Have you been missing those coffee machine conversations while working remotely?
Noticing that the lack of spontaneous communication has an impact on your work and relationships?
If so, you’re far from alone. It stands out as one of the top elements people miss most when working remotely.
And if you lead a team, don’t assume that leading remotely is the same as face to face. It’s not.
For many, working remotely can result in things no longer being as clear as they were when working physically together.
What are my priorities, now? Has my role morphed yet again? Where do I really stand with this colleague? Why didn’t they reply to me when I needed this information? Am I in their bad books now? And so on, none of which is very helpful.
So how can we recreate those coffee machine moments when remote?
Serendipity is spontaneous, unstructured, right? Well paradoxically, it happens because of structures that are in place: the corridor leading from one room to another, the physical location of the drinks machine and the fact that you’re in the same building in the first place.
So, it might sound counter-intuitive, but we have to find ways to create structure for off the cuff remote communication to happen.
There are 3 key structural ingredients, all of which need to be in place.
1 SCHEDULE 1:1 calls on a recurring basis, where you discuss anything except work (yep, SCHEDULE IS in bold for a reason. If you don’t do it, it’ll fall by the wayside).
Make them at a time that suits both parties - not just before important meetings where you need to prepare and focus.
Put the call in your calendar and make it part of your team culture that it’s an expectation to have these calls on an ongoing basis.
Not just right now because we’re going through a dip in morale, only to let them drop by the wayside a few weeks later. Rigour is needed here!
Some teams I’ve worked with have found allocating a virtual neighbour for the week has linked in well with this concept. Rotating the relationships from week-to-week helps because humans have a tendency to maintain links with others most like them. Keeping strong links across the whole team is vital, so keep mixing it up.
Have a 'drop in' channel running while you're working. There are lots of ways to do this:
🔆 Run an always on Zoom call while you're working, and share by Slack or other app. Using Twist you can set up a remote room to stream to. Others can join you and just ask questions/make comments when they want.
🔆 Livestream and chat to a closed group on Facebook Live. The conversation remains open, and you get FB alerts to your comments and questions
2 Find your pool table. Over the past few years we’ve worked in a venue with a pool table in the break out area. It’s fantastic for meeting up with others, sharing a common experience and talking about all manner of things, often not work-related. Which then gives you more topics to discuss on 1:1 calls. Ask your team for ideas on what they'd like most as their 'pool table/table football/ping pong' replacement. Other teams we've worked with have enjoyed:
🔆 Team quiz night
🔆 Playing video games together
🔆 #pets channel
🔆 Virtual book club
🔆 Virtual coffee break or happy hour
🔆 Watching a movie or TV show 'together' and commenting on a group chat channel
By the way, we wouldn't bother with virtual lunches. Getting together to watch each other cram food in your mouths isn't the most appealing 😂
3 Create a way to have 'way to go' moments to boost morale. When face to face it's easy to give someone a nod, a thumbs up or quick well done without interrupting work. When that's gone, it's easy for morale to take a dip.
Simple ways to do this:
🔆 Create a #gratitude channel to post on.
🔆 Find a series of suitable gifs you can easily post via your chosen app
Put all these 3 structures in place, and you'll be going a long way to re-creating those coffee machine moments we so miss when working remotely.
Lead well, adjust your approach with your remote folk, and if you’d like to find out more on how we can help with remote teams, do get in touch.