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Virtual water cooler solution for business advancement

Companies have adopted a virtual form of communication to replace or supplement traditional in-person communication in the office. It's called a virtual water cooler aimed at improving workers' communication and efficiency. By adopting this option, companies hope to prevent, mitigate, reduce, or tackle poor communication problems among employees. 

This Workee article examines the Virtual Water cooler idea, why you should adopt it in your online business, and how to configure it to meet your needs and that of your coworkers. 

What is a virtual water cooler? 

A virtual Water cooler is a digital solution or strategy that enables remote office workers to communicate effectively. With it, coworkers can take a short break from work and chat with their colleagues just like they would physically in the office. 

Coworkers can use the Virtual Watercooler strategy to chat about their personal lives, family, work-related issues, professional issues, and personal projects. With this setup, employees can have fun and discuss corporate (i.e., office) and personal matters just like they would in person at the office. It's a great solution allowing workers to connect easily with colleagues despite not being together physically. 

Why is a virtual water cooler important? 

The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-2021 caused many companies to shift from normal office operations to working remotely. To date, many companies still uphold this practice fully or partially. As a result, it's becoming much more difficult for coworkers to hold organic conversations as they used to physically (i.e., in person) in the office.

Companies adopted the Virtual Watercooler conversation strategy to ensure that their employees still connect and engage with each other, even though they are physically apart. 

Here are the two significant benefits of the Virtual Water cooler communication setup: 

1. It solves workers' isolation problems 

Remote working is excellent, with many benefits. However, remote working can sometimes be frustrating and isolating for employees who have long gotten used to seeing and interacting with work colleagues physically in the office. The physical disconnection can breed loneliness and isolation, resulting in depression and several health disorders. Galanti et al. (2021) clarified that social isolation significantly negatively influences remote workers' job productivity and engagement and positively influences stress-related issues. According to a recent study by Salesforce, 86% of executives identify ineffective collaboration and communication as significant causes of failure in business.

The digital water cooler can help to solve this problem by bridging the distance gap among employees. It allows workers to connect just like they have always done, thus engineering the fire of communism and a sense of belonging. 

2. It aids in faster delivery of tasks 

From a survey by Azcentral, 28% of employees cite poor communication as the reason for breached deadlines. This reiterates the importance of communication among workers. Virtual water coolers help colleagues and team members easily communicate their ideas, thoughts, and strategies on a project. This helps to get tasks done faster. A recent study by Gitnux shows that 97% of employees believe communication impacts task efficacy daily. Thus, quality communication among workers can significantly improve workers' efficiency and overall output. While interacting, team members could discuss work-related issues like mistakes, revisions, tools, and techniques. Also, they could plan for timely modifications and re-strategize to complete tasks. 

How to set up a virtual watercooler

To have an effective and efficient virtual water cooler solution, you must plan and implement it carefully. This will help you connect and interact with your team members without issues. 

Here's how to set it up: 

1. Choose a suitable app 

To hold discussions, you need a platform, an app on which anyone can join and interact. A good option would be your company's works stack internal messaging system. However, most companies don't have a robust internal messaging system with multimedia solutions. So, you might consider using a standard conferencing platform with full multimedia and interactive features like Workee to schedule, collaborate, chat, and share files with teammates worldwide. 

2. Customize the app 

After you've chosen your preferred interaction tool, the next thing is to customize it to mimic the physical office experience. You can create virtual living spaces within your water cooler whiteboard to host items that benefit everyone in the chat room. You can have a virtual space for company announcements, TV show and movie recommendations, a virtual bookshelf, a virtual fridge, a calendar, and a photo gallery. You can add favorite beverages, recent trips, holidays, and company events to these spaces. All chat room members should be able to easily access, customize, and contribute to these virtual spaces. 

3. Onboard your chat mates 

Now that you've set up the Virtual water cooler chat app, it's time to get people on it. Ordinarily, you'd want to add people to the chat room. Instead, share the access link with your intended chat mates, inviting them to the chat room. Doing this will help prevent privacy issues with people who don’t want to join discussions they didn’t opt for.

4. Get chatting 

After configuring your chat app for the Virtual water cooler experience, it's time to get the discussions going. However, you might run out of ideas on what to talk about or become too engrossed in work-related discussions. This thwarts the core aim of having the digital water cooler. So, always introduce humor, and fun, share real-life experiences, create games, etc., to sustain the tempo. 

Helpful tips for having an evergreen virtual water cooler experience 

To prevent boredom in Virtual water cooler rooms, here are a few valuable tips that can help: 

Tip #1: Avoid giving boring questions/replies

One-word replies during chats or discussions kill conversations very fast. Please, avoid this and ask engaging virtual water cooler questions and reply with detailed answers. This way, you'd keep the conversation on sweetly! 

Tip #2: Avoid asking uncomfortable questions

There is no point in raising unnecessary virtual water cooler conversation topics. Many people may be uncomfortable discussing intimate and sensitive issues in chat rooms. So, it's best not to ask such questions altogether to prevent problems. 

Tip #3: Be flexible

Everyone has a preferred conversation pattern. Some people like to chat, others like video call, and others like audio calls. So, the tool should be structured to allow teammates to connect using their preferred method. Also, anyone on the platform should be able to raise virtual water cooler topics for discussion. This reiterates the need for a tool to enable people to communicate how they like. Our tool, Workee, does that. Workee allows people to communicate using their preferred options like live chat, conference call, or exchange audio messages. It's easy to use and suitable for all classes of users. 

Tip #4: Have a theme

Having a unique topic for discussion helps kick-start and sustain a conversation, especially when the subject is one that everyone can easily relate to and contribute to. Here are some theme ideas you can use: 

  1. favorite kind of coffee, tea, beverage 

  2. discussion about the latest political events 

  3. talk about a city where your colleagues stay in 

  4. a funny childhood memory 

  5. dating gist 

  6. life goals 

  7. favorite game 

  8. hobbies 

The list continues. The theme can be fun, interactive, or a sensitive issue that needs urgent attention. 

Conclusion 

The virtual water cooler strategy has become a standard replacement for office in-person chats. This digital solution helps workers connect and bond just like in person in the physical office. It helps to relieve work-related stress and helps get tasks done faster. The virtual water cooler enables coworkers to learn from and about each other, have fun, and collectively improve their working efficiency and company growth. 

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