How Remote Work Redefines Water Cooler Talks and Employee Engagement

water cooler talks

Let’s start by saying what water cooler talks mean in this context. In some instances, it’s not the action of talking around the water cooler per se, but rather a couple of minutes of conversation with a colleague about a non-work-related topic. Be it sports, children, pets, or the current global pandemic, employees should get to know each other.

In this article, we’ll be looking at how to grow your company culture and keep your remote employees connected and involved. All this through the perspective of a seasoned skilled leader that knows how to create and develop a strong well-functioning company culture.

Don’t miss the chance to listen to Steve talking about his experience in the contact center industry on the first episode of our podcast series.

Company Culture Is More Important than Ever While Working Remotely

Back in the 70s when I first started working in the contact center industry, I experienced what you might call a rough start.

I clawed my way up to a manager position by taking the bull by the horns and accepting that every brutal rejection is just an opportunity for you to come up with something better, not give up. The general idea was that people should do their jobs. That’s it! No wasting time on improvement suggestions, making plans, and whatnot. You had your job and you had to do it.

Such an environment built character, no doubt about it, but it doesn’t foster a strong company culture. For people that have even 5% less determination than I had, I think it would have been nearly impossible to advance in their careers and derive satisfaction from their work if they were in my place. Because let’s admit it, you need a specific mindset to be able to enjoy your time in a call center and be able to make a career out of it.

What does company culture have to do with growing your business and reaping success? Well, everything! From call center agents to CEOs, everybody has to adhere to the same values. You need your people to work with you towards achieving company goals, not for you.

If your employees enjoy their workplace and (hopefully) their work, they yield better results.

How Remote Work Is Redefining Water Cooler Chats

While some people thrive in WFH conditions, preferring the peace and quiet of a home office, others are not handling isolation as well.

The psychological pressure created by the global pandemic, the unavoidable noise and interference generated by other household members, and isolation can take a severe toll on a person’s mental health.

Experts are advising leaders to protect the mental well-being of their employees by talking to them every day. While a CEO can’t possibly achieve that task alone, make sure your managers or your designated buddies take 15-20 minutes of their daily time to reach out to those they are responsible for.

Keep communication alive by engaging in the remote equivalent of short water cooler talks and make sure everybody understands the importance of keeping connected.

And while productivity is an important element, especially now when most businesses are struggling to get by, do keep in mind that a short break can actually increase productivity. All the more reason to encourage your people to chat from time to time.

Remote Water Cooler Talks Help New Hires Better Understand Company Values

It’s not easy to create a strong company culture that new employees can easily adhere to during their first weeks. For that, you need your existing employees to embrace your core values and direct their efforts into meeting company KPIs without seeing it as a cumbersome task.

With the risk of repeating myself, you can achieve this through the power of example and efficient communication.

A new employee that is introduced to a friendly, albeit virtual, environment where their colleagues are doing regular yoga sessions and having weekly fun at work meetings has better chances of assimilating the company’s values and giving their best knowing that they’re becoming part of a cohesive, united group.

In theory, it may sound like an impossible task that you can’t possibly find the time for when more pressing matters are at stake, but read on to find out how we successfully implemented this strategy at NobelBiz.


water cooler talks


How to Stay Connected While Working Remotely

Here’s how we’re staying connected at NobelBiz while all our employees are working remotely.

Meet Your New Employees

When people join the NobelBiz team they become an integrated part of a well-oiled mechanism. You can’t just throw another piece in there without making sure that there’s synergy.

I always try and take the time to have a short, 20 minutes meeting with each new employee. It’s important to me to know more about the person I am entrusting with a certain set of tasks. And it’s as important for them to really feel welcomed.

It’s not hard to work with your managers and set up a short remote meeting, dedicating a small fraction of your time to ensuring that new employees embrace their position with an open heart. It’s also the best opportunity to infuse them with a bit of motivation during these trying times.

Ask them a bit about themselves and what drives them. Tell them about your expectations and your company’s core beliefs. It will work wonders on motivation.

Hold Monthly Meetings (And Insert a Covert Pep Talk)

Speaking of motivation, these past couple of weeks most companies must have observed a drop in productivity due to the psychological stress caused by the pandemic. It’s not easy to make the transition from working in a professional environment at the office to working in your home where distractions are lurking in every corner.

Nevertheless, you need to help your team stay focused. Hold a monthly remote meeting with all staff members and shortly tell them how the company is doing. Start with some good news, move on to the bad, and end with some more good news. Keep it positive, keep it light.

Take a moment during your speech and focus on how each one plays a pivotal role in the well-being of the company. Remind them how important they are and how their work is essential for the company and their colleagues. Encourage them to pluck themselves from the at-home mindset for the duration of their workday.

You’ll be surprised how motivating it is for people just to understand their role and how far transparency can take you.

Engage in Weekly or Bi-Weekly Remote Team Activities

All work and no fun can become tiresome, especially now that we’re cooped up in our homes. At NobelBiz we try to harness our sense of community by doing desk yoga together twice a week. Remotely, of course.

It’s not a mandatory activity, but more than half of our team join every session, taking advantage of the 30-minute training. Feedback has been positive, with people being happy with the opportunity of joining a live yoga training with an authorized instructor.

It’s not a hard thing to set up. You only need to come up with an idea that will tailor to the needs of at least 50% of your team and set things in motion. However, do make sure to implement this during working hours. It’s a wonderful well-deserved break during an otherwise monotonous day. Also, make sure you align the schedule of all your international teams to bring them all together at the same time and integrate your international workgroups.

Encourage Weekly Fun Hours

One of the main complaints of people during the lockdown is their inability to socialize. Humans are not made to thrive in isolation and it’s starting to show. To keep your team’s morale up and productivity high, encourage departments to organize weekly fun hours.

Start Monday with a group meeting (you decide how to divide the teams) and encourage them to share their thoughts over coffee. Alternatively, you can end the week with a similar gathering. It doesn’t matter when it happens. What’s important is to offer your employees the right medium to socialize for a bit without worrying that talking to their coworkers for an hour will hinder their results or productivity.

Summing Up

It’s hard to keep a company’s services impeccable while employees are scattered in their homes, distracted, and affected by the current global pandemic. However, you can keep your employees motivated and productive by encouraging short talks, offering them the possibility to socialize, and by reminding them how important they are to the company.

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