A study in 2022 concluded that 16% of global companies are now 100% remote and this number is only set to grow as more organizations encourage their employees to work from home.
This monumental shift in working habits comes with its own set of challenges for employers and employees. HR managers need to develop new and exciting ways of maintaining a healthy company culture with employees working from all over the world.
With no more spontaneous morning chats in the staff room or shared lunches, virtual coffee meetings are the perfect way to connect your employees and encourage communication.
Today, CoffeePals will take a closer look at what a virtual coffee meeting is, how it can benefit your staff, and ways to encourage virtual coffee meetings in your organization.
What is a virtual coffee?
All of these SaaS services have free and paid options available so there’s no need to invest heavily in tools to enable your staff to indulge in virtual coffee.
Different kinds of virtual coffee meetings
Virtual coffee chats can take several different forms and there are slight variances to be aware of when you plan your next meeting.
One-to-one virtual coffee
This consists of a meeting between two colleagues at the same organization. This is an opportunity for attendees to introduce themselves, explain what they do, and talk about personal experiences.
This format is ideal for members of staff who have not met before or new employees who need to familiarise themselves with other members of staff. Consider using a tool like CoffeePals that actively matches people to meet over a virtual coffee.
For one-to-one meetings try to keep the planned duration below 15 minutes. Meeting someone for the first time can be quite daunting and nurturing conversation can be challenging.
Group coffee meetings
Group meetings consist of three or more people and typically last between 15-30 minutes. These meeting formats don’t always provide equal time to talk so are more suitable for attendees that have already met and don’t require introductions.
Try to schedule group meetings for the start of the week to allow attendees to share their weekend activities. At CoffeePals, we like to encourage our staff to share any images of holidays and special places they’ve visited to keep things fresh and interesting.
Why virtual coffee talks are important for your team and organization
Virtual coffee has a myriad of benefits for your organization and employees.
Loyalty - A study by Mckinsey uncovered that 51% of Americans leaving their jobs in 2021 did so due to a sense of ’not belonging’.
Decreased Loneliness - Adopting remote work can leave employees feeling isolated and unsupported, virtual coffee allows for regular communication and can help people communicate and resolve concerns before they escalate.
Cross-department communication - Encouraging the different teams in your organization to communicate can be hard even when they’re in the same building but communication across different teams in your business builds trust in the competencies of surrounding departments and staff.
Building and nurturing strong cross-departmental relationships is critical to large projects involving several teams. We’ll look at some tools you can use to encourage this later.
Mental health - In the last few years we’ve all experienced the trials of isolation and the severe effects it can have on mental health.
Offering your staff a scheduled period to simply communicate and socialize with other people can prevent and alleviate the symptoms of mental health caused by remote working.
Ways to encourage virtual coffee meetings within your organization
Remote work burnout is real and now that we understand the benefits of virtual coffee meetings, let’s look at some ways you can encourage your staff to take a step back from work to socialize.
Encourage people to have coffee (and cake!)
Never forget the key element here, coffee! Simply providing 15-30 minutes for people to casually enjoy their favorite hot beverage and chat will have your invite acceptance notifications flying back at breakneck speeds.
Consider allowing participants to bring along light snacks and sweets to graze on for an even better attendance rate. Some organizations even encourage virtual lunches.
Use an app
Take the manual work out of virtual coffee meetings with CoffeePals for Microsoft Teams. CoffeePals acts as an addon for Teams and actively matches people together for informal chats.
This tool works great for encouraging the cross-departmental communication we identified earlier and can even build long-lasting friendships between employees that would previously have never even met.
When you spend all day in front of a computer, you may prefer to spend your break moving around, stretching, or exercising. Which of these activities you opt for should be decided by your team, but make sure all activities are inclusive.
Take into consideration each of your team's needs and requirements and try to create a routine that suits everyone. This is a great opportunity to stretch out the sore necks and backs we all experience working from home in a digital role.
Schedule your meetings and send out invitations
Scheduling your coffee chats ahead of time will let participants plan their workflow to allow them to attend.
Consider changing the frequency of your virtual coffee chats, set a suitable schedule, and make it clear attendance isn’t mandatory. This will save your time setting up meetings every week and will create a routine for attendees.
Keep it casual
Use the resources you have at hand to keep your meetings fun and pressure-free. Most of the online meeting tools have extra functionality you can take advantage of to add some humor.
Consider picking a different filter or background for each meeting (bunny ears at the Pyramids is always a winner) or for a real challenge why not task every participant to only communicate in emojis.
Try guided meditation
Just because you are not in the same room doesn’t mean you can’t carry out group activities together. Guided meditation is normally led by a teacher in person but is just as effective remotely.
You’ll find a wide range of guided mediation courses on YouTube and Vimeo that you can use to screen share with the rest of the group. A study carried out on North Americans identified that just 5 minutes of deep breathing and reflection can decrease stress levels and increase productivity.
Online quizzes are a fun activity that takes all the guesswork out of the conversation and allows people to flex their brains outside of work. You’ll often find that the questions in these quizzes act as great launch boards for unusual and interesting conversations.
You can use apps like Kahoot to either create your own quizzes or select from their extensive range of pre-made quizzes.
Listen and adapt to feedback
Gathering feedback from participants allows you to improve future sessions. Gathering feedback can be informal or via short questionnaires using a tool like Microsoft Forms.
Remember not all of your staff will want to be sociable. People who display introverted personalities may want to take this time to simply unwind and relax alone and you should enable them to do so.
Prepare some talking points ahead of time
This is particularly important for one-to-one meetings with colleagues that haven’t previously met before. You don’t need to go as far as planning out the whole conversation but providing some conversation points is a great way of avoiding awkward silences.
Here are some examples of casual topics you can send to both attendees before the meeting:
- Where’s the most interesting place you’ve been this year?
- What’s your go-to party trick?
- If you could meet one famous person dead or alive who would it be?
- What’s your best remote working life hack?
- What's the last movie or tv series on your watch list?
- What was the first album you ever purchased?
- Chrome or Safari?
- What’s your favorite Youtube channel?
Try to avoid questions directly relating to work and keep things light and comical. You can check out our short read on virtual coffee chat questions for some more inspiration.
Now you’ve got all the tools you need to start planning and scheduling your next virtual coffee meeting, here are some of the key takeaways you should consider before implementing your next casual chat.
- Keep meetings between 15-30 minutes
- Keep it friendly and casual and avoid talking about work or operations
- Record your meetings so anyone who missed the meeting can watch it back and feel included
- Listen and adapt to attendee feedback
- Don’t take it too seriously
- Don’t be afraid to try group activities to keep things exciting
Most importantly your virtual coffee meetings should be something people look forward to and not mandatory team building. Remember to keep it simple, fun, and engaging, and your next virtual coffee meeting is sure to be a success.
To start reaping the benefits of virtual coffee meetings, consider giving CoffeePals a try today!