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Virtual parties become our happy place: NPR



The virtual happy hour has become extremely important at a time when life is otherwise at a standstill. The employees learn a lot more about their colleagues.

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The virtual happy hour has become extremely important at a time when life is otherwise at a standstill. The employees learn a lot more about their colleagues.

Bill Oxford / Getty Images

A spring walk, baking bread or binging shows can be a tonic for life in Lockdown. But some workers who do their work remotely continue to celebrate virtually.

Usually, DJ Haddad and his staff run violent rounds of college basketball competitions this season. “We really miss March Madness – it’s a big deal on our team,” said Haddad, CEO of Haddad & Partners, an advertising company in Fairfield, Connecticut, with almost 70 employees around the world.

So they invented an event last Thursday called “March Sadness” – a name dripping with irony and alcohol.

It was about virtual beer pong. It’s a variation of a popular drinking game in which a ping pong ball is strategically hurled across a table into cups of beer – except that everything is recorded in live chat.

The game is quite challenging – of course not physical, but virtual – and of course there is talk of garbage. The software alternates between images of people chatting, which means that you occasionally lose sight of the bouncing ball.

Life continues on the webcam. Apps like Zoom, FaceTime, and Microsoft teams quickly become the linchpin of maintaining work meetings and grandparent visits. At the more extreme end, some even host virtual versions of stag and hen parties that have been canceled in real life.

Haddad’s recent beer pong event attracted 50 people. The die-hard held it out for seven hours, or almost as long as a working day. “Everyone was smashed at 11:00 am,” he says.

These online shindigs, he says, have turned from fun to essential given the heightened fear that characterizes them every day. “We are also very concerned about the economy,” says Haddad. Everyone is wondering whether business will slow down or whether customers will complete projects as a whole.

Haddad & Partners members play virtual beer pong on Zoom to stay connected and boost morale.

About DJ Haddad


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About DJ Haddad

Haddad & Partners members play virtual beer pong on Zoom to stay connected and boost morale.

About DJ Haddad

And of course there are many other personal concerns.

But at least the online gatherings help build new relationships, especially for those who work in distant offices.

“You know, we have people in Australia who have never worked with some people in Colorado just because they are in separate teams,” says Haddad.

Meanwhile, Justin Dunlap is sitting in his basement in Lambertville, New Jersey. It’s pretty cozy down there – not in a good way – with a low ceiling and copper pipes hanging inches above his head. His girlfriend has already claimed the conservatory above.

A scratching sound can be heard in the background. “That? This is the cat that uses a litter box,” explains Dunlap. Dunlap works there and celebrates.

He chooses weekly happy hours at Blumont, an international humanitarian group where Dunlap is director of business development.

In recent weeks, dirty piles of laundry, pets chasing balls, curious babies and automatic Roomba vacuum cleaners have made cameos during video happy hour. “We had another colleague who showed us her vegetable garden. As a prepper she is probably the best,” says Dunlap.

Interestingly, almost nobody talks about working at these events. Instead, says Dunlap, it literally gives everyone an insight into their colleagues’ lives.

“Seeing the inside of their rooms really rounds off the rest of that person’s view,” he says.

The virtual happy hour even spawned some introverts. “We have people who have never had our normal personal happy hours, but have dialed into the virtual happy hours – whether it … they like the venue more or they are eventually pushed to the point of despair,” says Sages Dunlap. Desperation for human contact – even if it is virtual.


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