The Shocking Truth About Virtual Happy Hours: They Are Exhausting

Walking across campus and running into a faculty member you haven’t seen in awhile and striking up a conversation on a topic you both kicked around months ago.

Weaving through your office building to pick up a print job and happening across a few colleagues in the process of catching up with each other and their upcoming weekend festivities.

Grabbing a coffee in the student union and fighting your way through a campus tour, with a nod, smile and hello.

From intentional gatherings to random encounters, the past year’s absence of most, if not all, professional physical interactions won’t be forgotten.

Technology has proven its worth exponentially over the past year in higher education. With a university’s primary goal being the delivery of high quality teaching and learning, without smart use of technology, our nation’s student success rates would have plummeted to zero. Without a seamless foundation of technology, university business would have grinded to a halt. In actuality, business processes continued ,and IT departments everywhere identified service gaps and quickly filled them.


Yes, as leaders we have gotten creative with our online meetings. We’ve increased the rotation of meetings and touch-bases. We had online holiday events via Microsoft Teams and are virtually arriving at retirement celebrations with empty arms, but those virtual gift diaries are on point. We’ve tried everything to eliminate the isolation and palpable lack of connection. But let’s face it, at this point even the Zoom happy hours feel like forced work obligations.


While technology certainly connects our business, it is not capable of replicating our togetherness, our us factor.

As higher education leaders, we are desperate to deliver connectedness to keep our staff, faculty and students engaged and present. The majority of the technology that has been utilized and deployed over the past year will not go to waste. Many of the upgrades and implementations should have occurred years ago. We’ve now developed a landscape that will be a significant asset in the post-pandemic world. In the face of Covid-19, technology served as the glue.

But for the age old exasperated concern of technology-by-way-of-robots taking over the world? We’ve now experienced first-hand what cannot be replicated: the sheer joy and interaction of human-ness. It cannot be faked.

So we hang in there. And we stop pretending that technology is the answer to everything. While it is certainly a facilitator of significant improvement, agility and resilience, we yearn for the connection that technology can’t provide.

And today’s pandemic continues to reenforce what makes us complete – our people.

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