The sudden shift to remote working has led to some exciting revelations. Interestingly, productivity did not decline due to work from home, and it provided the much-desired flexibility and work-life balance. But most office goers are missing in-person human interactions.
As per a global survey, while 60% of employees are satisfied with virtual collaboration, 87% are more satisfied collaborating in person. Therefore, virtual watercooler conversation seems the best way to break this digital boredom and monotony and add life to remote working.
Most managers are looking for compelling virtual watercooler conversation topics and ideas to encourage interaction and collaboration beyond work-related matters.
What is a Virtual Watercooler Conversation?
The casual watercooler chats have been a well-known office tradition. Virtual watercooler conversation is the digital version of office watercooler talk that relieves work-related stress and boredom.
The best thing about watercooler discussion is that there are no set rules or topics; one can talk about anything on earth. After all, we are human beings, and we thrive when we socialize.
Let us look at the top seven ways to encourage virtual watercooler conversation, enhancing team bonding and employee morale.
Use Team Chat and Video Conferencing Tools
Luckily, we already had the technology for chatting and video conferencing when the pandemic forced the remote working culture upon us. Tools like Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, Google Hangouts, Zoom, and Skype have all the utilities to help build a communication channel.
If you are a team manager, creating a culture where colleagues use technology freely for office matters, discreetly encouraging regular chit-chat can go a long way in promoting employee engagement. Never try to force the agenda and let the virtual watercooler conversation topics come naturally from colleagues.
Make Team Meetings Fun
Attending long online meetings can be tedious and exhausting. However, there are various ways to promote virtual watercooler talks, making team meetings more exciting and fun.
- Keep them short — ensure meetings don’t become an endless binge session without a skip button.
- Don’t invite 50 colleagues when only five are needed.
- Keeping quick ice-breaker sessions before meetings can work wonders. There are plenty to choose from — quizzes, riddles, guessing games, polls, and much more. Be creative.
- Ensure virtual watercooler questions are mostly non-work-related.
Ad Hoc Breaks
People need more breaks in remote work culture to have less screen time and better focus. So try to build a culture where employees can take random intervals instead of sticking to fixed time-based breaks. These breaks can replace the traditional coffee machine area and office watercooler talk, allowing colleagues to vent the stress.
Watercooler Meeting Ideas
Be as creative as possible. Seeking watercooler conversation ideas and topics from colleagues is an excellent way to start. It builds enthusiasm and promotes team bonding. Enlisted below are some virtual watercooler examples that are the real deal.
- Daily or weekly challenges like 30 minutes walking, meditation, and sleep on time.
- Virtual team bonding activities help employees open up and share their thoughts freely.
- Creating monthly contests and polls; do not forget to share results and prizes.
Interest-Based Virtual Activities
A manager or a leader must be aware of the personality traits of all their colleagues. Conducting online personality tests and creating virtual clubs is another excellent way to promote healthy work culture. Virtual clubs are super effective since they are not forced; not everyone likes reading or is a movie buff.
- Virtual Book Clubs: The members can decide on monthly genres and share their reading experience.
- Movie Clubs: Netflix can be an excellent place for virtual movie nights.
- Gaming: Colleagues who love gaming or sports can have their gaming challenges.
Virtual Coffee and Lunch Hours
Who doesn’t like happy hours? The concept of fun-at-work needs fine-tuning in a virtual work setup. Virtual coffee and lunch sessions are the perfect way to achieve productivity and employee engagement. Virtual work while you eat sessions are the best alternative to a watercooler for remote teams.
Break the Ice with Random Meet-ups
If the experienced employees feel the pinch of boredom and lack of collaboration, think about new ones who have never seen the regular office environment.
Organizing random meet-ups between colleagues from different departments or units provides them a clear understanding of office culture. They will know how things work, developing a deeper connection with the company and other employees.
The benefits of a water-cooler conversation are immense, and these virtual chat topics can be work-related as well as a casual stress buster. In addition, virtual collaboration lacks traditional in-person office interactions; hence, being more empathetic and creative is the best way to enhance employee engagement and foster healthy remote working office culture.
What is a watercooler discussion?
A watercooler discussion includes casual discussions among employees. These discussions are generally not work-related. While it adds as a short break from regular tasks per day, it also helps in improving one’s communication skills, team-bonding, and collaboration. It can be done both offline and online.
How do you set up a virtual watercooler?
You can set up a virtual watercooler through multiple ways in a remote organization:
- On a virtual video meet: You can create a Google Meet/Zoom meeting and invite your teammates. Have the topics/agenda of the watercooler set so that it is easier to move past the awkward moments.
- Tools: There are multiple tools that offer watercooler features like Trivia or Mural.
What is a watercooler channel?
Working remotely, you will have a digital HQ like Slack or Teams. Here you can create a separate Slack watercooler channel that will be solely meant for informal discussions and banter.