Friday 4 December 2020 4:43 am

DEBATE: Is a virtual office Christmas party a disastrous idea?

John Oxley is a Conservative commentator
and Benedict Spence
Benedict Spence is a freelance writer. He is on Twitter @BenedictSpence

Is a virtual office Christmas party a disastrous idea?

John Oxley, a Conservative commentator, says YES.

The only thing worse than enforced fun is enforced virtual fun.

Real office parties are barely enjoyable. Spending an evening with colleagues you are largely indifferent to is an obligation you endure, because if you don’t they put “Poor team player” on your annual review. If you’re lucky the booze is free, and you get to laugh at whichever grad vomits on the MD.

Putting things online strips away even those slim pleasures. Instead, you will sit at home drinking drinks you bought yourself as some over-keen self-appointed social rep makes you answer quiz questions, or do karaoke from your couch, or some other excruciating and banal attempt at entertainment until you fake “connection issues” or rip out your own eyes. 

We have had nearly a year of pretending Zoom can be fun. It isn’t. It’s drinking alone in the blue glare of a screen. Don’t try and pretend it’s festive to watch Alec from accounts on-screen in a funny hat — it’s dystopian. 

Read more: Naked MEP leapt from window as Belgian police broke up lockdown-flouting sex party

Benedict Spence, a freelance writer, says NO.

Office Christmas parties are often drunken, awkward and lamentable affairs — and not just because they’re fertile ground for drunkenly starting awkward and lamentable affairs.

Forced frivolity is sapping, especially when imposed by people whose existence you only tolerate to put food on the table. 

But after the great exercise of shutting society for nine months, any party seems good, even one with colleagues. 

The virtual element is in fact a bonus. Zoom puts a safety cordon between you and work: all the benefits of letting your hair down, without the bother of doing it up first. You can mute the bore from accounts, and don’t have to get within touching distance of the feely guy two desks down or the girl in HR who wants kids worryingly soon.

You can arrive and leave as and when, no one seeing you swaying from the booze. You can pretend your wifi has died to escape your manager’s speech. 

And best of all? Takeaway instead of canapés, with no one there to judge. 

Read more: Could ditching the office make us all poorer?

Main image credit: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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