How to create a ‘water cooler’ moment while working remotely

Personal growth guru Kevin Scheepers discusses how remote employees can recreate the 'water cooler' moment in a home environment.

Woman drinking water

After sitting at a desk for hours, diving deep into the work of the day, there is finally that moment to get up to stretch your legs and do something away from your desk. The classic ‘water cooler’ moment, whether that’s grabbing a coffee in the breakroom or going for a walk with a colleague, is one of the perks of working in an office.

Although it is thought idle chatter can be a waste of time, studies actually reveal employees feel 10% more productive and are more satisfied with their job after an impromptu chinwag. These ‘water cooler moments’ are actually beneficial to productivity as they provide short but necessary physical and mental breaks, facilitating an opportunity to de-stress and whilst also supporting a healthy working environment by cultivating a sense of community. They promote a healthy work environment and a sense of community which can increase engagement and encourages employees to invest more in their work.

In the current climate of COVID-19, the office environment has been nearly non-existent for many, and the new normal has been working-from-home. So it is likely that those important water cooler moments have been lost as well. Employees based at home may feel disconnected from each other and can struggle to recreate these spontaneous social moments. This in turn can have a negative impact on productivity and the quality of engagement in the work.

Kevin Scheepers, better known to his clients as Kev, is a Personal Growth Guru who has listed a number of ways that you can create these water cooler moments while working remotely.

#1 – Morning scrum calls

It is up to team leaders to initiate these conversations by creating a time and space for non-work-related gossip and casual conversation. These moments can be facilitated during a morning scrum call where colleagues can talk about their previous day, what they did after work or over the weekend and gossip about what is going on in their life. It can be a useful way to ease everyone into the activities of the day and increase employee engagement.

#2 – Encourage short breaks

It is very possible for employees to feel when they are working from home that they need to be at their desk for the whole day or else other colleagues may think that they are not working. This pressure forces workers to neglect those necessary mental and physical breaks that they need. It is once again up to the team leaders to reassure employees that taking short breaks away from the desk is preferred and encouraged.

#3 – Facilitate a channel for an informal discussion

Many companies use a primary communication tool for employees to interact with one another. Team leaders should look to create a means of a safe space for informal discussions on these instant messaging platforms which can encourage ‘water cooler’ moments to occur remotely. The ‘always on’ environment of an IM can help create the spontaneity that may be lacking in the scheduled Zoom catch-ups.

#4 – Host a virtual team event

Water cooler moments are a great opportunity for employees to get to know each other better and develop closer working relationships. As it is unlikely for these moments to occur when people are working remotely, employers can create them by hosting team events or group activities to encourage workers to engage with one another.

#5 – Boost Morale

Celebrating colleagues’ achievements or success with their work by sending them a private message can be an easy way to initiate an informal conversation whilst also boosting morale between coworkers.

#6 – Dive into the senses

Introduce the senses to particular smells, sounds and surroundings. Pairing different activities with various senses can help subconsciously recreate that work and out-of-work divide that is often too difficult to formulate when working remotely. Light a scented candle, put on a set of clothes associated with work or retreat to a particular spot during working hours. This will make it easier to physically and mentally step away from work to take those necessary breaks.

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