Keep your remote team connected with a virtual coffee break

• October 15, 2020
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emote employees enjoy flexible work hours, lesser commute stress, location independence and money savings. However, burnouts in a remote workplace are real. Feeling isolated due to the lack of social interaction is real. Eventually, productivity loss due to isolation is real too.

The “coffee break” where you spontaneously drop by at your team members’ desk and take a break or a chance meeting near the water cooler are excellent ways to address these concerns. You could just catch up on small talk or discuss a movie, upcoming project, office politics, or kids. 

The focus with these breaks is not on drink or food, but on the company and camaraderie. Its goal is to take an intentional break during the day to recharge the mind and body, by socialising with team-members. The socialising yields to numerous benefits. The drink is the icing on the cake. 

It improves connection and engagement among team members, as they develop a genuine bond. That, in turn, helps employees to work as a team. Employees return to work with a better focus and positive attitude. Happy and connected employees have improved productivity and creativity. 

A watercooler break also lets you interact with members of other teams that you might not usually cross paths with, during regular work. A lot of work gets done because you personally know somebody from another team in an in-person workspace. These chance meetings help you make those connections as well.

In the in-person office setup, these chance encounters lead to casual conversations and no-pressure socializing does not have to be structured. 

However, with remote work and distributed teams, there is a need to develop strategies to create such moments. 

Creative ways to replicate in-office banter and keep the team spirit high

1. Mandatory “happy hours''

Schedule some time every day for the team to have some fun. Play games, team-building activities, trivia, karaoke or ice breakers to help the team get together and enjoy. These activities can be based on the team’s requirements and goals. 

If you think the team is lacking in communication or enjoyment, then focus through these games to fill in the gap. Or if your team likes something more challenging, then plan a quiz night for the folks. 

2. Host virtual team lunches or coffee meetings

Invite your team to have lunch or coffee together. Create an Airmeet meeting for your team that is perpetually open for team members to log into anytime and join the social lounge for casual, random conversations. It is also a perfect re-creation of the chance meetup that occurs at water coolers, or kitchens in offices.

A video conversation with a random team member/s present at the social lounge helps break the monotony. You can seek Airmeet support to set up such a coffee break meeting for your team and share the link with your team members.

Think of this meeting as the watercooler, where any team member can join in at any time and hang around with other team members also present by the watercooler.

(Read — Remote Work: Virtual Meetings Guide for Managers)

3. Weekly catch-up meetings

As the week begins, you can schedule a 15-min preview meeting where the agenda is “team” as a whole. Don’t talk about anything work-related. But keep the focus on the wellness of the team and personal events that happened over the past week. 

Some talking points can be recognising people for good work, welcoming new hires and celebrating birthdays. These quick and casual meetings help to touch-base with the team and start the week strong. Ensure that these meetings are inclusive and give everybody an equal chance to share positively. 

(Read — Remote work: Collaboration guide to get work done)

4. Kickstart a fun club-like book or bake club

An excellent way to keep burnout away is to inculcate a hobby. A hobby club with team members of similar interest can help hone skills and provide an opportunity to bond with coworkers outside work. When you embark on a journey to learn something new together, you learn a lot about each other, the thought-process and unique qualities. It increases the feeling of engagement and togetherness.

A book club offers a platform for members to read a chosen book over a month and then meet & discuss the book freely. If you are seeking some adventure in the kitchen, then a cooking or baking club can help in building camaraderie in the team.

Coffee breaks improve connection and engagement among team members, as they help develop a genuine bond. That, in turn, helps employees to work as a team.

Coffee breaks improve connection and engagement among team members, as they help develop a genuine bond. That, in turn, helps employees to work as a team.

5. Workout together

A team that works out and burns calories together, stays together. Let one team member lead the exercise for the day, as per his/ her choice and pace, it could be a stretching session of yoga, dance fitness, a charged cardio workout or a run together. Divide the teams into two groups and let them compete to achieve fitness goals more aggressively.

This team activity serves more purpose than you might have imagined; it keeps the team fit, motivated and promotes healthy competition.

6. Leverage tech to swap skills

Your team needs to work together and to improve team-building you can leverage tech platforms available for any skill swapping or knowledge transfer. It does not necessarily have to be a work-related skill. 

If you enjoy painting, then you can learn from other experts on your team. Use efficient tech like Airmeet, that allows you to screen share or offer HD quality audio/ video to be able to create an excellent experience for both parties so they can interact better. 

7. Bring your kids to work day

Every month, schedule a time when you can bring the mini-you to the virtual workplace with you. It is a great way to meet and interact with families of co-workers and foster a deeper bond with them.

(Read: Adopt virtual office space and town halls to engage global employees)

(Read: Remote team? Here are 15 team building activities to get them excited)

Some basic rules to follow during these meetups are:

  • Ban laptop and smartphone distractions.
  • Get up from your work desk and move to a relaxing corner in your remote location.
  • Mark a break-time in your calendar for at least half an hour every day.
  • Grab your drink and let the conversations flow freely.
  • Select a different team member to bond with each time. 
  • Keep it short and casual. Focus on forging real connections. 

These strategies effectively create a healthy workplace culture. These small changes can bring about a significant difference for your workforce and keep them engaged and connected. 

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