min read

Why Zoom Happy Hours Don't Work. Here's How to Fix It!

Virtual happy hours on Zoom or other video conferencing tools can lead to issues like Zoom fatigue, employee dissatisfaction or inconsistency with hosting. It's important for teams to identify these issues as they come up and fix them before it's too late.
Updated on
May 2, 2023

What Happy Hour Is Meant To Achieve

Happy hour is a term that's used all around the world! But, did you know that it didn't originate from bars or restaurants? Believe it or not, it was first used by the US Navy during the First World War to describe weekly entertainment events. These events boosted morale and helped reduce boredom among the troops. It wasn't until much later that bars and restaurants adopted the term to attract customers during off-peak hours by offering discounts. So, next time you're enjoying a happy hour, you can thank the Navy for coming up with the idea!

Happy hour at work is a slightly different concept. It is a social event organized by employees for employees. It's a fantastic way for colleagues to bond and get to know each other better outside of the usual work setting. The casual and relaxed atmosphere of happy hour helps to break down barriers and encourages open communication. This leads to better problem-solving, decision-making, and increased productivity in the workplace. Not to mention, happy hour provides a much-needed break from the stress of work, allowing employees to unwind and let their hair down. Feeling valued and connected with colleagues is crucial for employee retention, and happy hour is a powerful tool that companies can use to strengthen their company culture.

Remote Work & Zoom Happy Hours

The pandemic has caused a ton of changes, especially when it comes to the workplace. With remote work becoming more and more popular, companies have had to think outside the box to keep their employees happy and engaged. One way companies have adapted is by virtualizing the concept of happy hour through the use of video conferencing technology like Zoom. Companies have tried to bring the social element of happy hour right to their employees' screens. These virtual events are meant to replicate in-person happy hours, complete with fun icebreaker questions, virtual team building games, and even some drinks if you're feeling fancy. While virtual happy hours have helped remote teams to better transition, they do have their downsides.

Zoom Fatigue

Virtual happy hours are meant to be a time to unwind and let loose. But unfortunately, many of these virtual Zoom events end up feeling like just another work meeting with a drink in hand. It's like trying to take a relaxing vacation while still at work - not ideal. Employees need to be able to easily context switch from "work mode" to "relax mode". That's why it's important to prioritize relaxation and fun during virtual happy hours. It gives your team a chance to unwind and recharge without feeling like they're still on the clock.

One way to solve the issue of Zoom fatigue is to change your environment. Imagine if your employees all worked on site at the office. Would they want to host happy hour at the office or elsewhere? It’s obvious, most employees would elect to go somewhere like a bar or restaurant instead because they’d prefer the change of scenery. People feel the same way with virtual happy hours as well. By replacing the awkward gallery view in Zoom with a fun virtual setting like Fun Country, you can immediately change how everyone feels! Teams can then use games as a way to heighten the fun and atmosphere while they continue to have light hearted conversations.

Mandatory Zoom Happy Hours

Happy hour shouldn't be a forced activity, because that defeats the purpose of happy hour. It's like whoever made them a mandatory obligation missed the "happy" part of happy hour. Employees feel like they have to talk to people they wouldn't normally interact with at work. And let's face it, forced conversation isn't fun for anyone. Employees also have personal lives and many have families with whom they’d prefer to spend their after hours with. When happy hour is made mandatory, it becomes less about relaxation and more about resentment. Instead it's crucial to give employees the freedom to opt-in or opt-out of virtual happy hours. It could also be a good idea to space out the happy hours like once a week, once every two weeks, whatever floats your boat. As long as it's fun and inclusive, people will be clamoring to attend.

So how do you increase participation if it’s optional? Don’t limit virtual happy hours to after-work hours. Hosting them during working hours is a win-win for everyone! Employees can unplug from work easily and have plenty of time to spend with their families and hobbies after work. Plus, it removes the pressure of mandatory attendance outside of working hours. By scheduling them during working hours, everyone can participate and achieve work-life balance.

Not sure when to host the virtual happy hour? There are plenty of options! Start the day off right with a breakfast fun time. Or, have a lunchtime hangout session where colleagues can enjoy each other's company and their meals simultaneously. Finally, cap off the day with a late afternoon happy hour to unwind and de-stress before the workday ends. These creative alternatives allow employees to have a blast without disrupting their daily work routine.

Host Responsibilities

Planning a virtual happy hour is a lot like being a party planner, and the host is the MVP! They're in charge of keeping the energy high, the conversation flowing, and the games entertaining. But hosting a Zoom happy hour can be a lot of work, and not everyone is up for the task. If the host isn't fully invested in making it a fun event, the whole thing can fizzle out, and no one wants that. It's crucial to find a way to make hosting a virtual happy hour less of a chore and more of a pleasure.

So why not let technology do the heavy lifting? For example, the beauty of playing games like poker on Fun Country is that it takes the pressure off the host and it does all the heavy lifting. It makes hosting a piece of cake by freeing up the host to simply show up and let the good times roll.

Create Fun Intentionally!

Zoom happy hours can be a snooze fest if there's no intentional effort to create fun. Just showing up and hoping for the best isn't going to cut it. We need to shake things up and infuse some excitement by actively finding ways to make virtual meetings fun and engaging. That's where the power of intentionality comes in.

So to recap, to get the most out of virtual happy hours, get out of Zoom or other video conferencing solutions that you use for work and seek out a change in scenery. Do something that’s really fun in an intentional way. If you’re going to host virtual happy hours after work, make them optional or maybe host them during work hours to maximize attendance. Lastly, make sure to use technology that makes hosting a virtual happy hour filled with games a total breeze.

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