The New Watercooler Chat

Six Best Practices to Stay Connected in a Virtual World

It’s been a year since many employees started working remotely. While the main push from clients has been to convert in-person instructor-led courses to virtual to accommodate a remote workforce, interestingly, I’ve also been working with a few clients to create wellness and mindful work plans for their remote employees. Through these projects, I’m beginning to see common themes and best practices emerge to stay connected.

Staying Connected Best Practices

  • Be intentional about keeping in touch, both with internal team members and with people you may talk to less frequently. A simple check-in, such as asking how a person is doing goes a long way. Or, schedule a short virtual coffee or catch-up call to help replace the old-time “watercooler” chats.
  • Don’t make assumptions about a person’s availability, which may have been impacted by the switch from in-person to remote working, and may even fluctuate throughout the week. It’s a good practice to reconfirm long-standing meeting times and make adjustments to meet the needs of the team.
  • Establish weekly check-ins. While meeting with project teams regularly isn’t a new concept, it wasn’t always needed when everyone was working together in the same space. However, if all team members are remote, or there are a mix of remote and in-person team members, regular project check-ins make for a more cohesive team and keep project milestones central.
  • Start off a virtual meeting with informal greetings and chats, if you can. You know, the type of conversations we may have taken for granted when sitting around a conference table and chatting while waiting for people to arrive.   
  • If you haven’t already, define within your team which technology to use when. For example, use instant message platforms for the type of information that would be shared on the fly, in- person, or stopping by someone’s desk. Use email when a more formal information trail may be needed or several people need to be included in the decision flow.
  • Be mindful that your work time may not be someone else’s work time. Most people are used to this when considering different time zones; however, it’s important to be sensitive to what a local colleague’s work day may be as well. One client I work with stresses the importance of using the delayed delivery email feature. Many people aren’t aware of this simple feature. For example, if you’re typically working at 10 p.m., but your colleagues are not, and you don’t need an immediate response, the delayed email feature comes in handy. You can set it to send emails in the morning.  

While these best practices are not novel, they remind us to stay in touch mindfully and offer ways to recreate the “watercooler” chat missing from our remote work lives. These simple acts offer human connection, which goes a long way to our wellness as social beings.

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