Stockholm: Virtual Business Parties?
You really can’t mingle with or dance with colleagues, and it’s hard to be in the mood for disco in your home office.
On the other hand, you cannot spread the disease, you do not have to go home and there is no chance for an unwise emotional encounter.
In the era of Covid-19, party options were limited.
Companies turn to event organizers to create virtual social events for employees.
And with working from home here to stay, some expect the demand to continue even after the pandemic.
After nearly a year of doing her job from home, fintech Katharina Gerk is finally able to get some gossip in the right office in the virtual bathroom and smoking area at her company’s online Christmas party.
The event I attended included a (virtual) taxi ride and dance floor, a Queen Elizabeth II imitation, a cocktail-making lesson, plus (real) food and drink baskets delivered to 200 people – the staff stuck at home.
“Even though I was sitting alone in the living room, I really felt like I was at a party,” said Gehrke, who heads the Swedish arm of the internet pet insurance company Bought By Many.
Gehrke sampled everything “the venue” had to offer, but said the most important thing was to have some office gossip in the privacy of the (default) bathroom – where, with a click of the mouse, she could exit the dance floor with a selection of friends.
She said the event was one of the best social work sites she’s ever been to, but added, “Maybe you just had to be there.”
With work habits shifting, the global virtual events market is expected to grow from just under $ 100 billion in 2020 to $ 400 billion by 2027, according to data from Grand View Research.
“Virtual social networks are 100% here to stay, but they are coupled with personal events,” said Rachel Heinz, Director of Organization and Development at the Swedish payment company Klarna.
“After all, I’d rather do yoga on the roof of our headquarters than in my own living room.”
Klarna made virtual social media a key part of company culture during the pandemic.
“Many of us are young people and live alone,” Haines added.
“Online social media is very important and we have pushed many big initiatives to make sure people are connected.”
These initiatives include virtual Friday drinks, weekday cooking and morning yoga.
Haines said Klarna has undertaken a team building activity where employees solve puzzles in order to break free from the virtual “escape room”.
Dozens of shocking faces
The home work experience has been so successful in some sectors, such as finance, that not many people intend to return to writing.
Half of financial workers in Britain, for example, don’t want to return to the office after Covid-19, according to consultancy KPMG.
Edward Pollard, chief operating officer at Hire Space, the events organizer, said the surge in demand for online events during the pandemic has forced his company to innovate.
“Customers are now asking us for everything from virtual horse racing to cooking classes and networking events,” Pollard said.
However, some workers are not completely comfortable with the new system.
“I was instantly put on as soon as we saw our virtual Carol,” said Jake, a charity worker based in London.
After jamming some horrible notes, turn off the camera and pretend the internet is off.
But the damage was done. I only remember a dozen shocked faces in a grid across my screen. “
Or take the case of Sebastian Woods, who works for a machine learning company in Stockholm.
He was somewhat dumped when his wife, who likewise worked from their apartment, participated in a social event Friday night for work.
“I couldn’t focus on my Excel spreadsheet because she was performing the banana dance on the kitchen table.”