With more and more teams shifting to work from home due to the ongoing pandemic, one hurdle managers might be facing is how to ensure employees still have opportunities to connect and build relationships with their coworkers.
One of the easiest ways to keep team connections alive is transitioning from in person coffee meet-ups to virtual coffee breaks.
When you work in an office, a coffee break is something spontaneous — you may swing by a colleague’s desk and see if they can escape and catch up over coffee for half an hour. However, when employees are working from home, this kind of spontaneity disappears, so managers and team members need to make a deliberate effort to keep in touch with colleagues.
Besides fostering social connections, virtual coffee breaks also contributes with increased productivity because team members don’t feel isolated and alienated due to the lack of social interaction.
Fortunately, there are multiple ways to keep your remote team connected with a virtual coffee break. Here are some tips on developing the best strategies that work for your team.
1. Schedule virtual coffee breaks regularly
The unstructured social interactions of daily office life are difficult to replicate in a work from home situation. However, it’s important to make sure that the frequency of contact between colleagues doesn’t go down.
A virtual coffee break is the perfect way to maintain connections, so do your best to schedule them regularly, just as you would do in a traditional work environment.
It might require some discipline to not let these social breaks fade off, but it’s important to continue to schedule them at least once every week.
2. Host virtual coffee meetings or lunch breaks
Try to create a virtual meeting for the entire team to have lunch or coffee together. You can schedule these other regular times, or even create a permanent virtual meeting for team members to login anytime they want and join their colleagues for random conversations, just as they would do by the water cooler.
Being able to jump into a video conversation with random team members who happen to be looking to socialise at the same time is an excellent way to break the monotony.
3. Set up mandatory happy hours
When you work from home, it’s tempting to skip activities that are not part of the daily tasks that need to be completed or delivered. To make sure every member of the team continues to connect, try to schedule some time every day for the entire team to come online at the same time and have some fun.
This could be anything from team building activities to trivia and games, or simply icebreaker conversations that can help members of the team get to know each other. It’s not uncommon for the remote or distributed teams to lack in communication and enthusiasm to interact with one another, so be prepared with fun activities and games to fill the gaps in conversation.
4. Plan some fun weekly activities
Creating a hobby club for team members with similar interests is a great way to provide employees with an extra opportunity to bond outside work. This can be a book club or a bake club, or anything else that can increase the feeling of belonging to a group.
If you opt for a book club, for example, which is a common choice because lots of people read for a hobby, you can choose a book each month and then set up a virtual meeting where everyone can discuss their opinions, just like they would do at an in-person book club.
5. Plan a team workout
Keeping in shape when you work from home is important but exercising together can up the motivation for everybody. From following a video workout routine together to yoga and even cardio sessions, there are lots of ways to incorporate fitness activities into the weekly routine of your team.
You can even make it more interesting by dividing your team into two groups so that they can compete against each other in a friendly way. Team workouts are the perfect team builder exercise as they promote healthy competition while actually keeping the team fit.
6. Don’t forget about the kids
Many employees who work from home are also parents, and the kids are a topic that can bring everyone together. You can organize monthly times where parents can bring their kids into the virtual meetings, so they can interact with other families.
Bring your kid to work day can be a fun even not just for kids, but for parents, too, as they can bond with colleagues over the struggles of working from home while also taking care of kids.
7. Keep virtual coffee breaks small
If you are the manager of a large team, it may be tempting to set up a virtual coffee break that includes everybody at the same time. This is not a great idea most of the times, because it’s difficult to maintain an intimate atmosphere in a large group.
If you can, keep virtual coffee breaks under 5 or 6 participants. Anything more than that won’t give everyone the chance to chime in and feel like they are heard. Virtual meetings with a large number of participants typically leave one or more people out, which is counterproductive.
Virtual coffee breaks help create interactions that build trust and a sense of community. This eventually translates into higher employee retention, employment engagement, and ultimately, productivity.
All the strategies mentioned above help create a healthy and pleasant workplace culture. Try one or more of them and you’ll notice that it’s really possible to keep a remote or distributed team connected and engaged.
Search Remotely is an online platform that accelerates remote work and connects employers with remote job seekers. Virtual coffee breaks are at the heart of what we do to keep our remote team connected.