You can dance if you want to: Demand grows for virtual parties

You can dance if you want to: Demand grows for virtual parties

As working from home settles in, the virtual events market is expected to grow from just under $100 billion in 2020 to $400 billion by 2027. From cooking classes to yoga to Friday socials, more companies are incorporating virtual gatherings as part of their office culture.

Hire Space/Reuters

Entertainers prepare for an online work Christmas party Dec. 10, 2020, organized by events firm Hire Space. As work habits shift worldwide, more companies are creating virtual ways for employees to connect and relax outside of meetings.

Loading…

February 26, 2021

Stockholm

Virtual work parties? You can’t really mingle with colleagues, or dance with them, and it’s tough to get in the disco mood in your home office. On the other hand, you don’t have to wear a mask, commute home afterward, and you can easily disconnect from awkward social moments.

In the COVID-19 era though, gala options are limited. Companies are turning to events organizers to create virtual social events for staff. And with working-from-home here to stay, some expect demand to continue even after the pandemic.

After almost a year of doing her job from home, fintech worker Catharina Gehrke was finally able to get some proper office gossip in the virtual bathroom and break 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, plus (real) food and drink picnic baskets delivered to the 200 party people – the staff stuck at home.

“Although I was sitting alone in my living room, I really felt like I was at a party,” said Ms. Gehrke, who heads up the Swedish arm of online pet insurance company Bought By Many.


Biden, Warnock, and the resurgence of the liberal Christian

Ms. Gehrke sampled everything the “venue” had to offer but said the highlight was getting some juicy office gossip in the privacy of the (virtual) bathroom – where, with a click of the mouse, she could decamp from the dance floor with a select group of friends.

She said the event was one of the best work socials she’d been to, but added: “Maybe you just had to be there.”

As work habits shift, the worldwide 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 socials are 100% here to stay, but combined with in-person events,” said Rachel Haines, director of organization and development at Swedish payments firm Klarna. “After all, I’d rather [do] yoga on the roof of our HQ than in my living room.”

Klarna has made virtual socializing a core part of its corporate culture during the pandemic.

“Many of our people are young and live alone,” Ms. Haines added. “Online socials are very important and we’ve pushed several big initiatives to make sure people are connected.”

These initiatives include virtual Friday social gatherings, weeknight cook-alongs, and morning yoga. Klarna has even done a team-building activity where staff solve puzzles in order to break free from a virtual “escape room,” Ms. Haines said.

‘A dozen shocked faces’

The work-from-home experiment has been so successful in some sectors, like finance, that many people have no intention of reverting to former ways. Half of finance workers in Britain, for example, do not want to return to the office after COVID-19, according to consultancy firm KPMG.

Edward Pollard, chief operating officer of events organizer Hire Space, said the surge in demand for online events during the pandemic had forced his company to innovate.

“Clients now ask us for everything from virtual horse racing to cookery classes and networking events,” Mr. Pollard said.

Yet, some workers aren’t quite so comfortable with the new order.

“I was put on the spot with a solo verse at our virtual carol,” said Jake, a London-based charity worker. After warbling a few terrible notes, he turned off his camera and pretended the internet had cut out.

“But the damage was done. I just 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 thrown when his wife, who like him has been working from their flat, took part in a Friday night work social event.

Get the Monitor Stories you care about delivered to your inbox.

By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Policy.

“I couldn’t concentrate on my Excel spreadsheet because she was doing the Banana Dance at the kitchen table.” 

This story was reported by Reuters.

You’ve read  of  free articles.
Subscribe to continue.

Help fund Monitor journalism for $11/ month

Already a subscriber? Login


Mark Sappenfield
Editor

Monitor journalism changes lives because we open that too-small box that most people think they live in. We believe news can and should expand a sense of identity and possibility beyond narrow conventional expectations.

Our work isn’t possible without your support.

Subscribe

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Already a subscriber? Login

Digital subscription includes:

  • Unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.
  • CSMonitor.com archive.
  • The Monitor Daily email.
  • No advertising.
  • Cancel anytime.

Subscribe

Related stories