One significant takeaway from the shift to remote work is the surprising realization that “coffee breaks” play an important role in team productivity. Just because your team is no longer in the same shared space, you don’t have to forgo the inherent team building benefits of coffee breaks. Now’s the time to take a “virtual coffee break”!
The short, spontaneous casual interactions between coworkers at the coffee machine, at each other’s desks, or even at the copy machine, are not wasted downtime. They are relational touch points that allow teammates to learn about who they’re working with, which can build team trust and unity.
Just like other effective team building activities, virtual coffee breaks can help keep your team members engaged and on task by providing a reprieve from the isolation and burnout that comes from working remotely.
The art of hosting a virtual coffee break is not rocket science. But without the right kind of planning, this scheduled team time can at best be awkward and at worst a total flop. Below we provide the essentials on how to host a successful virtual coffee break!
How to Organize a Virtual Coffee Break
While coffee breaks happen spontaneously in the office, remotely the need just a tad more planning. Below are some suggestions about organizing a smooth, fun, and effective virtual coffee break!
Scheduling a virtual coffee break
We recommend scheduling a virtual coffee break at least once a week. Of course, you can have more depending on the needs of your team, but once a week should be the minimum to keep everyone connected!
Scheduling and sending invites is easiest through e-mail or a shared calendar. Don’t forget to include the video conference link to the scheduled meeting!
Aim for between 10 and 20 minutes of chatting time. Less than that can feel rushed, but longer can feel forced or bleed into important on-the-clock hours.
Use breakout rooms to keep groups small
There are several video conferencing platforms you can use for your virtual coffee break, we recommend using Zoom for its breakout room feature.
This feature allows you to bring your whole team into a meeting, then split them off into smaller groups for certain activities. Smaller groups make it more comfortable for everyone to speak and stay engaged. It also allows for genuine connections to be made. This could be an especially useful feature if you have a large team.
While keeping things small is great for helping everyone have a chance to talk and connect, it can also be awkward. Be sure to include an ice breaker question or two before you send everyone off into their separate rooms!
As team members get to know each other, a sense of trust can develop making collaboration more successful. If you’d like make sure that all team members have time together, keep track of which teammates have met in a breakout room. This way you can ensure that the same people don’t end up in a breakout room together over and over again.
Avoid potential technical issues and distractions
Double-check prior to the date that everyone can sign in and knows how to navigate the chosen virtual coffee break platform! Just like the coffee machine in your office, you want everyone to know how to brew a fresh pot!
It’s also a good idea to remind people to put cell phones on silent!
Do more than just drink coffee!
Ironically, recreating the casualness of an in-person coffee break requires some artificial structure. To get off to a quick start, ask invitees to bring their favorite coffee mug to the meeting. This makes for a fun way for the team to get to know a little something about each other and get the conversation flowing.
If the flow stops or begins to feel forced, here are some ideas for what to do during this team building time.
1. Ice Breakers
Ice breaker questions are always a good place to start. These questions are usually light-hearted and can lead to longer discussions. Often, participants find out that they have some things in common and these commonalities build group unity.
If you have a team filled with animal-lovers, invite members to introduce their furry friends!
Ice breaker questions are also a great place to start. For now, here are ten questions to get you started. For plenty more ideas, check out our list of 160 Ice Breaker Questions!
- What’s your preferred hot beverage: coffee, tea, chai, or something else?
- Where did you grow up?
- Which emojis do you like best?
- Are you reading a book right now, and if so, what’s it about?
- What is your favorite part about working from home?
- Who was your role model when you were a kid?
- If you could have any superpower what would it be?
- What was your first job?
- Are you listening to any good podcasts right now?
- What’s one country you would like to visit and why?
2. Share your gratitudes and wins for the week
Have participants share something they are grateful for in their professional or personal life. Sharing information like this can provide a necessary shift in perspective, either for the person sharing or the people listening.
If your team is working on a difficult project or needs a morale booster, sharing gratitudes can help relieve and shift a stressed mental state!
Aside from saying what they’re grateful for, your team can also celebrate each others’ wins for the week, whether that be something work-related or personal.
3. Get physical!
Staying active isn’t just good for the body physically but also mentally. Quick workout sessions can help your team get their blood flowing, increasing productivity and focus.
Even though they’re working from home and staying active might seem more convenient, that’s not always the case. Encourage your team to get up out of their chairs and get moving!
One simple activity that everyone can benefit from is performing stretches at their desks. When it’s time to return to the office permanently, they can do these stretches anytime!
4. Tour each other’s work from home setup
Sharing workspaces can be a light-hearted way to spark conversation. Teammates may also enjoy the chance to show off the efficiently laid out work-from-home set up they’ve created.
For those who prefer not to show their space, have them describe it.
5. Play a round of a trivia game
Playing a trivia game is a guaranteed way to get your team members’ minds off of work and into fun! Try an online trivia option like Sporcle or Random Trivia Generator. You can also write your own trivia questions or break out the tried and true Trivial Pursuit!
We hope that we’ve given you the tools you need to start having fun virtual coffee breaks. Though it’s often a challenge connecting hybrid and remote teams, an intentional virtual coffee break can make it possible!