Why virtual office happy hours are a flop: They’re awkward

D.C.-based B2B research firm Clutch said only 13% of office managers it surveyed have tried virtual office happy hours, and employees aren’t all that interested in them. (Getty Images/iStockphoto/DisobeyArt)

COVID-19 has damaged office corporate culture, including no water cooler small talk and no after-work happy hours because of the shift to working at home.

But despite the hype, the virtual office happy hour has not caught on.

D.C.-based B2B research firm Clutch said only 13% of office managers it surveyed have tried it, and employees aren’t all that interested in them.

For one thing, it’s just one more Zoom call to make. For another thing, it’s awkward.

“You might be perfectly comfortable going to a happy hour with colleagues in a bar or something, but it is a lot different talking with people and drinking in your own home with colleagues,” Matt Miller, an editorial associate at Clutch, told WTOP.

“That’s not something we did before COVID and it’s an awkward adjustment. A virtual event will never live up to the hype of a real life one,” he said.

Miller suggests office managers try shaking up virtual non-work-related interactions among employees by trying something other than just sharing a virtual beer or glass of wine.

“Something could be like, have a virtual ‘Jeopardy!.’ Have everybody from the office submit a fun fact and play ‘Jeopardy!.’ That’s something that is very easy to do from an online screen that is tougher to do in real life. But it’s a fun, different social event that can be tailored to our work-at-home environment,” Miller said.

Employees are interested in virtual interactions that are more meaningful professionally than socially. Clutch said professional development sessions are among the more popular virtual events.

One of the good things that has come from the virtual work environment is that it has created greater managerial availability.

Clutch reports more than four in five employees said their manager is available or more available since the start of remote work.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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