10 Unique Virtual Water Cooler Ideas in 2021

July 13th, 10:12 am

10 Unique Virtual Water Cooler Ideas in 2021

Virtual water coolers enable casual run-ins and quick chats with your employees. Whether these are remote water cooler games or random virtual water cooler conversation topics, online spaces help create and boost relationships and collaboration within your organizations. A 2021 McKinsey and Company report shows that employees value collaboration policies that help build team cohesion, including collaboration tools and small team social events.

In this article, we've listed the following virtual water cooler ideas that you can try out with your teams. This guide contains:

  • Virtual water cooler activities
  • Online water cooler software
  • Virtual water cooler conversation topics
  • Remote water cooler games

Read on to know more.

List of Virtual Water Cooler Ideas

1. Downtime Channels/Group Chats

There may be channels or chat rooms assigned for a specific project or team, but the topics discussed in that space are all related to work. If you want your team to have a virtual space where they can step off for a short time and not think about the impending deadlines, you can create a separate channel or group chat for their downtime hours. It can hold conversations on anything from the latest game updates, newest fashion trends, online sales, or personal updates like a baby shower, upcoming birthdays, or even the latest news around the season. This will give your team some sort of a wall that separates them from their work desk and allows spontaneous engagement and collaboration.

2. Connect Fridays

In virtual environments, some water cooler activities should be imposed and deliberately made. Unlike corridor walk-ins, where connections happen by chance, you can't have an accidental run-in in chats and zoom meetings. While you have more minor encounters, you can make it an opportunity to create intentional ones. One way to do so is by implementing connect Fridays (or any other day of the week). We'll stick with Friday for this purpose. Why the last day of a typical work week, you ask?

For some, Fridays become crunch time for many. People shove in all of their last energy to beat deadlines and submit that last-minute report hits. Too often, they end up feeling exhausted and done for, just waiting for that weekend to hit. Connect Fridays are great ways to remind your team to pause and see the lighter side of work - the human connection.

The activities that you can do here can be anything: makeup 101 sessions, wellness activities that don't require much physical investment, skincare 101 tips, and more. The rule is that exercises for Connect Fridays shouldn't ask your participants too much physical effort and, in fact, should be relaxing on their end.

3.Virtual Clubs

Water Cooler Ideas

Watercooler talks vary and are mostly a product of common interests. You can solidify these collective passions into virtual clubs where your team members can go beyond the virtual watercooler space. To manage these clubs, you can make general ones like a book club, movie club, or cooking club. You can initiate the creation of these clubs and introduce some house rules. Still, as they form formidably over time, you can give them more independence and authority over their own projects and activities. Virtual clubs open up more avenues for socialization and even friendship beyond work.

4. Virtual Happy Hours

Happy Hours are always an excellent way to create virtual water cooler vibes. The variety of activities that you can do for your company's happy hour sessions are almost limitless. That's why there's a build-up of excitement and fun mixed into it. You can opt to do activities where your teams are the primary audience, like magic and illusion shows and comedy shows. On the other hand, you can also have activities where your teams can have hands-on experience, like cooking or baking classes or virtual potluck sessions.

Click here for more happy hour inspirations.

5. Wine Tasting

Activities centred on food and drinks are a good precursor for a virtual water cooler space. You can design an activity where your employees get to experience a sensory delight even without being in one place. In most cases, packaged wine tasting activities come with kits delivered to your participants' addresses, and a professional sommelier guides them throughout the whole duration of the activity. When the lesson is done, teams can linger on the video conference space, fill the rest of the time with conversation, and exchange ideas.

For more ideas on food and drink activities, check out our resources here.

6. Donut

One app in Slack helps you build one-on-one purposeful engagement with the rest of your team. Too often, in virtual workspaces, we have little to no time having an interaction with each person in the group, much less for the new ones joining in the hive. To help with that, Donut randomly pairs two people together every few weeks and automatically creates a group chat for the two, so they can schedule a coffee break, one-on-one, or even a quick chat over Zoom or Teams.

The app makes sure that everyone has already been paired before going back on to the same pairing again. Everyone gets a shot at meeting everyone, and your teams get to know each other a little better.

Alternatively, you can also check out the Watercooler Slack app, which has the same features as Donut. For more inspiration, check out our resource on fun Slack app ideas.

7. Social Media Groups/ Group Chats

Almost everyone is into social media nowadays, and only a few are stepping back into these platforms. But for most of us, social media acts as an extension of our real life. It also acts as one of our primary mediums to connect with our family, friends, and even people at work. With that said, social media has been a great tool in connecting people and sparking extensive conversations. You can capitalize on this for your teams by creating Facebook closed groups for your virtual clubs or group chats for your teams. While you can make use of company tools, some may require a VPN or restricted access.

With social media, it's much easier to share content, tag teammates, or create social media activities such as photo contests. It's also a window to your team's lives outside of work. You may need to be wary of others who are sensitive in sharing their personal information, but in any case, if you can huddle on agreeable terms and conditions, you're good to go and try this one out.

8. Virtual Breakroom

Water Cooler Ideas

We all dream of the perfect office where the atmosphere is sunny and conducive to work. In most cases, though, the reality is far from the ideal, and in remote work, we often end up cramping for the tiny spaces in our house, convincing ourselves that it can work as our workspace.

Virtual reality can help make that possible and provide an imagined reality to come to life. Some organizations with flexible budgets do this by creating breakout rooms where people can literally go to for lunch or a break or virtual conference rooms for meetings and brainstorming sessions. It's like being in a physical office, except you're sitting in your chair at home while your mind wanders in the corners of virtual reality.

Here are some virtual breakrooms out in the market:

9. Collaboration Apps

Great ideas start with a blank canvas, and virtual watercooler spaces help you create that path from passing conversations to idea-generating thoughts. You can use a virtual tool such as Mural as your brainstorming board or a dump space for your ideas. These tools enable your teams to create diagrams, write notes, or draw images to visualize their thoughts. Here are some collaboration apps that you might want to check:

10. Trivia Nights or Game Shows

Game shows bring fun and a little bit of healthy competition into your virtual watercooler efforts, and it's always an exciting idea to break the monotony of everyday work. For starters, you have a DIY trivia or game show by making slides in Powerpoint or Google Slides or choose from the pre-made games in Kahoot.

Alternatively, you can also hire externally managed activities that already come with professional hosts and game masters. All you have to do is gather your participants, and the rest is taken care of. Whichever path you choose will draw lots of fun and can be watercooler topics by the next few days.

To Sum Up

Creating an engaging and collaborative workspace takes a lot of work, but you are guaranteed results that define a positive working space. With these ideas we've laid out, you're sure on your way to building water cooler ideas within your own teams. After all, genuine and robust connections always drive a happy and effective work team.

FAQs:

What is a virtual water cooler?

The watercooler almost acts like the center of meeting places for employees where they exchange casual conversations in physical spaces. The virtual watercooler acts in the same way and is mainly designed to boost camaraderie and engagement among work peers. Consequently, the goal of creating virtual watercooler spaces is not just for quick chit chats. Instead, it allows teams to create opportunities in building relationships outside their units and even beyond work.

How do you create a virtual water cooler?

Creating a virtual watercooler in a remote or hybrid work environment takes a deliberate effort primarily because you can't leave interactions to happen by chance. There are no hallways to run through with people or office desks partitioned next to each other when you need a quick chat with your workmate. With that saying, creating a virtual water cooler requires creativity and purpose-driven ideas such as creating virtual breakrooms, scheduling virtual game nights, and intentional work breaks. You can also make use of engagement activities that encourage in-teams and cross-team participation.

How do you set up a virtual water cooler?

Setting up a virtual water cooler requires three elements: a platform, a topic or an activity, and participation. Deciding on what topic or activity that you'd like to go with is always the first step because it determines the kind of platform that you'd want these activities to be hosted over. When choosing a platform, you have a wide array of choices such as Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, or virtual reality software. Once all set with these first two things, gather your participants and plan along on how you can keep them engaged throughout the whole session.

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