Office parties have long had a mixed reputation. Even the term “office party” or “work celebration” seems like an oxymoron—ludicrous combinations of two inherently incompatible concepts. Still, workplace social events are often seen as valuable opportunities for morale building, internal networking, and a show of employee appreciation.
Whether or not one sees value in such quasi-mandatory celebrations, these events are becoming less and less common in the post-COVID workplace.
A Decline in Business-Sponsored Social Events
“For more than two years, a complete shake-up of office culture has effectively banished the forced fun of the pre-pandemic era,” writes Kate Morgan in an article for BBC Worklife. “Many people have attended some kind of virtual team-building activity or Zoom happy hour, of course. But workers have by and large been spared the mandatory monthly birthday celebrations, afterhours drinks and outings to obstacle courses.”
Even as many businesses begin bringing staff back to the office, office parties aren’t necessarily coming back at the same pace. Part of this is due to the hybrid nature of offices, in which some but not all workers are present in person.
Workplace Fun Not What it Used to Be
Morgan suggests that workplace fun isn’t quite what it used to be. Even in environments where some employees are coming back to the office, others may still be off-site or working in hybrid arrangements. That separation doesn’t lend itself to togetherness.
In addition, she notes, after their experiences during the pandemic, many employees are placing a higher value on family time. They want to get home to their families at the end of the workday, “morale-boosting laser tag be damned.”
Some critiques of mandatory office fun are well earned, but when done well and in appropriate quantities, workplace socialization can provide genuine and worthwhile benefits to the participants and the organization. It’s likely the pre-COVID approach to office fun will just need some tweaks to fit more effectively into a modern, post-COVID, and often hybrid work environment.
Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.