Most of us in the modern workplace know that meetings don’t happen in the conference room anymore. We know that our team operates across the globe and that our manager might not even be in the same office as us. Today, meetings are taking place over the phone or with popular conferencing apps such as Zoom and WebEx. This poses a dilemma for managers; they need a way to personally connect with their employees in order to get the details about the projects they are working on. Hence, the idea of the “virtual water cooler” was born.

Communication is key when it comes to personally connecting with remote employees. Sometimes, ideas and concepts are lost in translation as they make their way down the management chain, or across a team. To combat this, a manager needs to make sure they are getting all of the story details from their employees so they are informed to communicate that information to others. Managers want to know exactly what projects the team is working on and their progress on each one. Conversely, sharing story details allows managers to increase productivity by sharing personal details of their story and encouraging employees to share personal details about their story.

What is a “virtual water cooler”?

A simple solution is to host a “virtual water cooler”, or a team catch up. This is key for strategic communication, helping people to talk outside of the normal day-to-day work talk. It allows employees to find some commonality and create a personal connection by sharing personal details. Whether its weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, having a time set in place will keep your employees feeling connected to the manager and the rest of the team. And this doesn’t only have to be for the immediate team — it can be for a specific project you’re working on or product you’re aligned with. The overall goal for this is to make sure everyone feels apart of the team and able to connect with one another at a deeper level.

Gain Qualitative and Quantitative Insights into Projects

A virtual water cooler is a great way to gain qualitative and quantitative insights as to what everyone on the team is working on. This allows you to get more context as to how you can contribute your qualitative and quantitative skills to the project. You can put feelers out to see if anyone on the team can help you with a project based on everyone’s areas of expertise. As a team, this builds a personal connection by fostering an environment of collaboration, where employees can learn what one another does and how they can be beneficial to each other. Strategic communication is elevated as you can find strengths and weaknesses of your team members and learn something new about the skills they have. You might learn about a qualitative and quantitative skill you didn’t know they have — all because of sharing details by creating a personal connection.

Encourage Collaboration

As a manager, you want to encourage your employees to form a relationship with their team members, other colleagues in the department and company wide. You want to create a place where you can learn more about the goals of your employees, and where your employees can learn more about the shared goals of the team and company. Employees want to be a part of the vision for the company and know that their efforts are making a difference. This comes from building a personal connection rooted in sharing story details. By taking the time to talk outside of day-to-day work talk, you can strategically communicate with your team members to learn how you can help, contributing to your success and the team’s success.

While it may be hard to get together in person, the idea of a virtual water cooler and sharing story details is a great way to get a better sense of what your employees are working on in order to build a personal connection with them. As a manager, you can be involved with their projects and can express what the team is doing across the company to show how they are helping meet the company’s greater goals.