Water cooler conversations often get employees through rough days in the office. However, with the remote and hybrid work environments today, these casual conversations among co-workers are difficult to replicate online.
To give you an idea of how you can recreate the water cooler experience in your virtual office, here are some tips from reputable office space provider Connecticut Business Centers.
Why Do Water Cooler Activities Matter?
The water cooler or water station is a place where employees can meet one another during break periods and chat about various topics while refilling their water bottles or making coffee. These short, casual conversations ended when companies transitioned to a remote or hybrid setup. This resulted in fewer opportunities for co-workers to get to know one another and build camaraderie.
How to Recreate the Water Cooler Experience Digitally
Fortunately, you can recreate the water cooler experience even without a physical office space. Here are some tips you can try with your team:
- Choose the Right Platform
Many communication platforms are perfect for water cooler conversations. For example, you can use Sococo, a platform that digitally replicates an office with conference rooms and hangout spots. You can also use Microsoft’s Yammer, an enterprise-level social network that lets you post updates and communicate with everyone at the office.
- Create a Consistent Schedule
Passing discussions among team members help them enjoy their time at work more. They also result in higher employee engagement. That said, you should create a regular schedule for employees to take short breaks and chat with their teammates the same way they would when getting a drink at a water cooler in an actual office space.
- Don’t Disturb Them During a Break
Ensure no employee receives any work notification during their regular water cooler conversations. Any disruption will affect the environment, which must feel like a tranquil space to relax.
- Set Interesting Topics
Suggest interesting topics so employees can discuss these during their breaks. For example, you can talk to them about vacation spots, sports, restaurants, movies, games and everything else in between.
Add incentives to encourage everyone’s participation in the water cooler talks. You can host short contests and games with small prizes, such as song or movie guessing games. Some platforms might have built-in short casual games too.
Here are some more topic ideas for your water cooler conversations and activities that you can try in your virtual office space:
- Book Clubs: Every company has its group of avid readers. These clubs encourage deep discussions that strengthen bonds between workers.
- Weekly Movies: Host a watch party. Ask anyone available during lunch or after work hours every Friday to watch a movie.
- Virtual Team Lunches: Enjoy a virtual sit-down lunch experience with your teammates.
- Virtual Happy Hours: Simulate what happens Friday night, like having a few drinks or in-home parties.
If you’re running out of topics and activity ideas, ask your team for suggestions. This is also a good way to learn more about their interests. Take note of these tips too:
- Categorize Topics
Topic categorization helps employees find new friends in your company based on their interests. Workers can make new acquaintances by communicating their interests to others. Topic segmentation allows them to share something in a conversation. However, you might lose everyone’s interest by leaving discussions simply open or going in all directions.
- Provide a Clear Parameter for Communication
You can create a safe space in your water cooler conversations by providing guidelines. Make sure it’s communicated that no profanity, harassment, threatening language and other such offensive remarks will be tolerated. It’s important to keep the conversations light, fun and friendly as they would be in a real office space. In doing so, you make all employees feel comfortable to share their thoughts and keep their boundaries.
The Benefits of a Virtual Water Cooler
Employees with a virtual water cooler gain the following benefits:
- Closer Employee Relationships
Remote work can create feelings of isolation and rapidly cause work burnout. With virtual water cooler conversations, remote team members can bond with each other, strengthen the team’s camaraderie and improve their work satisfaction.
- More Effective Brainstorming
An informal gathering is where the best ideas usually come up. Virtual water cooler chats can lead to brainstorming sessions and solutions benefitting the company. Furthermore, managers gathering in one place can make connections between teams and facilitate better working relationships for everyone.
- A Sense of Belonging
Water cooler breaks give employees the feeling of being part of a larger purpose. Often, they get tired of doing their work if they lose sight of the big picture. With water cooler breaks, they can converse with other employees even if they live in different time zones and have cultural differences.
How to Encourage Friendship in Water Cooler Conversations
Some employees keep to themselves and may feel awkward conversing with teammates and teams for the first time. Here are some ways to encourage friendship in water cooler conversations:
Let everyone introduce themselves by saying their name, position, department and something interesting about themselves. For example, you can ask them about the worst food they’ve eaten or their dream vacation spot during introductions.
- First-Name Basis
Encourage everyone to call each other by their first names and drop the use of titles. It will help everyone remember each other’s name and associate it with a face.
- Friendly Icebreakers
Facilitate conversations on topics by asking about everyone’s weekend, hobbies and other interesting tidbits they do outside of work. Give everyone an equal amount of time to talk and ask questions. Giving each member a chance to speak can make each one feel cared for because everyone pays attention and is interested in their lives.
Positivity in all discussions encourages everyone to talk and makes every water cooler meeting a safe space to share ideas. Avoid topics that might promote divisiveness or hostile feelings among team members. Furthermore, urge everyone to avoid interrupting while someone is talking.
Connecticut Business Centers is a reputable office space provider that has helped thousands of businesses with their workspace needs. With our expertise, we guarantee that all your requirements for an office space will be met. Call us today at (203) 359-5600 or fill out this contact form for a free consultation. We proudly serve businesses in Stamford, CT, and the surrounding areas.