Culture

Bringing the water cooler online

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Brittany Tilstra
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Many professionals working from home for the first time (and for this length of time) are experiencing a new kind of fatigue. For most, the switch to remote work happened overnight and before they could prepare for the change in their workflow. After a full day in our make-shift home offices, the information overload sets in, and we're just… exhausted. We have extracted all of the information we needed from scheduled video conferences and emails, but without the random breaks that happen in the workplace.

In an office setting, meetings and sessions of deep focus are typically broken up by 'water cooler moments.' Moments where we can take a mental and physical break, connect with colleagues and shoot the breeze. These moments don't just happen next to a water cooler. It could be catching up with a colleague while walking to the boardroom, grabbing coffee with a manager from another department, or popping by someone's desk to check-in and ask how their day is going. These moments may seem inconsequential, but they are essential to productivity, morale, and team culture. 

It's through these interactions that people develop a sense of trust and belonging. Whether it's sharing experiences like watching the same Netflix series or talking about a family vacation, these conversations act as building blocks that can evolve into lasting relationships and broader support networks across the organization. A deeper connection across teams means that people care personally for each other to succeed, and ultimately it's good for your bottom line too. Ideas and opportunities seem to magically surface when you have an engaged and connected team, but it's not magic, it's good team culture.

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COVID-19 has pushed the future of work timeline up. It's happening right now, and we have been faced with an unprecedented challenge: Ensuring connection in a time of social distancing. 

Employees are grappling with what this means for their individual work styles, professional relationships, and long-term career development. It's isolating to ask these big questions while being physically distanced from our colleagues. Adding insult to injury, some organizations have decided to freeze or cancel talent development programming and events at a time when people are craving connection the most.

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So what do we do now? 

Water cooler moments cannot happen organically. We must replicate those experiences and 'bump into each other accidentally' on purpose. Flex your HR muscles, push out programs quickly, and test new culture-building activities, because doing too much is better than doing too little. 

Now is the time to:

  • Focus on an exceptional WFH employee experience
  • Systematically create and facilitate connections outside of your immediate working circle 
  • Empower talent to drive their own development
  • Switch to digital events (do not cancel!) and create spaces for dialogue afterwards
  • Give permission and make time for coffee chats and fun!

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Ten Thousand Coffees is committed to facilitating connectivity and the future of work dialogue. We'll be continuing to share resources on maintaining connectivity and driving talent development strategies. For companies and organizations looking for innovative solutions to create connectivity, we're happy to schedule a consultation on how we can enable your workforce. For students and alumni of participating post-secondary institutions, we currently partner with over 60 institutions on career development programs.

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