A contradiction or a thing of possibility? How did we celebrate this Christmas together in a virtual way?
So, this year was challenging as well. Rising Corona numbers, strict restrictions, it just didn't feel right to celebrate Christmas "for real." We haven't been able to together as a whole team for the second year in a row. Some team members have never seen each other outside the computer screen since they started working at VUI.agency. How did we VUIs feel about that?
"I have attended a couple of Christmas events and other parties in companies. But I have to say that this one was very very special. From the beginning, I had the feeling that VUI.agency as a company and as a team is something different and special, and the VUI.nachten very strongly confirmed my feeling. It needs a lot of honesty and openness to vulnerability to experience what we experienced together.
I don't think this would be possible in many other companies. It shows that this is a team of many beautiful individuals who fit perfectly together. I'm very happy to be a part of a team that has this degree of self-awareness, honesty, and harmony."
/ Mudabir Ahmed Khan / Senior Voice User Interface Architect at VUI.agency
How was it possible to translate the feeling of connectivity and celebrate together in a remote event?
Remote togetherness gets physically underlined
Parcels-packing Christmas elves
In the run-up to the event, the organizing team of "VUI.nachten 2021" sent out a lovingly assembled Christmas package to each team member. A handmade mug, a cocoa ritual kit, and beeswax tea lights. Now you may ask yourself – what's so special about that?
Well, first of all, the package was hand-packed and shipped with the kind support of the Lebenshilfewerkstatt in Munich. The cups were made by Clemens Köhler from Munich with whom three VUIs, including Patrick Esslinger, one of VUI.agency's co-founders, recently took a pottery course. The beeswax tea lights were made by the Kaspar Hauser Foundation – a non-profit organization that provides varied job opportunities for people who require assistance, among other things. The Christmas card was printed locally at our trusted copy store in Munich.
And, last but not least, Daniel, head of the initiative "Joyful Nature Munich", assembled the Cocoa Ritual Kit. Dedicated to fair cocoa trade, the beneficial power, and the best possible taste, Daniel imports the cocoa directly from a small farmer in Peru.
The „VUI.nachten 2021“ event starts
Here we go, 3:30 p.m. – everyone meets via Google Meet. For many of us, thoughts are still circling over the last phone call or situations from the previous workday. More and more VUIs appear in the video call, and suddenly there is an unexpected guest. We have an actual reindeer in the meeting! It snorts and puffs, and everyone laughs with all their hearts. The "VUI.nachten" is off to a great start with 15 minutes of a reindeer reality show.
Then the reindeer says goodbye, and all VUIs leave the screen for a few minutes, heading to the kitchen and preparing the cocoa according to the instructions. The milk is heated, the raw cocoa mass dissolved in it, the coconut blossom sugar and two distinct types of cinnamon are added for flavor. Afterward, a guided cocoa ceremony starts. We close our eyes, get into a meditative state, and listen to the story of cocoa. There is a conscious presence of all VUIs, enjoying a few moments of silence, creating awareness around the beauty of the cacao plant, focusing on the best moments of the year that just passed, the team spirit feeling, and what we achieved together.
Then, we get the chance to listen to a spoken performance of the VUI – our agency's persona, the essence of the whole team. The inspirational and dreamy words connect us even more.
After listening to this performance, Patrick and Christoph, VUI.agency's co-founders, give a memorable speech summarizing all the major goals we achieved in 2021. They also share the vision for next year and announce the continuation of the fundraising campaign they initiated last year. This year, the donation per team member amounts to 250 euros, and everyone gets the opportunity to support projects in education, healthcare, and nutrition for disadvantaged communities.
For the next section of our remote Christmas event, all the participants are divided into five groups to compete against each other in a Jeopardy-style quiz. If you are curious, this is what the questions looked like: "Which VUI had to shave his beard at his wife's painful request?" or "Which VUI celebrates their birthday on October 29?" You can imagine there was a lot of laughter and, above all, good conversations. In any case, we had a lot of fun.
Why having a Christmas party and team events are so important for us as at VUI.agency
At VUI.agency, not everything is about working. We would love to spend more time together. With the current situation, events like our "VUI.nachten" are essential to "really" get to know each other remotely. Especially at the end of the year, we want to look back and reflect on all the significant challenges we solved. All the connecting moments we spent together. We want to toast each other and feel the bond between us. This is about consciously taking time to celebrate what we have achieved. Together.
VUI.team members reflecting on the past year
"Thousands of customer meetings and short lunch breaks, but also seeing that it is possible to bond with people without meeting them face to face."
/ Dr. Sharmila Vaz / Senior Voice User Interface Architect at VUI.agency
"We are living challenging times, but when I look back to this 2021, I can only feel grateful. I have a job I love, where I can develop myself and make use of my creativity every day. I am surrounded by a thoughtful and very supportive team. This year represents to me a balancing act between the new normal and what was once the routine we knew.
Having bits and pieces of coming back to a certain "normality". Coming back to the office and being able to exchange in person boosted my motivation. Coming up with what we now call Ping Pong Ideation sessions, has been part of my favorite moments of this year. Just imagine this: inspiring conversations under the warm light of the sun, bird chants, and being surrounded by hundreds of ideas written down on post-its."
/ Sara Oliver G.V. / Senior UX Multimodal Designer at VUI.agency
"I had my most relaxed moments in 2021 being at our recently rented Almhütte with friends in Zillertal. Whenever I am there having a view of the distant mountains, I feel calm and happy."
/ Martina Berz / Management Assistant
"Even though there was the feeling of being stuck for a second year, my mood and motivation is rising again with the anticipation of change and new wonderful things to come. On the job site, we achieved so much with building our team, finding a new cozy office, and getting to know new colleagues.
At home I am preparing for my first child, barely managing my excitement :) I am looking forward to all the changes 2022 will bring, already embracing the difficult ones as much as the overwhelmingly happy ones!"
/ Marie Kleinert / Senior Voice User Interface Architect at VUI.agency
"This year came in like a wave I hopped on and started to ride. Not knowing its quality, nor how long it's going to lift me up or force me down with a gush of unexpectedness. And so, I did my best going with its flow – to glide easily, get absorbed imperceptibly, hop-off, get some ground and wait for the next one to come."
/ Julie Kechter / Visual Designer at VUI.agency
"2021 – the last year of my parental leave holiday. I had a great summer with a lot of sun and a little Corona and finally started working again."
/ Melanie Willing / Senior Voice User Interface Architect at VUI.agency
"My favorite moments in the past year were when the coronavirus situation seemed to get a bit better, and it was possible to come to the office and actually see my colleagues in person instead of via a laptop screen. That was really wonderful after spending so many months isolated at home."
/ Julia Pflüger / Voice User Interface Architect
"This year was full on! I moved from Bonn to Berlin with all the physical and emotional adjustments that come with that. Together with my passionate VUI colleagues we rolled out an amazing Blog and Newsletter, and we launched an impressive new website! And I also learned that rest is incredibly important. I'll keep this in mind for next year too."
/ Oana Ciobotea / Marketing Communications Manager
"I freshly started at VUI in April and didn't think a job change was possible in a global pandemic. I received a very friendly and warm welcome at VUI and furthermore I received a lot of support in finding my way around VUI and my tasks. I really appreciate the kind and supportive vibes at VUI.agency."
/ Juliane Knote / Administrative Assistant at VUI.agency