News: Virtual work parties: the good, the bad and the plain peculiar.
Stockholm (Reuters) – Virtual Working Groups? You can’t really mingle or dance with coworkers, and it’s difficult to get into the disco mood in your home office. On the other hand, you can’t spread disease, you don’t have to go home, and there is no chance of a ill-advised fall in love encounter.
However, in the COVID-19 era, gala options are limited. Businesses turn to event organizers to create virtual social events for employees. And with work from home staying here, some expect demand to continue even after the pandemic.
After fintech employee Catharina Gehrke had done her work from home for almost a year, she was finally able to hear proper office gossip in the virtual bathroom and in the smoking area at her company’s online Christmas party.
The event she attended included a (virtual) taxi ride and dance floor, a Queen Elizabeth II impersonator, a cocktail class, and (real) food and drink baskets that were delivered to the 200 partygoers – the staff were at home firmly.
“Even though I was sitting alone in my living room, I really felt like I was at a party,” said Gehrke, who runs the Swedish branch of online pet insurance company Bought By Many.
Gehrke tried everything that the “venue” had to offer, but said the high point was getting juicy office gossip in the privacy of the (virtual) bathroom – where with a click of the mouse she could get off the dance floor with a selected group from friends.
She said the event was one of the best work events she’s been to, but added, “Maybe you just had to be there.”
According to data from Grand View Research, the global virtual events market is expected to grow from nearly $ 100 billion in 2020 to $ 400 billion in 2027 due to changing work habits.
“Virtual socials are 100% here to stay, but combined with in-person events,” said Rachel Haines, director of organization and development at Swedish payment company Klarna. “After all, I’d rather be doing yoga on the roof of our headquarters than in my living room.”
Klarna made virtual socialization a central part of its corporate culture during the pandemic.
“A lot of our people are young and live alone,” added Haines. “Online socials are very important and we have taken several major initiatives to ensure people are connected.”
These initiatives include Friday virtual drinks, weekday cooking weeks, and morning yoga. Klarna even ran a team building activity where employees solve puzzles to break free of a virtual “escape room,” said Haines.
“A Dozen Shocked Faces”
The work-from-home experiment has been so successful in some areas, like finance, that many people have no intention of going back to type. For example, half of UK financial workers do not want to return to the office after COVID-19, according to the consulting firm KPMG.
Edward Pollard, chief operating officer of tour operator Hire Space, said the surge in demand for online events during the pandemic had forced his company to innovate.
“Customers now ask us about everything from virtual horse races to cooking classes to networking events,” said Pollard.
However, some workers are uncomfortable with the new order.
“I was taken in place with a solo verse in our virtual Christmas carol,” said Jake, a London-based charity worker. After taking some terrible notes, he turned off his camera and pretended the internet was down.
“But the damage has been done. I only remember a dozen shocked faces in a grid on my screen. “
Or take the case of Sebastian Woods, who works for a machine learning company in Stockholm. He was a little overwhelmed when his wife, who, like him, worked from her apartment, attended a social event on Friday evening.
“I couldn’t concentrate on my Excel spreadsheet because she was doing the banana dance at the kitchen table.”
Reporting from Colm Fulton; Editing by Pravin Char
Original Source © Reuters