While the traditional water cooler has been replaced in many offices with a fancy coffee machine, the organic effect of striking up a quick conversation with a colleague in the kitchen about last night’s sports game, TV episode, or weekend plans remains important as ever. With more people working remotely than ever before, that opportunity for casual social connection has been lost. Video calls help teams stay connected on work topics, and chat channels allow for ongoing conversation, but the importance of connecting casually to build camaraderie and conviviality is missing for many remote workers.
So, it’s time to introduce the virtual water cooler. Read on to find out how you can set up a virtual water cooler meeting on Conceptboard, and why you should.
3 Reasons why you need a virtual water cooler
- Strengthen team bonds: Inject some fun, light hearted banter and get to know your colleagues on a personal level. This helps build trust, connection and stronger teams.
- A source of inspiration: You never know what brilliant ideas might be sparked when people from other sides of the business (or world) have a chat.
- A chance to reset: A virtual water cooler is the brain reset we often need in between intense meetings. It also gives you a chance to see the human side of your colleagues, and build empathy with each other, away from the business stresses.
How to setup a virtual water cooler
Choose a time and frequency
It’s important to choose a time that is accessible for everyone. A rhythm of once per week around 10 or 11am is a good starting point, and you can always increase it if it’s gaining positive feedback. Of course with global teams, it’ll be harder to find a perfect time for everyone, so consider doing split times according to their work days.
Extend the invitation
One of the best things about the water cooler is that you can literally run into anybody. So maintain the same dynamic by opening the session to anyone within the business, not just your direct team. Not only is this a great way to create relationships across departments, it also gives discussions and chats more angles.
Create a space
Like the actual water cooler, it helps to have something to centre on. By using a backdrop such as a virtual whiteboard, it gives team members somewhere to meet, albeit virtually, and can help create a mindset shift. Then it’s just a matter of setting up a group voice or video call, either through Conceptboard, or another software such as Zoom or Skype so everyone can chat easily.
5 fun activities for a virtual water cooler
On our free template we’ve created five simple activities that can help break the ice at the virtual water cooler. Of course, you can also create your own, or leave the board blank and invite team members to add their own creative conversation starters.
Share an update, a photo, a link to a newsworthy story or a funny video to the virtual bulletin board to get the conversation started. That way everyone can join in the discussion, regardless if they read the same news.
Virtual scavenger hunt
A great way of simulating the laid-back environment of an actual break room is with the help of fun games that multiple people can participate in at the same time. We’ve created a simple, visual game for this purpose that requires zero skill and preparation. We call it the ‘iconic scavenger hunt’. Just choose one icon from the ones we’ve cherry picked from our vast icons library and send your colleagues on a virtual scavenger hunt. It’s a great way to decompress and have fun virtually with your team.
What, where, when?
It’s not long before office water cooler conversations turn to TV shows, movies or holidays. We’ve recreated that on the virtual water cooler board with question prompts such as “What was the last TV show you binge watched?” or “Where is your dream holiday destination?”. Find out if you have similar guilty pleasures, or similar holiday plans in this easy get to know you activity.
Virtual water cooler
The virtual water cooler is the place to kick off a discussion or debate. Simply choose a beverage from the vast selection available and allow people to congregate around the water cooler and engage in casual chit chat. Add your images and names next to the beverages and so people can put a face to your virtual sticky note! Thanks to Conceptboard’s live cursor tracking, you can see who’s joining in.
If you find yourself doodling on notebooks or napkins throughout meetings, then the scribble corner is for you. It’s exactly like the name suggests, a space to express your creativity and scribble down your thoughts.
No matter how big or small your team is, giving them the chance to connect on a personal level goes a long way to improving teamwork and communication. So if your team has been working alone for too long, it’s time to give a virtual water cooler a go. It’ll open dialogue, connect people across the business, and boost mental health and happiness levels during the workday- which can only be a good thing.
If you want to check out our other resources that can help give your team a boost, discover 5 fun icebreakers for your remote team, 6 virtual activities for remote team building, and how to brainstorm in virtual teams.