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March 9, 2021

Learnerbly's Virtual Winter Wonderland: A party to remember

Work parties don’t look like they used to. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be fun, a source of bonding between colleagues or a great engagement tool. That’s how our People Operations Manager Marie viewed our “V... Wirtual Winter Wonderland” which was replacing an in-person gathering of co-workers that usually accompanies the festive season. 

With the second lockdown in full force a few weeks ago, even small team gatherings were out of the question. Still, thanks to months of becoming proficient at Zoom, entertainers adjusting their skillsets to be virtual aficionados and the insights of others in the People space, we at Learnerbly were able to have a winter social we won’t forget, for all the right reasons. 

So, if you’re here looking for an example of how to throw a virtual party for your team, feel free to take inspiration from ours.

Learnerbly’s Wirtual Winter Wonderland

What we did:

Details were provided on what the afternoon would look like. We reserved the Last Friday in November for the party and planned to kick it off between 2 and 2:30 PM so that people could join gradually as they wrapped up their day, got out of their chairs and prepared for an evening of fun. It was no coincidence that the workday ended earlier than usual. We felt that if people worked a full day, they would be too tired to fully enjoy themselves.

An itinerary was provided a few weeks in advance to the event where all details (minus a few surprises) were kept. Spoiler alert : the mystery surprise was a very cool, and very French magician who wowed all of us. Some of our own team even took the reins and hosted portions of the event such as Beth’s charades and an impromptu karaoke session headed up by Sharlyne. 

A party is only as good as its food and refreshments and the bonus of a virtual social is that everyone gets to pick their favourite foods and drinks and then expense it. If someone wants pizza, they get pizza, if someone hates pizza they don’t even need to smell the pizza of the person who is eating it. Win-win for everyone.

We budgeted for £40 per UK based person and £20 per non-UK based person (taking into account purchasing power in currencies to make it equal). We could order our food, break bread and cheers over chit-chat for the last hour and a half of the night. 

Every virtual room was named after a room in a house to emulate a ‘house party’. There was a conservatory, a living room, a kitchen… you get the idea. When Sharlyne, our Designer sporadically hosted a ‘90s and naughties’ hip-hop karaoke session it drew everyone to the dancefloor. What’s a party without a little spontaneity?

Check out the itinerary to find out all that led up to our delicious dinner, riveting conversations and bold dance moves. 

Why we did it that way:

The fun and novelty of winter gatherings don’t need to be put on hold due to restrictions —  if anything, now more than ever we need to make and take the time to bond and relax. This year has been about getting creative in the ways we drive connectedness and inclusivity in our team. Our winter social proved to be no different. 

The naming of our event intentionally leaves out any reference to Holidays. One of our values is “invite everyone to dance” and it’s important that our gatherings have an inclusive atmosphere. Our Wirtual Winter Wonderland is non-denominational, unrelated to any specific holiday or religion. As a bonus, the acronym spells out WWW and it’s 100% online. Get it?

For the structure and events that took place, Marie sourced ideas from her online People community People Stories and used HireSpace to book our Blingo duo. Breaks were built in because spending 5+ hours on Zoom is exhausting. It’s important to give people time to step away from the screen and to refresh their drinks, manage something quickly at home or even stay in the virtual party and chat between events. 

What we learned:

When all was said and done, and in true L&D fashion, we made sure to turn the Wirtual Winter Wonderland into a learning opportunity. So we sent a survey out to gather feedback. 

We found that people were pleasantly surprised by how much fun they had. Understandably, they had gone into it with low expectations assuming the distance and virtual aspects of the party would make it boring. Luckily, it was anything but! Kudos to Marie’s thorough and thoughtful planning.

Based on that feedback, we have decided to implement more of the aspects people loved into our monthly socials, hosted at our virtual ‘coffee shop, tea room & pub’: The Goal and Learner (a virtual drop-in event we host monthly). 

We’re hoping that our future involves many in-person socials where our team can interact in one place but while we operate remotely and while restrictions are in place, it’s important that we do what we can to continue building relationships and having fun together

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