
One of the simplest and easiest gifts to send a retiring coworker is a gift card. You can have the entire office sign one card or have everyone send a personal card and message to flood the retiree’s mailbox on the same day/week. You can also mail a collaborative book that serves as a “gift card” from the office that your coworker will treasure for years to come.
Send Their Favorite Flower
One way to make your retiree feel celebrated is with the very tangible gift of flowers. Having flowers delivered to the front door will make anyone feel special, and this is certainly a time to emphasize how special your coworker is to the team. For those retirees who are big fans of gardening, consider sending a plant or bush instead. Find a local delivery company, or use a popular nationwide option like 1-800 Flowers or FTD.
Tips & Tricks to Ensure A Successful Virtual Retirement Party
One of the best and easiest ways to throw a successful virtual retirement party is to keep things fun, festive and on theme. This is a special opportunity to celebrate someone who has worked hard to get to where they are today. Follow these tips to keep your party running smoothly and feeling festive for everyone involved!
Honor the Guest
The entire reason you and your team are gathering online is to celebrate the guest of honor. Set aside an ample amount of time (but don’t let it go too long!) to allow people to share fun work memories, stories and personal thoughts about the retiree. You can even encourage everyone to BYOB to the party and show up with a sparkling beverage in hand so you can all make virtual toasts.
Invite Those Near & Dear to The Honoree
Just like in-person retirement parties, a virtual retirement party should include close friends and family members of the retiree. The day is extra special when the guest of honor’s spouse, children and former colleagues are there to celebrate too. Be sure to schedule some time for these special invitees to share a few words about their loved one.
Share Past Experiences of Their Career
A retirement party is the perfect time to highlight the experiences and achievements of a long and fulfilling career. Invite some of your team’s longest standing employees (and those who have worked closely with the retiree) to share some of their fondest memories and lessons learned from working with the guest of honor. This is a time for celebration, so keep stories and memories festive, positive and encouraging!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How long should the party last?
There is no hard and fast rule about how long a virtual retirement party should last. If you plan to include games and activities, we recommend keeping your party from 90 minutes to two hours (remember that the virtual Escape Room takes 60 min). For parties that are simply a time to share memories, 30 minutes may be enough time to celebrate.
How do you handle coworkers leaving virtually?
Encourage your coworkers to stay for the entire party to help make the guest of honor feel valued. You can even share the itinerary with everyone so that if they need to slip out early, they can find an appropriate time that won’t interrupt the festivities.
What are the most important parts of a virtual retirement party?
Making sure your guest of honor feels special is the most important aspect of a virtual retirement party. Be sure to prioritize time to share stories and celebrate the retiree’s accomplishments.
Retirement is an achievement worth celebrating! Thanks to technology and a little creativity, hosting a virtual retirement party for your coworker has never been easier. With a little planning, you can engage your team and plan a thoughtful event that includes games, gifts, special stories and plenty of shared memories.
For more great gift ideas to make your retiree feel celebrated and honored, check out our memory book resources and ideas.