Steve’s Work From Home Findings: Workplace Social Events

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There’s also social events at workplaces. Some of us enjoy them, some of us hate them, but they’re a reality. If we work from home, these are going to change.

Now before I go on, this is colored by personal opinions. I’m not a fan of “work socializing” as I’ve usually seen it done wrong – contrived, forced, and unsocial. However when it’s done right, as part of a functional culture, it’s pretty beneficial. My take is that when you do it, it should come OUT of work time – don’t take time out of people’s non-work time, and don’t force it.

So, part of this post is going to be colored by those opinions. Fortuantely, I think I’m right.

So here’s a few things we need to do with workplace socialization in Work From Home (WFH).

I know I said this above, but let me reiterate it – if you throw work social events, they should usually come out of work time. WFH makes time, schedules, and travels unclear – so make sure to preserve the work/life distinction by not chipping into “life” time.

However beyond healthy work/life balance, this provides another advantage – having workplace social events come out of work time allows for clear planning and scheduling. You know when something is happening, its work impacts, and can plan for them. This clarity helps the whole WFH things.

Don’t just throw a party because you always have. Don’t just do a conference because you always have.

Ask what your goals are for these new events. You may find your goals don’t align with what you do now. You may find they’re quite worthy. You may find they have purpose and cancel them.

The best way to set goals is to talk to people and figure what they want. Don’t just enforce things or assume you know best. Instead try to find what helps people you work with.

Sure you never thought a company RPG session was a thing you needed, but it may well be.

WFH and having work social events also requires you to choose appropriate methods. This isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Do you do a virtual event? Those are easy to set up and don’t require travel. They also can be hard to run when you have 100 people and add to online meeting fatigue.

Do you do in-person? That can be great especially with WFH – it’s a chance to get out of the house or your office! It’s also a chance to do something different. But that requires scheduling, planning, and possibly excluding people who can’t make it.

Do you do a mixed in-person and virtual? That’s great but requires good planning and coordinating.

There is no ideal method. It depends on your goals and situation, so be open to it.

You’ve probably seen the same Christmas party, birthday party, and classes at work. Well if we’re going to WFH more why not try something new? This is a chance to do work events that are different.

A few things I’ve seen:

  • Virtual happy hours. All you need is Zoom and a beer.
  • Virtual meals. Like the above but w=probably with less alcohol.
  • Movie and TV watching. Be it streaming or just running the same film and chatting it can be a lot of fun.
  • Virtual games. There’s plenty of options for virtual gaming.
  • Mini-outings. Having time for small social events among teams, not one unified one, allows for more personal focus. I’ve had fond times going to restaurants with my teams.

This a chance to experiment!

I repeat this in many a blog post, but trust me – share ideas for how to do work social events in these times of WFH. We’re all kind of trying to figure what to do right now, so swapping ideas is necessary.

At some point we’ll probably have all sorts of scholarly papers and advice books on what to do and what works. We’re just now there now – but by swapping ideas we can build a body of knowledge. In fact, your efforts might lead to help people handle WFH and work events better.

You might even become the expert on the subject.

As I said I’m not always a fan from work social events, but that’s as I’ve seen them done poorly. Right now in the age of the Pandemic, of WFH and enforced WFH, we can change things for the better. We might as well anyway, we’re sort of stuck here.

But we don’t have to be alone.

Steven Savage