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Team Building is not a Virtual Happy Hour

Published Date: December 16, 2020

Team Building is not a Virtual Happy Hour

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Team Building is not a Virtual Cocktail Party

With COVID-19 related lockdowns and “work from home” orders, many of the bad practices related to team building have made their way to the virtual world. One of them is treating team building as a recreational event or virtual happy hour.

In 2008, 6 months before the global economic lockdown, Executive Oasis International launched its Corporate Team Building Blog with the words:

This team building blog advocates a return to a bottom line and business-oriented approach to team building. Why? The team building industry has been “dumbed down” by providers of recreational activities who have been passing off “fun and games” and entertainment as team building. For this reason, this blog zeroes in on strategies that we have used with client organizations in our bottom-line oriented team building and executive retreats.

It was our call for a return to sanity on the corporate team building agenda. There is nothing wrong with corporate events or recreation for corporate teams unless they are used as a substitute for team building and a distraction from addressing the challenges that companies face.

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Ten years later, in 2018, Vanity Fair’s headline read:

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Wework Throws A Party As It Burns Through Cash

“A lavish corporate retreat in the English countryside is the perfect metaphor for a start-up whose C.E.O. describes it as a “state of consciousness” rather than a stodgy real-estate company.”’

Bloomberg summarized it best. While thousands of WeWork employees were laid off, “ousted Chief Executive Officer Adam Neumann flew to Israel with a generous exit package in hand.”

My purpose here is not to pick on WeWork but to again sound the alarm about a mentality in the executive suite that has had and will continue to have disastrous consequences.

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Foolishness and Folly Go Virtual

During the first wave of COVID-19, video games, and virtual escape rooms flourished. So did layoffs.

No employee is going to thank an executive team  who allows team members to fiddle while Rome burns. This metaphor is not too far removed from reality.

When companies fails to resolve pressing business issues, memories of virtual ukulele lessons and magic shows will be of little comfort to former employees who have to worry about how they are going to pay their rent (or mortgage), put food on the table, or pay their utility bills.

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The Rise of the Virtual Cocktail Party

During COVID-19 related lockdowns, virtual happy hours gained increasing popularity. Instead of gathering at a local watering hole at the end of the day, team members gathered for virtual cocktails. “Cheers!” team members said as they downed “quarantines” or their favourite concoction. The result?

In If you’re drinking more during the pandemic, you’re not alone, The National Post reported:

“Canadians drinking their way through the pandemic are far from alone. Alcohol consumption has soared in many parts of the world…”

The National Post also quoted WHO and cautioned:

“While you might pour a glass of wine thinking it will help you relax, alcohol is known to amplify symptoms of anxiety, depression and other mental disorders. “At times of lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, alcohol consumption can exacerbate health vulnerability, risk-taking behaviors, mental health issues and violence”

As the second wave of COVID-19 circles the globe and hits country after country with even greater force than the first way, clear heads must prevail in the C-suite.

Corporate teams that party their way through the pandemic, may end up getting a lot more than they bargained for including employees with long term drinking problems.

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Alternatives to Virtual Happy Hours

Rather than using video games and happy hours to distract employees, a better approach is to face company challenges head on. By tapping into the creative genius of the team, organizations can generate solutions.

Virtual team building that equips teams with brainstorming, planning, and problem solving tools is a far more effective approach than encouraging team members to “drown their sorrows”.

Executive Oasis International has added a highly customizable programme specifically designed to address the challenges of COVID-19 to its suite of team building simulations.

We will work with your executive team to identify the specific strategies and tools that are the best fit for your company’s situation. This team building can be delivered virtually in a Short, Focused, Modular Team Building. We can even add a virtual lemonade and hors d’ oeuvres challenges to amp up the fun factor.

Almost all of our existing team building simulations can be delivered virtually. You have the option of delivering the activity components virtually or waiting until COVID-19 levels subside and offer the face-to-face components as a follow-up session.

  • Visexecutaries: Seizing Opportunities in our Shifting Corporate Landscape, which Executive Oasis International originally designed for Asian clients facing the challenges of SARS, equips corporate teams with a toolkit of brainstorming, planning, and implementation tools. Teams apply what they learned to execute projects to resolve organizational challenges. In the virtual version, facilitation will be in a modular format and the facilitated sessions,. Projects, and boardroom will be virtual.

All or part of these sessions can be delivered via virtual worlds platforms like Second Life, MeetinVR, or Virtway.

Remember, while virtual happy hours are not a substitute for team building, it is possible to benefit from the solutions that real team building offers and STILL have fun.

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Survivor-Inspired Team Building series

If the team is in the process of charting a new course, check out our survivor inspired series. These highly customizable business simulations are usually delivered face-to-face integrating facilitated themed exercises and outdoor team challenges to bring the theme to life. While the pandemic continues, we can facilitate the exercises virtually in a series of sessions. We can do follow up exerices in combination with the outdoor team challenges once COVID-19 levels subside.

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Anne Thornley-Brown, M.B.A. @executiveoasis is the President of Executive Oasis International.

Executive Oasis International

Survive, Thrive, & Grow
Even in the Midst of Turbulence

Executive Oasis International, a Toronto team building and management consulting firm, designs and facilitates virtual team building, executive retreats, team building retreats, and business team building simulations for organizations facing rapid change.

Services are available globally including Canada (Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa), USA, Dubai, Oman, Caribbean (Jamaica, Barbados, Dominica, Anguilla), Europe (Germany, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, Italy), Japan, Singapore, Malaysia.

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