June 10, 2020

Bringing People Closer Together Online

What do you do when you have been looking forward to joining the RELEX US team for more than 6 months, and one of the things you have been most excited about is meeting new people because you are an over-socializing people-lover, but everything is turned upside down because of COVID-19? You find alternate ways to socialize without breaking the distance rules – meaning online beer o’clock!

I started dreaming about going to the US, to temporarily work for the RELEX office in Atlanta, over a year ago, almost right after joining RELEX Denmark. It took me 6 months to plan and complete all of the paperwork, so it has been a long wait. I finally arrived in Atlanta around 48 hours before the travel ban was put into effect and got to spent one day at the office before everybody started working from home.

I had been overly excited about meeting all my American colleagues and getting new work experience by joining another RELEX office. Furthermore, I was so thrilled about being able to hang out with people and do a lot of social activities with my new co-workers. I had heard that people at the Atlanta office were always down to do something, and there would always be a possibility to have fun with someone.

I know now that it is very much true. However, I did not get to discover that the way I had planned. I only met a limited number of people at my first (and so far, only) day at the office. Right from the beginning, I was forced to find alternate ways of connecting with people. The work relations came somehow naturally in terms of multiple online meetings, but I was really bummed about being unable to socialize with all the amazing people I was dying to meet.

I would most likely have been challenged by these social distancing times if I had been back home, but the expectations of how it would be when I got over here were, as you can imagine, not at all fulfilled. However, special times call for extraordinary measures, so it was time to be creative. I was told how people at the office would often gather in the common area at beer o’clock (which is Fridays at 3 pm for the uninitiated), and I could see how that would have been a perfect way for me to meet everybody. I came up with the idea of doing it online instead and decided to pitch the idea in the US office chat. I was amazed by the number of responses I got, and already the first online session was a success!

The online beer o’clock sessions have been going on since Friday the 20th of March, and not a week has been missed ever since. We are still going strong on this one, and I always look forward to Friday afternoon when I get to “meet” my colleagues and have drinks with them. It is a nice way of marking the end of the week and start the weekend with an awesome crowd of colleagues online.

We always have some good talks and discussions going on. We have talked about anything from bad dating stories to cultural differences and political topics. We have played different online games together like online quizzes and “Guess where you are in the world” based on a random Google Street View location. These games also lead to talk about new topics, and we never really end up talking that much about work. It is a nice way of ending your week with nonwork-related catch up with your colleagues. Our record is a 10 hours session on one of the Fridays. In the end, we didn’t have many people remaining on the call, but the fact that the call was going on for so long shows how much we all enjoy having this possibility to hang out together.

For me as an extrovert, who almost always wants to be around people, these sessions are of great importance, and I really want to thank everyone for being so supportive about my idea of having the beer o’clock online and joining in every week whether it is just for half an hour or an all-night session. I am proud that I have contributed to bringing people closer together when everybody has to stay apart.

Maria has been working at RELEX for a little over a year and is a part of the Danish office. She is currently at a longer stay in Atlanta, US, to experience a new RELEX office and learn new ways of working. She loves RELEX culture and is eager to experience more of it in Atlanta even though that progress, at the moment, is a bit challenged by COVID-19. She uses her spare time mainly on enjoying the beautiful Atlanta weather but looks forward to socializing way more as things start to open back up.

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