Virtual water coolers are the backbone of human connections in a remote office like gossip is the foundation of human survival. Read on to find how to set up the best virtual water coolers in your office!
Remote working has been on the rise ever since the Corona pandemic broke out. Remote work is a kind of work that allows professionals to work outside a typical office setting. This is based on the idea that to perform efficiently, work does not need to be performed at a particular location.
In such difficult times, a virtual water cooler for remote teams becomes a necessity. In this article, you will come across all the required information regarding team water coolers and why do you need a virtual water cooler. Further, you will also find ways to create a virtual water cooler and understand the water cooler effect for remote teams.
What is a virtual water cooler?
The first question you might be asking would be this – what is a virtual water cooler? The water cooler is where we go for a rest, and to hydrate, of course. In every workplace, the water cooler has evolved into an organ of its own – often, it is not even a water cooler.
It could be a kitchen, a bowl of candy, or a coffee machine. However, what it means does not change: it is a place in the workplace to re-connect with your colleagues. Often, some of the strongest debates happen around the water cooler and several suggestions come up in that location.
But what if you do not have your staff in the same office? This is when a digital water cooler will come into play. The water cooler is an important part of the atmosphere of every organization and is vital for making the workers feel like a team, even if they do not work together on the same project.
Brainstorming sessions are relevant and so are the casual sessions around the water cooler. So how can one build a digital water cooler for a business? This can be done by creating a virtual space for employees to check in and contribute to the conversation whenever they can (especially if they are in different time zones).
It is of course extremely helpful with instant messaging and emails — but a dedicated virtual room as a virtual water cooler is vital to the culture of a company. That is where an internal social network comes in, a place where the workers can interact with each other and use their goals as a discussion guide.
Types of virtual watercoolers
While you have understood what is a virtual water cooler, let us now focus on the different types of virtual water coolers.
1. Team Water Coolers
Team water coolers essentially leverage Microsoft Teams for promoting remote working and enabling virtual audio and video conversations. You can either create an appointment or meeting and provide a name for the team water cooler. The recommendation is to set up the date and time outside the regular working hours to prevent disruption in the normal calendar hours.
2. Work Water Cooler
Work water cooler as the name implies is involving the employees working from home in numerous activities to encourage team bonding and socialization. One such example of an activity can be to send a water cooler picture like a photo of a home or co-working space pantries to the manager or creator of the watercooler space.
The photos are then displayed for the participants to guess the owner. You can leverage Unremot virtual water cooler, Zoom water cooler, or similar watercoolers for conducting the games.
3. Office Water Cooler
The objective of the office water cooler is to replicate the office events or break sessions in an office, virtually and through an online mode. The events can be a virtual baby shower, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. The members of this particular virtual watercooler prepare gifts or surprise virtual parties for each other; replicating celebrations in an office.
4. Digital Water Cooler
A digital water cooler brings in the experience of the regular watercooler chat by employees through the online or digital mode of communication. Some of the ways to create a digital water cooler are gamification or organizing virtual events. “Two truths and a lie” is a famous game played by many companies virtually between its employees to foster goodwill and interpersonal connections.
5. Remote Water Cooler
Nowadays companies are preferring a remote mode of working to harness niche talents and skills from various regions of the world. The resulting recruitment of employees working remotely at their homes or at a co-working space; not physically present in the office premises.
It is categorically important to generate friendship and harmony between the remote employees and the best way to do that is to create a remote cooler effect. A weekly chit-chat session, quizzing, sharing hobbies, sharing family moments, remote celebrations, or parties are the various ways of creating such watercooler moments.
6. Team Building Water Cooler
Team building is a vital aspect of a project or a program. It promotes positive discussions, collaborative thought exchange, and the generation of innovative ideas. Among the teams, water cooler moments and effects can be created through playing games by forming groups virtually. You may divide the team into groups and assign tasks to each group. The groups must present their output jointly in the virtual water cooler.
7. Happy Hours Water Cooler
We normally associate happy hours with drinks and Friday nights. Well, it can be Friday evenings or nights but need not be drinks. You can create happy hours water cooler and encourage to people have fun by discussing their favorite movies, games, etc. They can also talk about their families and friends. Travel-related topics are also quite popular to create a stress-free session in a virtual water cooler.
8. Book Clubs Water Cooler
Books are timeless and precious, must be encouraged to read be it of any gender or age. You can create book clubs water cooler, maybe segregating by genre, and encourage employees to join in remotely to converse with like-minded people and book lovers. This particular water cooler is very effective to unwind yourself and relieve the daily stress at work.
9. Culinary Classes Water Cooler
Another popular water cooler to create a stress-free environment by showcasing culinary skills. You can arrange for virtual potluck sessions where the employees prepare any dish of their choice. Live demonstration of the preparation can be arranged with each member explaining the recipe in the virtual water cooler sessions.
Also Read: Voice echoing | A complete guide
Why do you need a virtual water cooler?
A virtual water cooler for remote teams is crucial to the growth of a company and its employees in this digital age. The reasons to build team water coolers are many. Some of the positive aspects of the water cooler effect for remote teams are,
1. Team bonding
For the most part, the perfect remote employees are a self-reliant group. They can handle themselves, meet their deadlines, and possess ample skills to solve problems that arise when operating remotely. They are a group of communicative workers, sending messages to each other and to their bosses.
But, they are also people with interests beyond the office, and providing them with a virtual water cooler allows them the ability to connect with each other over mutual interests and ideas. This virtual water cooler for remote teams helps improve their performance and makes it easier for the members to work together, thus improving levels of productivity and engagement.
2. Ability to spark new ideas
Although water coolers are known as gossip centers, they are also the birthplace of modern and fresh ideas. A virtual water cooler for remote teams gives them the space to communicate creatively (without the burden of mandatory meetings) and can help encourage impromptu brainstorming sessions that generate new procedures and policies that can be of advantage to the company.
You may, for example, encourage workers to communicate with those within the company who have implicit knowledge of a specific product or process. While the team members are always in pursuit of information regarding know-how, they are also often in pursuit of know-who. A lot of time can be saved when workers can find out quickly about the people who know anything regarding a matter of interest.
3. Sense of belonging among employees
Remote companies have staff living and working from anywhere in the world. Having a workforce from different parts of the globe is one of the main advantages of distributed teams.
But, if we add in time zones and cultural differences, remote workers can have trouble in finding a link to each other outside the emails they receive. A virtual water cooler provides an opportunity for employees to feel stronger relations not only with each other but also with the company.
It provides a secure space in which employees can drop in and out easily and feel like they are not only disconnected telecommuters. But a big part of something far larger. The water cooler effect for remote teams can thus be very positive for a company and its employees.
4. Recognition of accomplishments
As employees can personalize their profiles and share not only work-related details (job title, department) but also speak about their hobbies, interests, and community affiliations, you can encourage them to create personal and human connections. It will reduce the isolation that remote employees sometimes experience, and can even help break down departmental silos and barriers.
Promoting and establishing networks across borders and through organizational hierarchies will build cohesion, improve the culture of the business, and advance ties. It is not about doing more jobs but about working in a more intelligent manner such that it certainly brings research to a smarter level.
Top virtual water coolers softwares
Some remote companies choose to build their own virtual water cooler, complete with options for text and video chat. Whatever business you are in, a virtual water cooler goes further than text messages and emails.
It opens the communication lines for the workers, allowing them to communicate, feel like a vital part of the company, and propose ideas that are in the company’s best interest. Some of the more common ones are:
- unremot.com is an exclusive water cooler experience built for remote teams. Signup now for a free trial
- Microsoft teams
How to create a virtual water cooler effect?
This is how you can create a virtual water cooler for remote teams,
1. Establish contact which fosters interaction
One of the ways to create a virtual water cooler for remote teams is by encouraging interaction. Thanks to connectivity channels in the workplace that use technology to drive collaboration, many remote workers report feeling more engaged than ever with their colleagues, performing mutual projects and achieving organizational goals.
This is excellent news that provides a clear counterpoint to the idea that people need to be elbow-to-elbow to effectively collaborate.
2. Reveal how staying driven and reaching deadlines go hand in hand
Of course, meeting deadlines is a vital component of the performance of a company. A rallying cry of “deadlines, deadlines, deadlines” can drain the morale of even the most committed remote workers. The aim is to place motivation at the forefront by developing ways to keep employees from becoming disengaged. They must continue to remain on the job and reach expectations and deadlines.
3. Check-in early and often
Active administrators recognize that it is more than just a rotary job to touch base with remote staff. Digital meetings are crucial to making the team feel linked to each other and to the company.
One of the key things to do is minimizing the large group get-togethers where team leaders must fight to weigh in as much as possible. Capitalize on one-on-one meetings or virtual small group meetings where people can get to know each other and the company more closely.
4. Maintain continuous contact
When it comes to communication, avoid stops and continue. The company will want team members to realize that when they need to reach out, the managers are genuinely available, and not just occasionally. To help remote workers feel in-the-loop, the company can set a great example by staying connected as much as possible and by being accessible.
5. Have fun from water cooler gossips
From a virtual point of view, when it comes to the water-cooler effect, you are in an advantage. How can this be done? You should eliminate the gossip and time-wasting that often happens around water-coolers in real life.
Alternatively, retain task-focused virtual meetings, while simultaneously incorporating a fun factor into interactions that helps remove the “dread factor” that can often emerge from these meetings.
6. Innovation is rewarded no matter where the workers work
With remote employees, a real danger is that team members may feel lonely and alone, and worse yet, their good work might remain unrecognized. Establish a formalized enterprise system that demonstrates gratitude and rewards to employees for teamwork, involvement with the company’s mission, and contact with fellow team members working towards the same objectives.
7. Break the inflexibility in digital communication
Placing goodness, compassion, and friendliness at the heart of your distant work environment is essential in a virtual water cooler for remote teams. Just 10 percent of it gets in, and you have to look through it. Digital bandwidth interaction is weak.
As human beings, we are conditioned to read the eyes, twitches, changes in coloration, voice inflection, and hundreds of other behavioral indicators of an individual. When you type a pure truth message, the person on the other side gets exactly the social meaning of ZERO.
It is our role, in remote work, to center humanity. Many of the very productive remote workers are known to overflow with personality, and they do so as a willing effort. It is essential to deliver the meaning, emotion, and, above all, clarity in your correspondence.
People also feel like they cannot be a boss, manager or figure of authority if they are too sweet. That is not true in remote work, as being strict and direct is simple. But if all that you have ever got is cold contact, how does anyone know you mean business?
This bandwidth is provided by the range in the communication. Otherwise, you can tend to be monotonous all the time. So, the first step is to crack the rigidity. Your communication requires Yin and Yang so be good, blameless, and polite at the root of everything you and your team are doing.
8. Bring about events that fit your team
Creating events according to your team’s preferences can be a great way to establish better communication. For those who may like social interaction, a “water cooler” is just an excuse. In remote work, it is crucial that a company finds interesting ideas to establish contact among its employees.
If you are trying to crack the inflexibility of digital communication, it is all about finding people who are able to drive and innovate these new ideas. Some creative ways of communicating are,
- Holding a book club
- Having a movie night with the use of Netflix and NetflixParty
- Having a Q&A hour
- Going on a Webcam hangout room
- Playing Secret Santa through video unveiling
- Indulging in co-working activities for those who crave a little office structure
- Hosting lunch-and-learn video presentations
- Playing online games during lunchtime
- Having a Bulletin Board which is an open life-updates or highlights session during the official company meeting
The holding of events can be great for remote teams because there is no mandatory socialization that takes place. These are optional for those who want to have a little fun and engage with their team members and company! You can now work online and enjoy the benefits of a virtual water cooler for remote teams!
Top virtual watercooler talk topics
In this section, we would be focusing on the trending water cooler topics that the people predominantly discuss in the virtual water cooler sessions or events.
1. Water cooler talk
There are various topics centered around water cooler talk. The prominent among them being
- Discussing the balance between work and personal life
- Favorite travel destinations
- Personal interests or hobbies
- Ways to keep oneself healthy, fit and fine
- Seeking a solution to any personal issues like medical, educations, legal etc.
- Birthdays and anniversaries
- Favorite movies and sports activities
- Interesting books – technical or non-technical
- Gardening ideas
- Preferred restaurants and food joints
- Interesting real life stories or jokes
- Suggestions or recommendations for cars or bikes
- Trending fashion ideas is one of the common water cooler talk topics among ladies
- Childhood memories and nostalgic moments is a usual talk around the water cooler
2. Water Cooler Chat
Instant messages and chats are also encouraged in virtual watercooler talk or water cooler conversation. The typical water cooler chat topics or ideas are,
- Career discussions for growth in higher roles
- Suggestions on any technical issues or problems
- Ways to stay motivated whilst working alone in a remote environment
- How to stay safe in the social media world
- Songs and music
- Any competitions, certifications, or learning courses – both technical and non-technical
- Medical or health guidance and help
- Best restaurants, food or drink joints for breakfast, lunch or dinner
- Traditions and customs of a region including festivals, foods, dresses etc. is a popular watercooler chat topic
- Water cooler work related topics like technology trends, domain cross-skilling, etc.
3. Water Cooler Conversations
The trending and key water cooler conversations topics often noticed among the remote or virtually located employees are specified below,
- Discussion on digital automation topics like AI, robotics, machine learning etc.
- Best car or vehicle to buy – prices, models, features etc.
- Ways to save money especially during a pandemic
- Seeking help on financial problems or medical problems form a vital part of watercooler conversations
- Recommendations for spending vacations – places, flights, hotels, visas, etc. are one of the trending water cooler conversation topics
- Interesting fun facts about each member of the water cooler
- Conversations around the water cooler related to astronomy – planets, stars, galaxy etc.
- Tips to work from home comfortably are one of the most common water cooler convos
4. Water Cooler Questions
Asking questions to each other to know a person better or to seek solutions or clarifications are common in water cooler discussions. Some of the trending water cooler questions are,
- What is the most important memorable event in your life?
- How can I reduce my weight, suggestions for diet and exercise?
- Which is your best movie star and which is your favorite movie?
- If you were to work as a digital nomad, what would be your preferred location?
- Which is your favourite food or drink?
- Whom do you consider as your idol in life?
- What are your plans for the future?
5. Water Cooler Discussion
Messages, talks, chats, conversations, and discussions around the water cooler meaning sharing some light moments with colleagues. Let us now concentrate on the key water cooler discussion topics,
- Advancements in technology – bitcoin, AI, machine learning, robotics, chatbots
- The world economy and it’s future
- Ongoing global sports events
- Music and movie awards and events
- New discoveries in the field of modern science
- New and upcoming films and songs
- Latest fashion trends and ideas
- Any popular TV shows or events
- Interesting podcasts or new books
- Best audio and video conferencing tools
- Creation of a comfortable and ergonomic workspace
Also Read: Remote work habits | A comprehensive guide
Organizations that have successfully implemented virtual watercoolers
Companies using virtual watercoolers have been significantly benefitted from its immense utilities. A typical virtual water cooler example being using unremot, Teams, Zoom, etc. for creating the remote effect encouraging engagements and friendly spirit among employees.
Here are some of the organizations that have implemented virtual watercooler software for their employees or teams.
1. Buffer – An online website or blog sharing interesting articles or write-ups on technology, analytics, social media, self-improvement tips, and many more topics. Tools used for virtual water cooler talks and discussions:
- Jawbone UP
- Stay motivated and inspired
- Less stress and anxiety at work
- Team harmony and goodwill
- Promote fun and celebrations
- Sharing interesting articles or jokes for refreshment
2. Grant Thornton – America’s sixth-largest advisory and accounting firm, headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. It has implemented unremot virtual watercooler for its employees. Places used for virtual water cooler talks and discussions,
- Think Tank
- Food Lounge
- Meeting Zones
- Work stations
- Leadership Lounge
- Setting up virtual bays for connect
- Enabling various remote rooms for that feel and effect virtually
- Seamless and smooth connectivity
- Enhance interpersonal skills among the members
3. Olark – Provides live chat and video call software encouraging remote and virtual conversations. Tools used for virtual water cooler talk definition and discussions:
- Creates friendship and bonding among the employees
- Employees remain transparent in their conversations
- Help each other in the growth of their careers
- Generate empathy and goodwill
- Good communication and collaboration with the team
4. Axios – News website based in the US in the state of Virginia and the city of Arlington County. Tools used for virtual water cooler talk definition and discussions,
- The well-knit connection between the different remote teams
- Welcoming new employees, guiding them into the company’s way of working
- Cross skill learning sessions are held for enhancing competency levels
- Efficient collaboration and coordination between the various departments.