The Virtual Watercooler: How to Nurture Culture & Connectivity Remotely

Whether you’re a seasoned remote worker or you’re adapting to working from home for the first time, you’ve probably noticed one thing missing in your daily work routine – human connectivity. Remote work can be isolating and demands creative ways to engage with your colleagues. There’s no crossing of paths in the hallway and no physical “water cooler” where you can ask your colleague how their weekend or meeting went. It’s these physical spaces that organically allow conversations that lead to collaboration, client success stories and employee engagement. 

Now more than ever, it’s important that we stay connected with our colleagues, whether it’s work-related or to see what’s new in their livesBelow are a few tips and tricks to promote healthy sense of community and employee engagement remotely.   

Leverage Remote Events 
At SurePoint, we’ve come up with a few virtual events to keep us connected. However, every company culture is unique. Get creative and have fun. Virtual meetings can be hosted oplatforms such as Zoom, GoTo Meeting, Google Hangouts and others.  

  • Virtual Book ClubHave people submit ideas and vote on the most popular or choose a book that sparks curiosity and dialogue. 
  • Virtual Happy HourWhen the clock strikes 4:30 p.m., grab your favorite beverage and sign onto the virtual meeting platform of your choice.  
  • Lunch and Learns: Topics can drive personal, team or business growth.  
  • Virtual PotlucksWe all cook the same item and discuss how it went/share tips and techniques.  

Utilize Chat Tools 
Instant messaging platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Slack gives you the opportunity to pop-over to someones desk virtually and ask a quick question or chatYou can also set up themed channels within the platform to encourage discussions you would normally have in the office. Below are a few channel suggestions:  

  • All Employee General Channel: Important company-wide updates. 
  • KudosWant to recognize a teammate for a job well done? Thank a colleague for going above and beyond? Congratulate a co-worker on a promotion? 
  • Celebrating Life EventsGot engaged? Bought a new home? Use this channel to share the good news. 
  • Fun StuffKids, pets, Jimmy Fallon sketchesYou get the point. 
  • Staying Healthy: Share a workout video or a great streaming class; healthy recipes; tips on how to adapt to working remotely and not feeling isolated. Anything to do with health and wellness goes here. 
  • Brainfood: Interesting articles, research, trends you’re seeing out there in the world. It doesn’t have to be industry-specific, but something that sparks curiosity and conversation (e.g. podcasts, TED-talks, HBR articles). 

Pick Up the Phone 
Resist the urge to continue that email chain discussion. Take it offline! Seize the opportunity to discuss things in real-time (and solve things faster) while connecting with your colleagues 

Chat Face-to-Face in Video Meetings 
Seeing your co-worker's face can go a long way in feeling connected. We encourage video chats whenever possible.  

Give Your Emails Personality 
I’m sure you’ve heard the famous statistic that 93 percent of communication is non-verbal. As humans, we’re programmed to read our co-workers tone, eye twitches and facial expressions as we’re communicating with one another. We rely heavily on non-verbal cues and are sometimes unaware of how we come across via email. A “cold” email reply can give zero social context to the person you’re interacting with and cause confusion. There’s a stigma that personality in emails is unprofessional but assess your situation. Use your intuition for what’s culturally appropriate. Insert an exclamation point into your communication or an emojiEven through written words, a person can hear a smile (see what I did there)! 

How are you staying connected with your colleagues?