Virtual coffee breaks – tips and tricks! The easy way to a healthy corporate culture

In all articles by Christoph Drebes

Since April, more than 15 million U.S. workers have voluntarily quit their jobs- a new record number (McKinsey, 2021). 51% left their jobs because they didn’t feel they belonged at their company. The pandemic makes a healthy company culture more important than ever. HR managers need to find a solution to maintain it in times of hybrid and remote work. Employees often miss the direct, informal contact with colleagues. The solution is quite simple: a virtual coffee break between colleagues! But how do virtual coffee breaks work?

Content
What is a virtual coffee break?
Benefits of virtual coffee networking
Virtual coffee break topic ideas
How to host a virtual coffee break
How do you make virtual coffee chats fun?
Tools for virtual coffee breaks
Why is it important for companies?
Conclusion

What is a virtual coffee break?

It’s when two or more colleagues meet virtually for an informal exchange. Especially at the beginning of the COVID pandemic, these informal meetings became increasingly popular. That’s because the daily chit-chat in the coffee kitchen and the chance meeting in the hallway didn’t any longer exist.

Benefits of virtual coffee networking

Thus, these virtual meetings help keep in touch with colleagues and avoid feeling alone while working from home. Random coffee meetings, in addition, can bring in more variety in the daily routine. Here, colleagues from different departments and also locations are matched with each other. The following advantages result from these random virtual coffee breaks:

  • Well-being increases: Coffee breaks with colleagues can not only be fun but also relaxing. Personal exchange and informal chit-chat takes place or even getting to know each other better.
  • Sense of belonging: Working from home eliminates the physical place of identification with the company – the office. To still feel part of the team, informal conversations between colleagues are just the thing. It gets even more interesting when you meet a previously unknown colleague.
  • Productivity increases: Good moods increase not only motivation but also productivity. The stress factor decreases because more tasks can be completed.
  • Cross-departmental networking: Through random coffee meetings, employees get to know previously unknown departments and colleagues. This not only strengthens the corporate culture but also prevents internal silo mentality.

Virtual coffee break topic ideas

Sitting in front of a new person for the first time can sometimes be challenging to find a suitable way to start the conversation. The virtual setting can make this even more difficult!
So-called “ice-breaker” questions are an easy solution for getting started. They help find a conversation starter in a relaxed way and get to know the conversation partner a little better.

Here is a list of possible ice-breaker questions for your virtual coffee break:

  • What has been your highlight so far this week?
  • If you were to start a YouTube channel, what would it be about?
  • What three things can’t be missing from your desk?
  • Which series and/or movie has impressed you the most?
  • What are your favorite productivity tools, sites, or apps?

Tip: There are also free virtual coffee matching platforms that automatically generate “ice-breaker” questions. That makes it even easier to get started!

How to host a virtual coffee break

First and foremost, in planning virtual coffee networking is the objective you set for it.
A good corporate culture consists of several factors, such as trust, acknowledging diversity, active stress prevention, a sense of belonging, appreciation, and networking. Virtual coffee breaks can specifically help to support the factors mentioned.

But what exactly does the setup of coffee breaks look like?
The number of people plays a crucial role here. It has a significant impact on the extent to which employees interact with each other during a virtual meeting:

Meeting between two colleagues

This setup allows two colleagues to get to know each other better. It gives them the space to specifically address each other, ask questions, and talk about their own experiences. If random matching formats are used, two should be the preferred number of people. Hereby colleagues have a much better chance to get to know the area and the tasks of the other, previously unknown person. In addition, it is recommended to plan no more than 15 minutes for the first meeting so that there is no pressure for the conversation partners to fill a longer, prescribed time with content. Random coffee is particularly suitable for breaking down silos in the company and networking employees across departments. It also builds appreciation and trust in the competencies of other departments.

Meeting in groups

Getting to know unfamiliar colleagues often proves difficult here. For example, not everyone gets to speak to the same extent, which can cause frustration. However, meetings in groups are ideal for team members who already know each other. If more than three colleagues meet for a random virtual coffee break, the focus should be on bringing variety into the daily work routine. Our Mystery Minds team, for example, has set up a Monday morning check-in:
All colleagues are free to join on Monday mornings with a cup of coffee and talk about their weekend. This keeps everyone up to date and strengthens the sense of belonging. And it is not only the caffeine in the coffee that ensures that every team member starts the new week more motivated and full of energy.

How do you make virtual coffee chats fun?

The classic tools used for virtual coffee breaks are Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Webex, Skype, Mystery Meet, or Slack.
The choice often depends on the software used internally by the company. However, a few of these virtual meeting tools have helpful features that coffee partners can creatively incorporate into the conversation:

Tools for virtual coffee breaks

  • Filters:

What many don’t know is that filters can be applied during a Zoom call. These can boost the mood immensely and bring a lot of fun into a conversation. A special twist: Combining the filters with ice-breaker questions: Which is your favorite filter and why? However, employees should never forget to turn the filter off again after the conversation if they use Zoom for business.

  • Reactions with emojis: 

Microsoft Teams and Zoom are especially useful for virtual coffee breaks for one particular reason. The team members can share reactions such as applause or smiling emojis with the other interlocutors. In this way, every colleague can express emotions, even if they don’t get a chance to speak during the virtual Team Coffee. This makes the team coffee even more interactive and lively!

  • Screensharing:

You’re having a virtual coffee with a colleague and talking about your last vacation in Hawaii. Wouldn’t it be great to show your colleague your favorite vacation photo at this point? Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Webex, and Slack have the function of sharing your screen. This way, colleagues get to know each other much better, and the coffee break is even more enjoyable!

  • Ice-breaker and “info cards”

Mystery Meet offers the possibility to generate ice-breaker questions at random. This function is especially helpful during random coffee breaks with unknown colleagues to get the conversation started. In addition, the tool also displays information about the partner, such as location, department, and personal interests. Mystery Meet is an in-house tool by Mystery Minds. If the virtual Mystery Coffee platform is used, the matching partners directly receive the link to this video chat tool.

Why is it important for companies?

Corporate culture consists of two levels:
The first level is visible to the outside world. It is publicly represented by a company’s vision, mission statement, and mission.
The second level is internal and not visible to the outside. It includes company values, relationships between colleagues, a sense of belonging, appreciation, and trust.

These two levels must be in harmony for employees to feel comfortable within the company. After all, what could be worse for an employee than accepting a new job out of the conviction of the mission statement only to realize that it is not being implemented internally at all? How long will an employee with this experience stay with the company?

Remote teams and coffee break

As a result of COVID, many companies gave a lower priority to the maintenance of the corporate culture  –
more serious problems had to be solved. Representation to the outside world was mainly adapted and maintained,
but too little attention was paid to the second level.

As the study by McKinsey, 2021 shows, contact with colleagues is a crucial factor in consideration of changing jobs. Although networking is not the only factor determining a healthy corporate culture, it is crucial.

After all, only those who know their colleagues can build trust in them, appreciating their work, and feeling a sense of belonging. Virtual coffee breaks are just one component of a whole range of offerings that companies should provide their employees. However, it’s a straightforward way to sustain a company’s culture over the long term, regardless of whether work is done remotely, hybrid, or in the office.

Conclusion

Once you have the goal of virtual coffee breaks clearly in mind, planning them is a breeze. These casual get-togethers can contribute a lot to the company culture, whether in groups or in random meetings between two colleagues.
The pandemic has shown that a healthy corporate culture is essential for individual workers and the company.
Coffee networking is a straightforward way to provide employees with a platform for exchange.

Random meetings with unknown colleagues are particularly exciting: these add variety to everyday life and help create cross-departmental networking.


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