what is a virtual water cooler

What Is a Virtual Water Cooler – and Do You Really Need One?

Sometimes, remote workers can be perceived as loners who avoid socializing with their co-workers and prefer getting the job done.

Of course, that’s not the case.

In fact, studies have shown that loneliness is one of the major issues remote workers have to face. It’s not always easy to develop a good working atmosphere when your co-workers are scattered around the world. It’s harder to communicate, collaborate, and build relationships.

Your team may communicate through apps like Slack or Asana, but messaging about work is not the same as bonding during small coffee breaks at the office.

That’s why business-owners running remote teams are coming up with alternative ways of building personal relationships between their employees. One of the ways you can do this is by building a virtual water cooler.

In this article, we’ve gathered some info on the importance of having a virtual water cooler. We also have some great ideas on different activities you can include to strengthen your remote team. Read on!

What Is the Proverbial Water Cooler?

Every job can be stressful at times.

During the workday, it’s easy to get stuck in routines and deadlines, and once this happens, the productivity of the entire team can drop. Employees find themselves going through the motions without really thinking about the work they’re doing.

In fact, research suggests that an average employee working eight hours is only productive for less than three hours a day.

For many businesses, the proverbial water cooler is an important part of solving this problem. Gathering at that special spot at work and having a casual chat with co-workers is the perfect way to reset and regain productivity.

These water cooler conversations help your workers bond – and in turn, you end up with a closely-knit team of employees who are working together towards the same company values.

It’s not just something to help your workers feel less stressed, it will actually improve your retention and help you save money.

So how do you achieve this if you have a remote team?

Well, your virtual water cooler can provide opportunities for your workers to bond and chat about things not related to work.

virtual water cooler for remote teams

How to Build a Virtual Water Cooler

When your team is working from an office, swinging by a co-worker’s desk and inviting them for a quick coffee break is simple and spontaneous. For a remote team, it takes deliberate effort to create the same effect.

As their leader, it’s up to you to come up with the best activities for your team.

Here are some ideas:

  • Monthly Coffee Meetings

Monthly coffee meetings can replace all those chance encounters at the office that sometimes spark interesting conversations between co-workers. It may be awkward at the beginning, but with time your workers will come to look forward to sharing more of their personal life with their co-workers. Don’t insist on discussing private things right away. Instead, encourage your workers to talk to each other about things they are comfortable sharing, even if it’s about work.

  • Game Night

For those less talkative, there are other options than coffee meetings. Whether your workers prefer working as a team or engaging in some healthy competition, you can find tons of great free online games that can help build relationships within your team.

Here are some of our recommendations:

  1. Skribbl.io – a traditional drawing and guessing game that is sure to cause some laughs.
  2. Pantoparty – online charades with randomly generated cards.
  3. Two Truths and a Lie – this is a great option if you have a larger team or if some of your workers have a slower internet connection. It’s simple: each employee says three statements about themselves, and the others need to guess which statement is a lie. It’s a great way for your co-workers to bond and find out new things about one another.

  • Movie Night

You can have your workers vote for a movie they want to see and then organize a night to watch it together. This can be a fun activity for many of your employees, but take into account that it does take a bit of time.

  • Birthday Celebrations

Being apart doesn’t mean that your team cannot do something to celebrate their co-worker’s birthday. Always take a few minutes out of your day to have a call with your entire team – even just singing Happy Birthday and chatting for a few minutes is a sure way to brighten your employee’s special day!

These are our recommendations you can include in your virtual water cooler activities.

obligatory teambuilding activities

Don’t Make It Obligatory

If you organize time-consuming activities without paying attention to your workers’ personal lives, they might feel like they’re doing extra work instead of enjoying themselves. That’s why you should never make any of these activities obligatory. Instead, try to create a fun environment – and most of your employees will gladly participate.

Always remember that you cannot force someone to socialize or have fun. Even more importantly, what is fun for some of your employees may not be fun for others.

That’s why you need to offer different optional activities for your employees to choose from.

Building a virtual water cooler is one more step towards creating a positive remote company culture. Before you know it, you will have a skilled and diverse team. They will help you build your brand and expand your business. 


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