Six Tips for a Successful Virtual Coffee

Ten Thousand Coffees Team -
March 23, 2020

Let’s be honest. Remote work can be isolating. In our recent survey of US enterprise employees, 55% said that connecting with colleagues has become harder since the onset of virtual work due to the pandemic.While working remotely has many upsides, like slashing commute times or saving money on professional workwear, spending the day with your computer as your only colleague can be isolating. Consistent and intense feelings of isolation can lead to unhappiness and even depression and anxiety. This affects an individual deeply — as well as their ability to focus and put forward their best effort at work. Managers can help alleviate those feelings by creating opportunities for informal connections between colleagues. Virtual coffee programs, set up and structured by managers, let employees meet colleagues and make meaningful connections. They can also result in a freer flow of information around the digital workspace, more networking opportunities, and improved company morale. 6 tips for making real connections via virtual coffee chatsThe most important part of these chats is a casual structure. They are not meant to be an interview or a performance evaluation but rather a simple way to meet someone new.

1) Research in advance who you’re about to meet

It always makes conversations easier if you know a bit about the person before you talk for the first time. Consult LinkedIn or a company directory to learn more about their background. You may be able to glean some personal tidbits to chat about, like where they went to college or a volunteer organization they work with. Either way, it’s a good jumping-off point for the conversation and a way to show your genuine interest in the person.  

2) Have conversation starters on hand

Some conversations may flow naturally. But sometimes, prompts can help move a conversation forward when there are moments of silence or awkwardness. Peppering in some pre-established topics also makes learning about someone else easier. These are some examples:

  • Why did you decide to work at our company?
  • If you hadn’t picked this career, what would you be doing now?
  • What would be your dream location to vacation for a week?
  • What’s been your proudest accomplishment (work-related or not)?
  • What is your favorite thing to do on the weekend?

3) Keep the meetings short

Fifteen to 30 minutes is appropriate. It lets you dive into the conversation without having to stretch it out. It might be difficult to fill the time if there isn’t a genuine connection.

4) Be attentive and minimize distractions

One of the most important aspects of connecting with a new person is giving them your full attention. It demonstrates respect and courtesy. Take the time to exit out of your email, pause notifications or close out of Slack, and mute any other applications. You’ll stay more focused on your conversation and avoid the temptation to respond to your boss’s quick question.

5) Find a non-work point of connection

Whether you’re meeting a new colleague or a new client, establishing a personal connection is valuable. It lets you understand them better as a person and can be the antidote to feeling lonely. It also shows you care about them as more than just someone at work who you report to or consult. There are, of course, boundaries to be set. You don’t need to share intimate details of your life with this person you just met. Oversharing can be off-putting or uncomfortable for your colleagues. You’re still at work, so the same conduct guidelines in terms of appropriate language and topics apply here.

6) Follow up  after the conversation

Make sure to reach back out to the person within a few days of your chat. This could look like adding them on LinkedIn, sending a quick Slack note, or setting up another time to talk. This will cement the interaction and open up an ongoing line of communication, so you can keep the conversation going.

How managers can encourage employees to connect

Even though virtual coffees are designed to feel casual and organic, it still takes a manager to set up the program. With a full plate of other responsibilities, employees are unlikely to reach out to others on their own. They’re much more likely to participate when it’s a structured part of their workday.

Use software or services to make connecting easier

Services like Ten Thousand Coffees do the heavy lifting for program managers looking to set up 1:1 connectivity programs. The platform automatically pairs up colleagues based on their career goals and shared interests. Program administrators can choose the cadence at which employees meet, and can also customize the structure the program. Ten Thousand Coffees also provides conversation guides and suggested questions so that employees can get the most out of their conversations.

Create incentives for participation

People are busy, so managers need to be creative with getting employees to participate. One way could be to offer a reward, whether it’s a gift card or an additional day of PTO, for the person who engages in the greatest number of chats at the end of the quarter or year. You could also let employees expense the coffee or tea they purchase as added encouragement.

Make  networking  skills a part of your employees’ development goals

Whether it’s a cold call or Zooming with someone that a colleague introduced you to, meeting people you don’t know and making a positive connection is an essential skill. These colleague-to-colleague meetings are a lower stakes way for people to practice that skill. They also fit into bigger picture goals that managers create for their employees around networking and help employees work toward achieving them. Making attendance a part of an employee’s growth plan is a good strategy if they struggle with networking.

Virtual coffee can make the remote workplace easier to navigate

Virtual coffee chats are just one way to make remote teams feel more connected. Solutions like mentorship and virtual networking are also ways to keep colleagues happy and engaged. For more information on these solutions, check out our career development and networking platform, Ten Thousand Coffees.

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Six Tips for a Successful Virtual Coffee

Let’s be honest. Remote work can be isolating. In our recent survey of US enterprise employees, 55% said that connecting with colleagues has become harder since the onset of virtual work due to the pandemic.While working remotely has many upsides, like slashing commute times or saving money on professional workwear, spending the day with your computer as your only colleague can be isolating. Consistent and intense feelings of isolation can lead to unhappiness and even depression and anxiety. This affects an individual deeply — as well as their ability to focus and put forward their best effort at work. Managers can help alleviate those feelings by creating opportunities for informal connections between colleagues. Virtual coffee programs, set up and structured by managers, let employees meet colleagues and make meaningful connections. They can also result in a freer flow of information around the digital workspace, more networking opportunities, and improved company morale. 6 tips for making real connections via virtual coffee chatsThe most important part of these chats is a casual structure. They are not meant to be an interview or a performance evaluation but rather a simple way to meet someone new.

1) Research in advance who you’re about to meet

It always makes conversations easier if you know a bit about the person before you talk for the first time. Consult LinkedIn or a company directory to learn more about their background. You may be able to glean some personal tidbits to chat about, like where they went to college or a volunteer organization they work with. Either way, it’s a good jumping-off point for the conversation and a way to show your genuine interest in the person.  

2) Have conversation starters on hand

Some conversations may flow naturally. But sometimes, prompts can help move a conversation forward when there are moments of silence or awkwardness. Peppering in some pre-established topics also makes learning about someone else easier. These are some examples:

  • Why did you decide to work at our company?
  • If you hadn’t picked this career, what would you be doing now?
  • What would be your dream location to vacation for a week?
  • What’s been your proudest accomplishment (work-related or not)?
  • What is your favorite thing to do on the weekend?

3) Keep the meetings short

Fifteen to 30 minutes is appropriate. It lets you dive into the conversation without having to stretch it out. It might be difficult to fill the time if there isn’t a genuine connection.

4) Be attentive and minimize distractions

One of the most important aspects of connecting with a new person is giving them your full attention. It demonstrates respect and courtesy. Take the time to exit out of your email, pause notifications or close out of Slack, and mute any other applications. You’ll stay more focused on your conversation and avoid the temptation to respond to your boss’s quick question.

5) Find a non-work point of connection

Whether you’re meeting a new colleague or a new client, establishing a personal connection is valuable. It lets you understand them better as a person and can be the antidote to feeling lonely. It also shows you care about them as more than just someone at work who you report to or consult. There are, of course, boundaries to be set. You don’t need to share intimate details of your life with this person you just met. Oversharing can be off-putting or uncomfortable for your colleagues. You’re still at work, so the same conduct guidelines in terms of appropriate language and topics apply here.

6) Follow up  after the conversation

Make sure to reach back out to the person within a few days of your chat. This could look like adding them on LinkedIn, sending a quick Slack note, or setting up another time to talk. This will cement the interaction and open up an ongoing line of communication, so you can keep the conversation going.

How managers can encourage employees to connect

Even though virtual coffees are designed to feel casual and organic, it still takes a manager to set up the program. With a full plate of other responsibilities, employees are unlikely to reach out to others on their own. They’re much more likely to participate when it’s a structured part of their workday.

Use software or services to make connecting easier

Services like Ten Thousand Coffees do the heavy lifting for program managers looking to set up 1:1 connectivity programs. The platform automatically pairs up colleagues based on their career goals and shared interests. Program administrators can choose the cadence at which employees meet, and can also customize the structure the program. Ten Thousand Coffees also provides conversation guides and suggested questions so that employees can get the most out of their conversations.

Create incentives for participation

People are busy, so managers need to be creative with getting employees to participate. One way could be to offer a reward, whether it’s a gift card or an additional day of PTO, for the person who engages in the greatest number of chats at the end of the quarter or year. You could also let employees expense the coffee or tea they purchase as added encouragement.

Make  networking  skills a part of your employees’ development goals

Whether it’s a cold call or Zooming with someone that a colleague introduced you to, meeting people you don’t know and making a positive connection is an essential skill. These colleague-to-colleague meetings are a lower stakes way for people to practice that skill. They also fit into bigger picture goals that managers create for their employees around networking and help employees work toward achieving them. Making attendance a part of an employee’s growth plan is a good strategy if they struggle with networking.

Virtual coffee can make the remote workplace easier to navigate

Virtual coffee chats are just one way to make remote teams feel more connected. Solutions like mentorship and virtual networking are also ways to keep colleagues happy and engaged. For more information on these solutions, check out our career development and networking platform, Ten Thousand Coffees.

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