The advantages of distributed teams are well-documented, with increased efficiency being a major benefit. Working from home can be beneficial for remote employees, as it can lead to improved productivity due to reduced stress and fewer interruptions. Traditional office environments can include distracting noises, such as traffic or colleagues conversing, whereas online water coolers and coffee nooks can provide useful conversation for remote workers. Our firm has been operating with distributed teams for over a decade, so we have first-hand experience of the advantages this setup can bring.
What is a “virtual water cooler” in the workplace?
A virtual water cooler is an online version of the traditional workplace water cooler, which encourages productive conversations between colleagues. These casual conversations can have a positive effect on workplace morale and camaraderie, so it makes sense to have a digital version for remote working contexts. It provides an opportunity for team members to connect, share advice and take breaks from work.
However…what about when teams are geographically separated?
There is a misconception that those who work from home are constantly in their pajamas, lack social interaction and are always glued to their computers.
It is likely that virtual teams are communicating regularly, even if they are working remotely. All members of the team will understand the importance of cooperation. However, communication alone is not enough to create strong team bonds. It is advisable to take this into account when considering the success of your business. It is not necessary to worry about the lack of amenities such as cafeterias, water coolers, and coffee shops for home-based staff.
In the twenty-first century, a remote company has a range of possibilities available to them, from setting up a business cadence which facilitates the workflow of their team to utilizing virtual water coolers. For example, chats on Slack or Zoom can be held about any topic. An example of this is the Bibliophiles! This raises the following question:
Exactly why are online break areas so crucial?
One benefit of working virtually is the increased socialization among staff members.
People are social beings, and connecting with others is a fundamental human need. Establishing strong, meaningful relationships involves more than just exchanging pleasantries; it involves a mutual understanding of each other. This need for connection is universal and has relevance both in personal and professional settings.
Cash is not necessarily the most important motivator to work hard. Consider working in an environment where the primary aim is to make colleagues happy. This can be challenging in remote working conditions, yet it is feasible to enable communication between virtual teams by providing them with dedicated meeting areas. Modern technology can be used to create a virtual ‘Coffee gathering’ which replicates the ‘water cooler effect’, allowing colleagues to bond and form comradery even when separated by a physical distance.
Discussions around the digital equivalent of the water cooler are a great way to spark innovation.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin, two engineering students at Stanford University, founded Google, whilst Starbucks was established by Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegel and Gordon Bowker. Mark Zuckerberg and his Harvard University classmates discussed ideas which eventually became Facebook. This highlights the potential benefits of having multiple minds working together on an idea.
At times, the most creative ideas can be derived from basic conversations. Remote teams can still work together efficiently through virtual water coolers. This allows them to operate as a collective instead of as individuals, thus resulting in improved productivity amongst distant staff. When an employee has an inspired concept but is unsure of how to implement it, a quick chat could be beneficial in addressing the issue.
A deep feeling of community
Remote teams benefit significantly from virtual water coolers as they help to ensure employees are not just treated as robots. Remote employees are a valuable asset to any business, providing an essential service, and it is important to foster this relationship. Therefore, investing in virtual water coolers is essential to ensure that remote teams feel valued.
Employees are more likely to remain with an organization if they feel a sense of community and value for their contributions. Therefore, it is beneficial for businesses to foster a culture of engagement, especially when employees are spread across the globe. One possible way of achieving this is through the use of virtual water coolers, which can help to create a sense of connection and solidarity among employees. This, in turn, can lead to increased morale and productivity, and ultimately, greater success for the organization.
Boost efficiency and output
The well-known adage “talk less, work more” encourages employees to enhance their efficiency by reducing their involvement in non-essential activities. However, research indicates that workers can only remain focused for approximately two hours and fifty-three minutes. This implies that they are not entirely productive during their time spent at work. Despite the fact that there are many aspects that contribute to increased productivity in virtual teams, they can still be diverted.
Many people mistakenly believe that the more effort put in, the better the results. However, taking time off to rest and recuperate can be beneficial in avoiding burnout and increasing productivity. Allowing colleagues to take a few minutes each day to talk about something light-hearted such as an adorable puppy meme can help to revitalize employees and lead to an increase in output.
Use the water cooler effect to boost teamwork.
As colleagues become more acquainted with each other, first impressions can often evolve. Through conversations, video calls or other forms of communication, individuals can learn more about one another’s hobbies, interests and preferences. As a result, relationships can develop from initial unfamiliarity to a trusting, beneficial connection.
Psychological research has established that genuine social interaction is a key factor in fostering empathy. Those who are able to understand the perspectives of others are more likely to provide constructive criticism and act in a supportive manner when needed. This also creates an environment of openness, enabling meaningful dialogue. Therefore, encouraging teamwork among remote workers is an effective way to create a positive workplace culture in which employees feel comfortable providing feedback and learning from each other’s experiences.
Discussions Around the Proverbial Electronic Water Cooler
Are you still looking for ideas to help develop your remote team? There are many benefits to virtual water coolers, and it is important to find ways to connect geographically dispersed teams. Here are five online group hangouts that may be useful:
Monthly get-togethers for drinks and conversation
Organizing a monthly video conference with colleagues could be an excellent way to build relationships and strengthen team bonds. By ensuring that the time suits all time zones, staff members can come together to chat in a relaxed environment, enjoying a few drinks together. This could be a great way to enjoy similar benefits to those experienced during after-hours happy hours.
Organizing a group gaming session is easy when there are many games designed for controller use. To ensure a fun experience for all, why not set aside a mutually convenient time for everyone to gather virtually? Popular titles such as Pictionary can be enjoyed over video chats, adding a unique and entertaining twist to the traditional game.
Here are a few examples of games you may play with your digital squads online:
- The Catan Colonists
Studies have revealed that remote workers may experience feelings of loneliness and exclusion. This is especially the case for businesses whose management subscribes to the “out of sight, out of mind” mantra. However, when important occasions such as birthdays are celebrated, staff feel valued by their employers. To start, it is important to take note of everyone’s birthdays and celebrate accordingly. As the date draws nearer, plan a Zoom meeting in which everyone sings “Happy Birthday” to the person with the birthday. Due to time differences, you could even share a meal (lunch or dinner).
Slack’s donut calls
At Works, we don’t often have the opportunity to socialize with colleagues from other departments, owing to the wide variety of departments (sales, marketing, recruitment, human resources, etc.). However, Slack’s Donut function has been a welcome exception. This function includes a bot which randomly sets up meetings between team members, and this has enabled us to get to know colleagues who we don’t often interact with, further strengthening our team spirit.
The idea is to set up a weekly Zoom call with your doughnut partner and speak about topics that have nothing to do with business.
It’s time for the movies!
Are you and your friends interested in going to the movies? Why not consider organizing a movie night every now and again? Netflix Parties allows users to host virtual movie nights, enabling them to invite others to watch films and other content together, whilst engaging in discussions and leaving comments.
Hold on, there’s more!
The final contributing factor is arguably the most powerful: cultural elements. Establishing a productive organizational culture is a key initial step towards achieving commercial success. As staff are motivated to produce the best results for those they care about, their dedication to their roles is driven by the company’s culture.
A company’s culture may flourish with the help of virtual water coolers. Employees are encouraged to understand that their position in the organization is about more than simply producing items. By creating a positive atmosphere, where staff are comfortable and motivated, colleagues can more easily collaborate and support one another.
At Works, we understand the immense value of finding employees who possess both cultural sensitivity and skills. It can be a rewarding feeling when the perfect fit is found. If you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact us.