Co-worker Connection In a Remote Environment: The (Virtual) Water Cooler
The work environment in 2021 looks quite a bit different than it did a few years ago. When I envisioned myself starting my career and working within a company, I used to correlate that with things like morning commutes, a lively office space, tiny cubicles, co-workers, and yes, those harsh fluorescent lights. But suddenly, during the Coronavirus Pandemic, companies were forced to re-think their traditional practices in order to keep their staff safe. Many employees gave up their 30-minute commute for a 30-second commute as businesses began to transition to ‘Work from Home’ set-ups. Now, nearly two years after the start of the Pandemic, ‘Work from Home’ is the new norm for many.
While I find many advantages in working remotely, I was concerned about the lack of co-worker connection. Effective working relationships between co-workers bring benefits like increased morale, work satisfaction and efficiency, and company productivity. Not to mention, for many people, including myself, coworkers are the main source of daily human interaction.
With so many companies working remotely, many teams have been missing “water cooler” conversations that happen naturally when in a shared space. These casual chats help employees build stronger social connections and increase friendly conversation. Top Floor utilizes the Virtual Watercooler App by Donut, which integrates with Slack, to create a human connection between people at work. It’s designed to replicate the feeling of hanging out at the office watercooler, having brief, low-key conversations. What’s even better is that there is no need for additional video chats. (Zoom fatigue is real!)
Donut’s Virtual Watercooler
The Watercooler App is very simple. Topics come through as messages from Donut in the Slack channel you’ve selected. Once Donut posts the Watercooler topic, your team can respond and chat about the prompt in the channel together. Some topics that the Top Floor team has enjoyed discussing are:
- First job
- Favorite childhood candy or snack
- Favorite form of potato
The topics are simple and lighthearted, but produce the necessary banter and conversation to a healthy work environment, even if that conversation is debating on the best form of potato.
3 Ways To Facilitate Virtual Water Cooler Conversations
Top Floor encourages virtual watercooler conversations outside the Donut App as well. Here are three ways we facilitate water cooler conversations among our staff:
- Virtual Team Lunches
Every week, each department gets together and has a team lunch over Zoom. It’s a productive time with a meaningful conversation on a department topic, but also a time to interact with your co-workers.
- Virtual Happy Hours
On Thursday afternoons, staff can choose to attend a virtual Beer Club from 4-5. (Beer is optional.) A ‘theme’ is voted on, ranging from ‘Happy Hour How To’ to ‘Worst School Picture’.
- Virtual Clubs
Slack Channel hashtags allow our staff to join different groups based on their interests. We have groups for parents, fitness junkies, and even one solely created for sharing pictures of what you had for lunch that day.
Many companies are unsure of what the near future holds in terms of in-person working, but one thing is clear: the importance of co-worker connection. Whether you are going into an office or working out of your home, healthy employee relationships are an important part of a business’s success. Thankfully, a little staff innovation and Apps like Watercooler provide ways to encourage natural conversation between co-workers, despite the different work environments. To learn more about our work culture at Top Floor, as well as remote job opportunities, click here.
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