Water coolers, snack rooms, and rec rooms have long been hubs in offices where employees can mingle while taking a break. However, remote work has minimized, if not entirely removed, water cooler conversations, leaving employees without this opportunity to chat with coworkers.
Employees, particularly new employees, miss this interaction. A recent New York Times article even explained that while the benefits of remote work outweigh the drawbacks, employees suffer emotionally from a lack of socialization.
Fortunately, busy HR managers now have an easy way to reintegrate water cooler conversations with remote workers through virtual water coolers. These fun virtual meetups help bolster your company culture while encouraging collaboration, keeping your remote workers happy and satisfied.
What Is A Virtual Water Cooler Chat?
Those new to the concept of a virtual water cooler might simply consider pairing two members on the same team to chat for 15 minutes. Well, while this is a good step toward virtual team building, a successful remote water cooler looks a little different.
A virtual water cooler pairs remote workers, often two workers that rarely or never interact on a regular basis, and lets them connect in a relaxed atmosphere with casual conversations. As with in-office water cooler conversations, these meetings are organic and natural, often moving away from everyday work topics.
The benefits of a virtual water cooler include:
- Better cross-team collaboration
- Enhance employee engagement
- Give employees a sense of belonging
- A stronger company culture
- Sparks new ideas
By integrating virtual water coolers, you present new remote work employees with more work benefits, such as better camaraderie and an improved work-life balance, and more easily retain existing talent.
Ways To Recreate Water Cooler Conversations Virtually
Connecting employees through virtual water coolers are an easy way to increase engagement, build camaraderie among teams, and create a fun work culture. But where do you start, and how do you recreate the organic nature of a water cooler? Here are some ideas you should try.
Use Team Chat Apps
If your employees have been working remotely for the past year, then odds are that you’ve already implemented some type of team chat app, whether that be Slack, Teams, or something similar.
These team chat apps are the perfect place to start! Not only do your employees already know how to communicate with one another via messaging and video chats, but both serve as a company directory letting employees easily connect with one another.
Team chat apps also offer the flexibility of messaging and video chatting, both of which serve as excellent mediums for remote team building. A few quick messages over Slack channel can go a long way in connecting team members, and a short video call can introduce two employees on different channels.
When trying to recreate natural interactions virtually, keep in mind that you don’t need to recreate the wheel, and sometimes the simplest solutions work the best.
Set Up Creative Zoom Happy Hours
Yes, we’ve all been to plenty of Zoom happy hours and yes, we’re all a little fatigued from having to smile at the camera on your computer for an hour or two.
But if you or your employees are tired of Zoom happy hours, then the problem is the happy hour itself. Remember, in-person happy hours are supposed to be fun!
Make Zoom happy hours more interesting by bringing in a virtual game, such as Escape Room, Jackbox, Jeopardy, or pub trivia. Better yet, set the Zoom happy hour during work hours, your employees will be happy that they have to spend less time in front of their computer!
If you do choose to go with a game, make sure to leave some time for everyone in the happy hour to talk naturally. Remote workers miss interacting with coworkers just as badly as you want them to talk with each other.
Integrate Casual Conversation Into Chat Apps
Skilled HR managers know that Zoom, Slack, and Teams all provide excellent virtual water cooler opportunities. However, many companies still struggle to get employees interacting with one another.
Problems that companies with remote workers face include:
- No cross-team collaboration
- Few team building or employee engagement opportunities
- A lack of distinguishable company culture
To overcome the pitfalls of virtual work, try integrating employee matching tools into Teams and Slack with apps like LEAD.bot. LEAD fosters friendships and cross-team collaboration by matching employees for virtual coffee, happy hours, and water cooler conversations.
LEAD.bot can connect employees based on skills, interests, or traits shared in common, then lets natural human interaction take over.
Apps like LEAD.bot are incredibly easy to integrate and benefit both you and your employees.
Look Outside Of Work
Today’s employees are looking for more than a job. They want to join a culture that fits their personality. So, to try and get conversations going, why not connect virtual employees over common interests?
Try setting up a virtual workshop and invite anyone to join. To brainstorm workshop ideas, just look at employee interests. If a group of employees enjoys knitting, then consider hiring a knitting teacher to teach new techniques. Employees interested in book clubs might also be interested in a creative writing workshop.
Virtual workshops emulate the relaxed atmosphere of a virtual water cooler, though they take more effort to set up. However, if you’re struggling to build your company culture, virtual workshops are worth trying.
Boost Virtual Employee Interaction With LEAD.bot
Your company culture should extend beyond the virtual walls of your business. While you may have excellent team building in place, many virtual companies fail to connect employees that don’t regularly interact with each other. Employee engagement tools like LEAD.bot serve as a virtual water cooler, connecting your employees and starting organic conversations.