The Ultimate Guide to Setting up a Virtual Water Cooler for your TeamMarch 21 | 11 min read
The digital workplace has many advantages, but it poses challenges when it comes to employee communications and collaboration. Today’s work environment includes video calls, online meetings and constant digital communications. But most employees maintain something is missing — the in-person human interaction and benefits that arise from these day-to-day connections — and we would like to introduce the virtual water cooler to address precisely the informal communications that are missing. If the virtual water cooler is something you might be interested in building, let’s get started with what it is and how to do it right. We also provide ideas for different types of virtual water cooler events for you to consider.
What is a virtual water cooler?
A virtual water cooler is a place where employees can come together to talk about the workplace and create informal connections that are the spark that lights human productivity and motivation. Here they can informally work on issues, share solutions, ask questions, get advice and give one another support. A virtual water cooler is a place to foster collegiality and strengthen connections and team spirit. It is a digital space outside of meetings and other formal communications.
A virtual water cooler is a name given to a meeting place where employees can connect on an informal basis and even socialize. In a physical office, the water cooler was often located in the office kitchen, the break room or beside the coffee machine. When you bumped into someone at the water cooler you would chat and connect informally about what you were working on.
In today’s work-from-home or hybrid workplaces, it is important to create those opportunities to connect. It takes a little planning, but it can be done.
Your remote team can engage in water cooler conversations to:
- Take a fun break from work
- Strengthen relationships between remote employees by interacting with one another in an environment that’s less stressful
- Chat with people who don’t work directly with each other
- Meet new people in the company
- Welcome and introduce newcomers
- Discuss and exchange ideas in a more relaxed atmosphere
- Make the virtual workplace environment feel like a community
Why do you need a virtual water cooler?
If you’re wondering why you might want to create a virtual water cooler, here are four reasons to consider:
1- Teams can bond during these events.
For the most part, remote workers are self-reliant. Working from home requires self-management, meeting deadlines, and demonstrating competence to deal with all the issues that arise. To do your work effectively and productively requires constant communication with your team members and your manager or team leader.
Providing a remote team water cooler allows a company to strengthen remote teams, improve company culture, and increase productivity. It is an excellent tool for team-building. And it fosters the personal human connections we all thrive on.
2- Help generate new ideas.
Talking around the water cooler sometimes got a bad rap as a gossip hotspot. But in reality, it was a fertile ground for fresh ideas, allowing workers to connect creatively (without the pressure of mandatory meetings). The spontaneous brainstorming often resulted in innovative ideas that benefited the organization. The virtual water cooler can replace the real water cooler — maybe even more effectively
3- Strengthen ties and create a sense of belonging.
Companies that operate remotely often employ workers based around the world. This is one of the advantages of having a remote workforce. But it can be difficult for remote workers to connect beyond the emails they receive when you factor in time zones and cultural differences. Having a remote water cooler helps staff feel more connected to each other and the company as a whole. By creating a safe zone, employees can drop in and out casually and feel part of the bigger organization and less isolated.
4- Virtual water coolers are widely used by remote companies.
Several remote companies have developed their own virtual water cooler, complete with text and video chat capabilities. Whatever your industry, a virtual water cooler transcends instant messages and emails. Having an open dialogue with your employees is a great way for them to feel part of the company and contribute ideas in the company’s best interest.
What activities can be done at virtual water coolers?
Once you have set up a virtual water cooler platform, there are a variety of activities that can take place, but the best ones are centered around stimulating conversation and team-building. Here are nine different creative and virtual water cooler activities to get you started:
1. Trivia Games and Quizzes
Remote workers can use trivia games and quizzes to flex their general knowledge muscles, even if they don’t know each other very well. Additionally, teammates can interact without sharing personal details. You can make quizzes specific to your industry or department to keep things relevant.
2. Fun Virtual Games
Take the edge off of a dull day with games! Fun virtual games are a great way to get to know your team members. Virtual games get people laughing together.
Some fun virtual games ideas include:
- Drawing games
- This or that quizzes
- Quick scavenger hunt games/contests
- To tell the truth game
3. Coffee or Lunch Breaks
People are drawn together by food and bonding over coffee. Since we aren’t meeting on coffee breaks, in the lunchroom, celebrating a colleague’s birthday and certainly not at the water cooler, scheduling virtual lunches or coffee breaks can be a great way to collaborate. People can catch up with their colleagues and engage in water cooler conversation while enjoying some downtime. Since your employees are most likely in different time zones, try to choose a good time for everyone.
4. Interest-Based Clubs
People with similar interests or hobbies always find one another. Employees who love sports, reading, going to the movies, or trying the newest clubs and restaurants love to connect with someone with a similar interest. With a little planning, you can arrange a virtual water cooler chat based on these shared common interests for your remote workers.
5. Escape Rooms
In addition to being fun, escape rooms are a great way to bond and relax for coworkers. These activities provide insight into how individuals work within a team and react under pressure. It is possible to replicate this remotely. Your team will have to solve puzzles and riddles on a virtual whiteboard to escape from the room.
6. Icebreaker Sessions
You can also use casual conversation starter questions to encourage conversations among colleagues. These virtual water cooler events can be departmental or company-wide, spontaneous or planned. We have listed many virtual icebreakers in this blog post to make meetings fun and engaging.
7. Virtual Wine Tasting
Online social events such as virtual wine tastings allow participants from different locations to share one experience together. Team members usually end up laughing, and it breaks down formal barriers and promotes informal conversation.
8. Virtual Happy Hour
Remote workers may enjoy virtual happy hours, as they are similar to virtual wine tastings. Members of the virtual teams can share drinks during these virtual hours. Why not have a virtual cocktail-making lesson from a bartender or mixologist?
9. Virtual Arts and Crafts
A virtual arts and crafts event is another interesting idea for virtual water cooler moments. Members of the team should take advantage of this opportunity to unleash their creativity. You might even find hidden talents in the bunch! Your team could participate in a virtual art class together, where a professional artist guides them.
Virtual water cooler best practices – Keepin’ it fun!
So how can your new remote teams keep morale high and strengthen engagement while working separately in their homes? You are bound to make mistakes if this is your first time creating a virtual water cooler. These are a few tips to consider to ensure each water cooler activity serves its intended purpose of bringing your employees together for an enjoyable time.
1- Keep it Loose
Keep everything casual. This is what water coolers are for — they’re meant to create bonds between team members. If someone does not wish to participate in an activity, do not force them to do so.
2- Stay Flexible
There is a good chance that not all water cooler activities will resonate with your team. Therefore, you should monitor engagement and interest levels and be flexible when planning the next one.
3- Keep It Fun and Interesting
Make sure there is always something interesting to discuss. Keep virtual water cooler activities light as much as possible. The idea of a virtual water cooler is for employees to unwind and take time away from what they are doing just to “chill” a bit.
4- Ask for Feedback from Participants
It is always good to ask for feedback from those at the water cooler event. Remember that you should not take it personally if there is a theme people do not enjoy. This is the reason to ask for feedback from employees, so you know what they liked and disliked and you can fine-tune to keep people interested in participating.
5- Trial and Error
Consider virtual water cooler events as a work in progress. If you have never had them before, just follow the other four suggestions above and adjust as you go along. Finding out what people like and dislike will help you along the path to fun!
Virtual water coolers for your remote employees can boost the morale and productivity. Now that you know what a virtual water cooler is and why you should use it, you may want to check out Everytale for your water cooler meetings. Everytale has a user-friendly interface and solid security features, so you can post your content and know it will be secure. Everytale allows you to create your remote team water cooler events in real-time. It’s a powerful, easy-to-use virtual water cooler platform that allows you to meet new people in your office, share ideas, and collaborate with ease.