What is Virtual “Water Cooler” Culture?

When working in a typical office, the water cooler is the office’s culture hub. It may not always be an actual water cooler, but there is generally some place in the office where employees socialize, chat about their personal lives, and become friends. Essentially, the “water cooler” is a metaphor for your employees’ informal social interactions. These interactions then become a large part of your company culture. So, how do you replicate these physical connections in the remote workforce?

The simple answer is: you don’t. These organic interactions are not part of the remote workforce, because employees are not gathered around a water cooler during their breaks. Rather, they are physically distanced, sometimes even across the world. It can be challenging to cultivate meaningful interactions and an engaging culture while working remotely. But, with some conscious effort and a little creativity, your employees can still feel connected.

Culture is Even More Important Remotely

Company culture is an integral aspect of any organization. It defines the company’s core values, and it is ingrained into the daily decisions and operations. It also affects how your employees interact, based on what may be considered the “norm.”

When working remotely, it becomes more difficult to achieve the typical social engagement of a physical workplace. Those friendly smiles and high-fives are much more difficult to convey across a computer screen. Missing out on these connections can certainly impact your employees’ happiness and job performance.

Building “water cooler culture” in your remote company can alleviate that social isolation by creating deeper relationships amongst your employees and restoring human connection. Once your employees are engaged with each other, it will ultimately increase collaboration and productivity. It can enhance your employee’s long-term relationships and create truly meaningful connections in an otherwise distanced environment.

How to Build Remote Water Cooler Culture

  1. Define it – Start by explicitly defining your company’s culture so that you know what your company is all about. Collaborate with your team to define your company values, underlying principles, and what you stand for. Ensure everyone fully understands how you want your culture to look and feel.
  2. Lead By Example – You can’t just talk about it, you have to be about it! It starts with your management, and they have to fully embrace it. Lead by example to show your employees how they can embody company culture in their everyday work.
  3. Make a conscious effort – Your management must create opportunities specifically for employees to socialize and connect. Here are some great examples:
      • Set aside time for small talk: Plan a few minutes in the beginning of weekly meetings for your employees to chat about their families or their weekend plans.
      • Host virtual cocktail parties: Even if your teams can’t meet in person, they can still engage in “after-hours” events, remotely of course. Organize a virtual happy hour and enjoy some food and drinks with the team.
      • Acknowledge birthdays: Keep track of your employees’ birthdays and send an email or birthday card. Show that you are personally thinking of them, even if you can’t celebrate with cake.
      • Send a gift: Take advantage of food delivery services and have coffee or food sent to an employee. This is especially beneficial if you know they have a long day ahead of them. Otherwise, consider sending a gift card for a local restaurant.
See our How to Build Virtual Water Cooler Culture Blog here!

Start Small for a Big Impact

By starting with just a few simple practices, you can ingrain the company culture into your remote employees. As it becomes second nature, start considering how you can up the scale. Making a conscious and consistent effort to strengthen the personal relationships amongst your employees will create a happier and more connected workforce.

With these tips, you are well on your way to creating and growing a positive company culture with your remote team. VForce is your go-to resource for ensuring your remote team’s success. Click here for more of our remote team resources.