When we’re all working remotely, we start to miss the little bits of connection – water cooler conversation, grabbing a coffee with a colleague. We are social animals! And socializing is crucial for our own mental health as well as the health of the organization. We’ve missed all of it, from venting our frustrations or using each other as a sounding board, to chats about our weekend and sharing snacks in the break room. As small as it may seem, these face-to-face moments can make or break the company culture.
The good news is that, even in times of remote work, we can recreate the mundane magic of cappuccino conversations with virtual coffee chats.
Virtual, scheduled coffee chats can lower stress levels, increase camaraderie, and reduce errors. Yes, with employees talking to each other they may catch each other’s misunderstandings. Furthermore, they will be more productive knowing that their company cares enough to force them to have coffee breaks.
LEAD.bot can help you build these quick, informal meetings into your employees’ everyday. Read on to learn how you can start fostering better relationships in your workplace today!
Benefits of Breaktime
If you were to rank the most important part of your workday, a coffee break might not make the top ten. It’s easy to dismiss these quick breaks as a mild distraction at best and a procrastination strategy at worst.
But coffee breaks are actually hugely beneficial for individual employees and companies alike. In a survey of 2,000 people, 47% of workers found that a coffee break was an essential strategy for relaxing and improving concentration. Studies also show that coffee breaks help mitigate workplace stress and increase productivity. Plus, grabbing a cup of joe with a coworker is a surefire way to improve relationships in a team.
These benefits transfer over to virtual coffee breaks as well.
When working remotely, it’s easy to let time get away from us – between reports, Zoom meetings, kids, chores, and other housework, relaxation is hard to come by. Virtual coffee chats serve as a reminder to take a beat. They also help turn screen names into familiar faces and transform the workplace into something greater. Remote employees frequently suffer from feelings of loneliness and isolation – creating a recurring and consistent meeting with another coworker can alleviate feelings of disconnectedness in remote workers.
Customers who’ve used LEAD attested to improving feelings of loneliness among workers. One IT service company noted that it especially helped their new hires get to know the workplace, especially during the pandemic.
The Dos and Don’ts of a Coffee Matching Program
As with most good ideas, the benefits you reap rely on good execution. The last thing you want is for these virtual coffee chats to become another mandatory meeting or fizzle out after one introduction.
Filip Chrześcijanek, a former senior engineer at Oakfusion, found that matching within groups that shared similar interests kept these virtual meetings relevant to him. For example, he invited LEAD.bot to the #podcast-listeners channel in Slack to start matching with podcast lovers.
He also mentioned that, for his organization, LEAD.bot worked best when it was introduced as an informal chat, rather than a formal meeting. Using LEAD.bot’s group size customization settings, he set up virtual happy hours with groups of 5 to get the ball rolling. From there, he introduced one-on-one meetings.
[to read more about hosting effective virtual happy hours, read here]
It’s easy for employees to get swept up in their daily tasks and push socializing to the bottom of their priorities. Set up your virtual coffee meetings so that they recur automatically, at least once a week. Bonus points if the pair are given a topic or conversation starter so the two of them don’t flounder in awkward silences.
While every pair will have a preferred method of communication, starting the relationship off with video calls is likely the best way to build long-lasting and meaningful connections remotely. According to psychologists, the next best thing to an in-person conversation is a high-quality video chat, especially without lag, because it captures the natural give and take that happens IRL. Plus, according to a new study, communicating with voice, whether that be through a phone call or a video call, was found to be more effective at increasing feelings of connectedness than text. Once pairs get comfortable with each other, though, they might find another messaging service, such as slack or text, to be more organic.
Blocking out time in employees’ schedules for these slack coffee meetups or virtual lunches on teams should also help motivate them to take socializing seriously. Instead of asking your workers to find room in their already busy schedules, it’s better to make that time for them. It’s a win-win: your employees get a break and your organization gets more connected.
Make it Attractive For Your Employees
So you’re ready to set up coffee matching programs and are excited to improve your workplace culture, but you’re worried no one will follow through. Now what?
While some employees will be champing at the bit to start connecting with their fellow coworkers, others may feel understandably apprehensive about adding more potentially awkward video calls to their work routine.
You can encourage employee participation and increased team spirit with fun incentives like a chance to win a reward or prizes for friendly competitions. For example, all employees who participate in the coffee matching program can be eligible for a lunch coupon. Another idea might be to track which employees meet the most often and offer a monthly reward to the highest-ranking pair.
For one UK-based IT service company, LEAD.bot was such an initial hit that the CEO sent out donuts and coffee to all employees so more would be motivated to join the employee matching program.
While getting employees to adopt a new routine can be tough, it’s important to persevere – your team will only feel the positive effects of more social interaction if they stick it out.
How to Integrate LEAD.bot into Your Workplace
Now that you’ve got all these tips and tricks up your sleeve, you’re ready to kick off your brand new coffee matching program! LEAD.bot, an app for Microsoft Teams and Slack, makes this super simple.
After adding LEAD.bot to Microsoft Teams or Slack, all you need to do is create a coffee-matching channel/team and invite in LEAD.bot and your team members. Team members can also opt-in themselves and choose to join the channel or team.
If you use Slack, some fun name ideas for your Slack channel might be: #coffee-mate, #got-coffee, #lunchpals or #cappuccino. For more specific groups, the channel/team might be: #EngineerCoffee, #mochas-for-marketing, #lattes-in-los-angeles.
We here at LEAD.bot have used #watercooler for chit-chat, #food-fighters for finding the best foods in the city, and #av-club to talk about our favorite shows and movies. Even though we have had to keep social distance, we found that virtual hangouts over shared interests kept the pandemic loneliness at bay.
LEAD.bot will automatically start pairing off the members in the group and send out new pairs every week. LEAD.bot makes pairs/groups by looking for people with the fewest channels in common – so you know that you’re really getting to meet everyone. You can customize how often LEAD.bot will match together employees and how often it sends out reminders for existing matches to meet again. Plus, you can also customize how often matches and/or reminders are sent out and when they are sent out in LEAD.bot’s settings from the once-a-week default.
Each match will be introduced with icebreakers and conversation starters, so you can be sure your pairs won’t suffer through awkward silences. Plus, LEAD.bot collects feedback from a survey after each pair so you can be sure that these coffee dates are working for your team.
The future of work is remote – as we adapt our workflows to online spaces, it only makes sense that we adapt our socializing as well. Remote team building requires a little bit of creativity and elbow grease, but it will make your organization a better, more connected work environment.