Company Culture, Employee Engagement | Article

5 Ways to Create ‘Water Cooler’ Moments Virtually

Water cooler moments strengthen employee connections. Remote employees don’t have the same opportunity to run into one another casually. Or do they?

What are ‘water cooler’ moment and why are they important?

Working in a physical office, employees tend to run into one another. A break room, a hallway, or an actual water cooler…these spaces leave room for casual interactions. Even when they only last a few minutes, moments like these let us briefly break away from the busy work environment. It can be re-energizing and contributes to an overall sense of connection.

In the remote work world, employees can’t just run into each other on a normal basis. But that doesn’t mean you can’t create spaces that facilitate water cooler moments virtually. We compiled a shortlist of five helpful tips!

How to Create Virtual Water Cooler Moments

1. Start meetings casually

Build time into meetings for non-work-related talk. Begin a meeting by asking for a personal high and personal low for the day or week. Ask an interesting question like, “Are there more doors or wheels in the world?” Start casually or personally and you may find that your meetings are more upbeat and productive. You’ll also combat Zoom fatigue or meeting burnout.

2. Create spaces on your chat platform

Implement channels or chats specifically for water cooler interactions. Most virtual teams utilize a chat platform like Slack or Microsoft Teams, or an internal social feed. Whatever the platform, there may be an opportunity to create a #Random channel or a Meme chat. This forms a space to share, discuss, and laugh together about casual topics. When there is interest, consider creating groups specific to hobbies. Think Book Club, Golf Club, and Self-Care Club.

3. Host lunch-and-learn sessions

Rallying remote workers together for a virtual lunch can be tough. Virtual lunch-and-learn sessions can be a great solution! Choose a different topic every week or month, and make it an optional event during or around lunchtime. A session could feature one team explaining what they do while another could be a workshop to learn from an outside expert. See if your company can reimburse lunch costs to boost participation.

4. Plan virtual activities

Organize fun virtual activities for your team. Set up a game of Skribbl or a pet happy hour (grab a drink and show your pets). Encourage your team members to join and get to know each other during these optional events. Emphasis on the word “optional.” Don’t make anything mandatory! You can’t force water cooler moments to happen. You can only encourage them by opening up room for them to occur.

5. Ask for employee input

Survey employees or your individual team for suggestions. You can ask for feedback on previous sessions and activities. It’s a great way to see what is already working and what is not. It’s also the best way to gain new ideas. Especially ones your employees will be enthusiastic about since they made the suggestions!

The personal connections that blossom from frequent water cooler moments are unbeatable. And we cannot afford to lose them in the virtual world. Try out some of the above tactics and discover the ways your remote employees prefer to connect. That’s how you’ll create belonging and happiness. That’s how you create a high-performing culture!