Working hybrid or remote is becoming the new normal, and as team leaders we've had to get creative. We may be running distributed teams all over the world, but that doesn't obviate the need for group cohesion and connection — in fact it makes it even more important. So between trying to get things done and managing Zoom fatigue, we're looking for ways to enable our people to come together and feel like a true unit, even if we're far apart.
Enter the virtual coffee break. These are a great way to remotely host those conversations once held in the breakroom or standing at the desk of a team member. These virtual coffee break ideas aren’t just about socializing: a 15 to 30 minute virtual coffee break can increase feelings of connection between coworkers and help nurture team bonds:
"Employees who feel more connected are more productive."
- Business Wire, "New Study Reveals Boost in Employee Productivity in ... Companies That Foster ‘Connected Culture'"
So a good virtual coffee meeting is not only fun — it can create productivity increases.
Your first job is to create structure for this social time. There's nothing worse than staring at each other blankly over a Zoom screen or Microsoft Teams call with no plan. So, this post includes actually-enjoyable virtual coffee break ideas that will save you effort, while providing your team much needed (and still enjoyable) talk time. Here come the ideas!
These virtual coffee break icebreaker questions are interesting enough to get colleagues talking while also being light and entertaining. While you don’t want conversations to get too far off course, some of the answers might result in fun back and forth. Or if the conversation dries up, come back to these virtual coffee break topics as good conversation starter ideas!
Bonus, these are short and sweet: if you want to keep your meetings a good length it's a great idea to start with something fun that doesn't take up too much time.
If you want your next virtual coffee break to be a bit longer or to divide up long meetings, you should try one or two of these virtual coffee meeting team building activities. Specifically made for remote teams, they’ll take a bit more time than just asking questions, but these activities are very effective bonding experiences and well worth your concerted team building efforts.
Tea vs Coffee, sometimes also called Waffles vs Pancakes, is a simple game where you ask your employees either/or questions. For example, do they prefer tea or coffee? Would you rather ride on a train or a boat? It's a great way to safely share some topics around your group's personal life.
You can put together a list of good virtual coffee break prompt questions manually, or just use a ready-to-play slide deck to run a tried and true tea vs. coffee game during your virtual coffee meeting. This particular game is a live interactive presentation, where you can display your screen to your team, and they can all join in on their phones. Then they can each send answers in, and the game displays their responses and scores live.
There’s nothing people love more than showing off their adorable pets. If you're working remotely, harness the love your team has for their pets by creating a virtual coffee break ‘pet parade’.
During any virtual meeting where you'll be on a video call, give your team a heads up in advance that this meeting will be a "pet parade" and to bring their furry (or feathery, or scaley) friends on camera! Or, have your team send in their favorite picture of their pet in advance and put together a slide show for the whole group.
Or if you don't want to do any advance work, you can just have your team share photos live: use a simple "Photo Share" game on SlidesWith to let people upload and share their photos live, one by one in your virtual meeting.
In under 10 minutes, you can play fun travel trivia and find out about your teams' travel experiences and preferences. You can put together your own trivia game about your favorite places to go, or you can use a ready-to-play trivia deck like the one here.
Or grab a ready made trivia game to play! These are great if you don't want to do any work. You can use the above deck, or any of our many pre-made trivia games. SlidesWith trivia games are great because they have all the question-your-audience / they-send-their-answer / automatic scoring functionality that make these events easy.
Plus you don't have to come up with questions since all the questions are already created, and the games come with other fun interactions built in like round break ideas, soundboards your people can send in funny noises with, wordclouds, and more. Perfect for employees doing remote work!
When trying out virtual coffee meetings, it's important to allow some silliness and fun. Some of us might be guilty of overusing our emoji boards (especially if you're on distributed teams and most of your interactions are through text). But is that something your team members would know? Have your employees send in screenshots of their emoji boards and put them in a slide show.
Or if you don't want to do the work in advance, you can simply have your employees share photos live using a SlidesWith live photo sharing slide. Then give everyone a chance to guess who they think the board belongs to.
Use a free bingo card creator like Bingo Baker or My Free Bingo Cards to put together a game specific to your team. Add funny virtual prompts, too, like “wearing pajama bottoms right now”. Not only will your participants get a kick out of the action items or accomplishments, they’ll enjoy the competition.
A great, interactive but super simple idea. Create a list of prompts about life experiences or accomplishments. Some good ideas:
Get your colleagues together and have them hold up five fingers, then start reading through your list. Whenever someone has experienced the prompt, they put down one finger. The winner can either be whoever has the most fingers up or puts down all five fingers first.
For bigger groups, if you're on Zoom you can put people in breakout rooms and give the topics over "announcements", and have the groups discuss. This also works great in the company office, as well.
You can create your own Word Blurt game or use SlidesWith to facilitate your game with this ^ ready-to-play word association deck. The concept of Word Blurt is to create a list of words or images and have team members ‘blurt’ out the word that comes to mind one at a time, when they see the word or picture.
You can run the game above like a slide deck — share your screen with your players and they all join in. Then the deck will show you a word, and automatically call on each person individually to give them a chance to shout out what they think.
Walk down memory lane — by playing show & tell for grown ups! At your next meeting you can have show & tell one of two ways for a virtual coffee break. The first is to surprise your people and have them grab something random from their desk, or a nearby important part of their daily routine, to show to the group. Or, if you want to be more organized, let the group know to bring something fun to talk about at your next team building activity. (And it doesn't necessarily have to be work-related).
Finding focus is an important part of doing productive work. There are ways to mar our focus (like, say, binge watching a tv show alone) and the antidote is positive social interaction and being present. Combine the two! Help your colleagues practice meditation as a community.
Taking time to refocus and re-center can make the rest of the day go more smoothly. And you don’t even have to take the lead! There are some amazing guided meditations for passive participants on YouTube, like this five minute video.
This fun game will get your audience up and moving around their space, and will give everyone a chance to share things they love with each other.
Launch the game like a slideshow presentation, and share that screen with your attendees. They can all join in to your game, and then everyone gets a prompt and a timer to go find that item. They take a photo and send it in, and the game will display the pictures one by one, giving folks a chance to talk about their scavenger find!
We’re big fans of a good laugh, but if you want to delve deeper into getting to know your team, you can ask more thoughtful questions. These questions will still prompt good conversations, but might cause your group to sit back and think for a second.
Virtual coffee breaks may not seem like a priority with everyone having busy, stressful schedules. But the benefits of these moments of conversation away from work are vital to improving connection and engagement with virtual teams.
Virtual coffee breaks need to be part of every team’s regular schedule. The good news is, these breaks don’t need to shoe-horned into a busy day.
Virtual coffee breaks can be scheduled into meetings or events already taking place. If you’ve already planned a team building event, simply add 15 to 30 minutes to socialize with your team.
While you will need to put some thought into the structure of your virtual coffee break, they’re definitely less rigid than more traditional meetings. The goal is to get your team members talking and sharing.
First, you should encourage everyone to turn their cameras on for these coffee breaks. While it’s acceptable to keep your camera off during a meeting, the point of these breaks are to see and connect with people.
You should also plan a series of questions or an activity or two to do as a group. However, if conversations start to flow, be willing to let go of something planned to allow your team to bond naturally. But keep conversation light and don’t discuss work. You want these breaks to be actual breaks for your team.
With that in mind, you should never schedule a coffee break after work hours. While virtual coffee breaks are designed to be more social, they are still work.
A virtual coffee break is a time you and your virtual team take to socialize without talking about work. Virtual coffee breaks can be scheduled during a regular work day or used to give a break between longer meetings. Drinking coffee itself isn't an actual requirement ;)
Virtual coffee breaks should be between 15 and 30 minutes long. You want time to connect with co workers but don't want to feel you're "wasting" time.
Everyone on your team should be invited to your virtual coffee break.
In an article published by the Harvard Business Review, Tsedal Neeley suggests remote team leaders should increase how often they check in with their team leaders. And not only should touching base increase, but meetings and virtual coffee breaks should as well.
As a general rule, you should have a virtual coffee break at least once a week. However, Neeley points out that the key is consistency.
Virtual coffee breaks are all about socializing as a group. The majority of other remote activities, especially within a workplace, are resolved around business. However, when you’re in an office, you strike up friendships with the people around you. You have casual conversations. With virtual work, it’s difficult to create those little moments that mean so much to people.
Go spend time with your team! Set up that virtual coffee break and get connecting :)