Fancy dress video meetings aim to lift Coronavirus lockdown spirits

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Whyaye workers in fancy dressImage source, Whyaye Ltd
Image caption,
At Whyaye, the best effort receives a prize

Home workers around England have been livening up online team meetings by holding them in fancy dress.

Every Friday, health professionals, IT managers and environmental campaigners have been dressing up as penguins and pirates in an attempt to raise spirits.

Company directors have also been getting involved, with some even managing a half-time costume change.

They said they hoped Fancy Dress Friday video conferencing would become a regular thing and boost staff morale.

Members of Dragon CoWorking shared office space in Rochester, Kent, have been putting considerable effort into their outfits, which have so far included a giraffe and a gorilla.

Founder Roland Stanley said: "It gives members a chance to drop in and say hi and keep our community spirit going.

"We also had crazy hat Tuesday and pink Wednesday, but I think fancy dress Friday was our favourite and will be staying."

Image source, Dragon CoWorking
Image caption,
Workers at Dragon CoWorking in Kent have been dressing up for their Friday coffee meeting
Image source, CompleteIT
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One of the senior managers at Complete IT changed costume midway through the meeting

The monthly senior management meeting at Complete IT also took a surprise turn, involving a balloon hat, a mad scientist and Batwoman.

Director Tim Killeen donned both a Woody - from Toy Story - and penguin outfit in an effort to put smiles on the faces of his team, who are based in Peterborough, Swindon, Oxford, Bristol, High Wycombe, London, Manchester and Birmingham.

Despite the costumes, the discussions were serious - about how the pandemic was affecting the business, its clients and employees.

With the welfare of its 180 staff in mind, the company has also set up virtual pubs, yoga classes and held an online fancy-dress contest.

A spokeswoman said: "If people are not doing fancy dress meetings already, they should, I think some big corporates can be a little reluctant but as a company we are always ready to have a laugh."

Shoreham Extinction Rebellion in West Sussex usually meets every Wednesday but during the pandemic members instead meet on Zoom every morning to keep in touch.

A spokesman said "no persuasion was needed" for the fancy dress, which has now become a weekly thing.

Image source, Shoreham Extinction Rebellion
Image caption,
No persuasion was needed to get Shoreham Extinction Rebellion members in fancy dress

In Newcastle, consulting start-up Whyaye has begun holding weekly team meetings in fancy dress.

CEO Maureen Robson said: "I recognise that the team are all at home, and thankfully still very busy working with clients, but it can lead to long days without the usual coffee or water cooler moment with colleagues.

"We are all missing the in-person social interaction we've become used to.

"It's been a brilliant way for us to get to know each other more, have a laugh and even give prizes away for the best efforts."

In London, consultant physiotherapist Matthew Wyatt got the ball rolling by dressing as Tigger at a meeting of Connect Heath and, according to south regional manager Dionne McAffrey, the fancy dress theme was not planned but "everyone was very quick to join in".

The idea proved so successful, the organisation - which provides musculoskeletal and physiotherapy services - launched a Friday night virtual meet-up for all staff.

Image source, Connect Health
Image caption,
An unplanned fancy dress meeting prompted Connect Health to launch a weekly virtual meet-up for all staff

Ms McAffrey said: "While the hard work continues, meetings such as these should not be underestimated for their ability to raise spirits during an undoubtedly difficult time for all."

Fancy dress Fridays will be a familiar concept to many festivalgoers, with Bestival, Download and others encouraging people to wear themed costumes. More recently, fitness coach Joe Wicks has used the idea to inject fun into his online keep-fit routines for children.

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