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Digital farewells: A guide to painless pandemic-era office goodbyes

FILED - For the most part, offices farewells are still happening on Zoom or the like. If you don't want it to be too stiff, you'll need a plan. Photo: Sebastian Gollnow/dpa

(dpa) – After over a year in a pandemic, we have gotten used to doing almost everything via video chat – team meetings, yoga sessions or birthday parties now all happen on Zoom and the like.

But some things are harder to do online than others, and having to say goodbye to long-time colleagues is definitely one of them.

Before everyone disappeared into remote working, colleagues leaving often brought cake, drinks or snacks or even organized a trip to the pub on their last day. But marking the occasion online in a manner that is not awkward can seem like an impossible feat.

Everyone staring at their screens, afraid to interrupt each other and listening to the boss’s well-rehearsed farewell speech: certainly sounds familiar, but not much like a party.

“It can be a little scary,” says soft skills trainer Imme Vogelsang, who has some tips on how to shake things up a bit.

Choosing the right way to say goodbye

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If you are planning to use Zoom or a similar video platform for your farewell at work, you should first think about whom to invite. “You should generally invite everyone you’ve worked closely with on the team or in the department without going overboard,” Vogelsang recommends.

If you’re deciding for a video conference, it’s important to check how many people can participate in the call at a time. In principle, however, the question always depends on how long you have been with the company, for example, and how close your relationship with your colleagues was.

The easiest thing is to use the video-conferencing tool the team usually works with. “Whether that’s Zoom, Skype or Microsoft Teams, employees usually don’t have much choice, especially if the farewell takes place during working hours or just after hours.”

And when’s the best time to schedule the goodbye call? “The last day isn’t a bad choice,” the expert says. However, it makes sense to set a time limit, like one or one and a half hours, which makes it easier for people to leave.

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Farewell gifts and games

If you had a close relationship with the team or have been working in one place for a long time, sending your colleague a small farewell gift is a nice gesture.

“I always do that for the participants in my seminars, for example,” Vogelsang says. “A few snacks, sweets or a small can of Prosecco and then I wrap it nicely and add a small card.”

But don’t feel like you have to give your colleagues gifts. Especially when the relationship wasn’t that close and just normal, it’s more than enough if everyone just brings their own drink to the online farewell.

If you’re afraid that the call might turn stiff and awkward, try how about organizing a short quiz on some topics that brought you together?

“In our seminars, we also sometimes use pantomime, and let me tell you: It tears people up.” A little input is often all it takes to make the online event a little more creative, she says.