Working remotely has a lot of benefits, but also a lot of challenges, especially in a team setting. It can be difficult to connect with your team members when everyone is on their own schedule, with their own deadlines and meetings that they must attend. Trying to reconnect right before a meeting with a client or in between brainstorming sessions in the team’s main chatroom is difficult and can be distracting. A virtual water cooler, or two, can help.
WHAT IS A VIRTUAL WATER COOLER?
A virtual water cooler is a space where teammates can connect without the pressure of a meeting and without the worry of clogging up a chatroom meant for business. Side chats and direct emails can work, but having a dedicated space for more personal conversations can really help connect the whole team, not just a few employees.
It is easy to create one especially if the team uses a group chat, such as Slack, Discord, or Microsoft teams. Make a separate channel or chat that will serve as the dedicated water cooler space and invite your team members.
Having a conversational virtual water cooler brings a lot of benefits to the team, which is great for the company as well. Team bonding will increase when a virtual water cooler is created, as there is now a designated space for conversations that can be more personal and less business-centric. Teammates can get to know another which can lead to better cohesiveness on projects. This increases the productivity and efficiency of team projects. Virtual Water Cooler chats are beneficial to new hires, as it gives them a space to get to know their new teammates and can reduce the feeling of being ‘an outsider’ and help ease them into the work culture of the company. It also gives them a sense of belonging. If the conversation ever goes dry, have some fun questions prepared in advance, such as ‘What is your favorite day of the week and why?’ and ‘If you could visit any planet, what planet would you visit?’. Some teams do not need that extra push to begin talking, but it never hurts to have a few questions on hand!
To increase creativity and innovation, consider creating a brainstorming virtual water cooler chat. The brainstorming chat can be a place for teammates to discuss and share ideas freely. A chat for brainstorming takes pressure off of team members who need additional time to think and come up with ideas, and unlike a zoom meeting, they will not feel as if they have been put on the spot. Employees will be able to sit on their ideas and on their teammates' ideas and have time to fully think about it, which can lead to deeper conversations and greater creative flow.
Virtual water cooler spaces can be used in multiple ways to fit the needs of your team, so try them out.