Remember those impromptu coffee breaks you took with your colleagues in the canteen or the break room? These casual discussions gave you energy to carry on for the rest of the workday. Now that most desk jobs can be performed on a distributed, remote setup, these breaks are now virtual, aptly named virtual coffee breaks!
Virtual coffee breaks play a significant role in improving one’s productivity. It redirects one’s focus at work, in addition to providing respite from the everyday grind. I’ll be taking you through 11 exciting virtual coffee break topic ideas so grab your favorite coffee mug and read more to find out!
1 What does a Virtual Coffee Break Mean?
In a virtual coffee break, remote teams partake in casual conversations (don’t keep it work-related always, yeah?) and participate in stressbuster activities such as online quizzes, puzzles, and brainstormers. Most companies allot a designated time for their remote employees to engage in virtual coffee breaks so that they blow off some steam (pun intended) and remain productive throughout the day. These breaks generally last for about 15 to 30 minutes or up to one hour at times, and they are sufficient to recharge you for the rest of the day.
A virtual coffee break also called a virtual coffee meeting, helps break away from the monotony of daily work. It rejuvenates staff and heightens their focus and attention. When they work with a refreshed and focussed mind, their productivity increases – which benefits the organization as well. Thus, a virtual coffee break is a win-win situation for both the company and its virtual employees.
2 What can you do in a Virtual Coffee Break?
Here are 11 Excellent virtual coffee break topic ideas for activities to do in your virtual coffee break:
2.1 Kickstart a Book Club
For the bibliophiles in your team, you could start a book club to review various books in your virtual coffee break. It creates awareness about the importance of reading and allows book enthusiasts to have interesting discussions on themes, plot, character developments, and much more. Get the non-readers to join the club and into the reading habit as well!
You can send a survey beforehand asking the employees what genres they prefer and which book they’d like to review. You could come to a consensus on the title to be reviewed, and set a date for the activity giving ample time to read the book.
During the discussion, let everyone have a chance to speak their views and keep the discussion easy-going.
We picked a popular book “The Murder on the Orient Express” by Agatha Christie for our maiden book club coffee break. We really enjoyed reading the book and discussing it. Someone suggested that we share how we would investigate Samuel’s murder if we were detective Hercule Poirot. It was a great start and we’ve always waited eagerly for book club sessions since then. On top of that, it was the most recent addition to our virtual coffee break topic ideas and it’s already well-accepted, otherwise, it couldn’t have grown from 10 members to 40 in just four months!
A quiz is a great idea to keep the session engaging. It also enhances your knowledge about facts and current affairs. You could include quiz topics such as:
- History and facts about your organization
- Movie and TV show trivia (facts quiz, or guess the movie or TV show from the theme song/ scene/ dialogue)
- Celebrities (guess the celebrity from their childhood picture)
- Geography (guess the country from the flag)
- Sports facts
- General knowledge
- Music (name the Album from the album cover)
- ‘What Country Are You In?’ – an employee is given a name of a famous personality, or a place, or an animal, or anything else exclusive to a country, and they have to guess the country.
Last time, we picked a fun quiz “Guess the Movie”. We made one of our colleagues who is a great cinephile to keep giving us clues about the movies we had to guess. He kept on throwing hints at us for different movies and we kept guessing and telling answers. In my turn, I got the three words which were ‘Jordan Belfort’, ‘drugs’, and ‘stockbroking’. It just took me 5 seconds to “Wolf of the Wall Street” since I’ve already watched it four times! Overall, it was great fun and we recommend short-duration fun quizzes for virtual trivia coffee breaks!
2.3 TEDx-Style Talks
Engage your employees in light-hearted discussions down memory lane. They could share their journey about their career, or college, or even fun incidents in their childhood. Encourage them to speak up as if they are on a stage and talk about their hustle stories, hurdles that they faced, or anything they are comfortable with. This creates a bond between the employees, gives them a morale boost, and enhances team building as well.
I gave a short ‘speech’ for about 10 minutes on how I started my career as a remote team manager 5 years ago. Their cheerful response and support were all that I needed to gain confidence in myself. I also got to learn a lot about my teammates’ journeys through their stories, which I would have never known if not for the coffee break!
2.4 Interactive Game Sessions
Interactive game sessions are always a hit in virtual coffee breaks. Some examples are given below:
The host (can be yourself or any pre-decided employee) asks the players to fetch a household item, and the first one to grab all the right items wins the game. There could be fun items such as a plant, an album CD (Gen Zs, you know what a CD is, right?), something from the kitchen like a wooden ladle, cumin powder, or even your pet!
Spell Bee is a nice game to complement your coffee. The employees can be divided into teams, and the host asks each team to spell some tricky and confusing words. You could have a timer to make things interesting, and provide clues like the country of origin of the word, or using the word in a sentence. Be a little evil and give words with silent letters. The team with the highest overall score wins!
Online Pictionary is a fun and interactive game to play with your co-workers. They are best enjoyed with the cameras and mics on, to observe the reactions of the employees during the game. In each turn, an employee is given a word to draw on the screen which the others are supposed to guess. Whoever guesses first, gets points. The one with the most points at the end of the game wins, so guess away!
2.5 Video Tour of The Workspace
A virtual tour of the workspace is a 360-degree rotation of images of your office. The view shows the interiors of your office space and lets you scroll around. It makes you feel as if you are present physically in the office.
This virtual tour of the workspace is an exciting way to engage new employees. If they have joined your team virtually and haven’t visited your organization, you can show them around your office and give them an actual tour experience. Isn’t this amazing? I think so too!
2.6 DIY time!
Do you like experimenting with new recipes or craft ideas for your home? Hold a session where employees discuss innovative recipes, or dishes from their culture/ country, or hand-made crafts, or even DIY hacks for their homes. This can bring out the creative side of employees as they share their ideas, and even review DIY hacks on the internet together and find out if they work. DIY life hacks? Count me in!
One of our team members shared his favorite “Baked Macaroni and Cheese” recipe and it turned into a sensation. Everyone tried cooking it and found it so delicious. Then came “Vegetarian Tacos with Avocado Sauce”, a 15-minute recipe from another worker and both the recipes were sumptuous.
2.7 Virtual Karaoke
Virtual coffee breaks aren’t complete without group singing. Enter Karaoke! Play any karaoke track in the background and ask employees to join the singing, and keep turns for solo singers as well. Employees could request various song tracks, and ensure everyone gets a chance to take part. These Karaoke sessions act as a stress-buster and spread cheerfulness amongst everyone. You’re gonna hear a lot of Justin Bieber from me!
I really enjoy karaoke sessions and I always look forward to one. The last time, a co-worker surprised us all with his rendition of Ed Sheeran’s beautiful song “Thinking Out Loud”. Everyone applauded him and he’s somewhat of a celebrity now! I must say, he has got a great voice and we always mock fight over which team gets him for the next karaoke session!
2.8 Host a Short Movie/Video
Employees could also gather and watch a video on YouTube or an OTT platform such as Netflix/ Prime/ Hulu. The idea of Netflix with your co-workers and a smashing cup of coffee sounds tempting.
You can decide upon a video or show beforehand and send out a link to watch it via sharing a screen on a video conferencing software for your virtual coffee break platform, or a Teleparty link where you have a chat option as well. You could choose an inspirational video or documentary, or a comedy act or show to lighten the air. Michael Scott fans, anyone?
The SIWOM team watched this documentary featuring Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) for one of our virtual coffee breaks. It’s a speech about what he was and how he became what he is today. This 12-minute video inspired us to pursue our dreams no matter what. By the end of the speech, we were all filled with a newfound respect for The Rock.
2.9 Skill Swap
Learning is a never-ending process and you can get your team members to learn each other’s skills in the virtual coffee breaks. Send a survey asking them to list the skills they are good at. The skills can be either professional or general. Plan the session in a manner where one or more employees (depending on the time and skill) take turns to demonstrate and teach everyone the skill, and they follow the tutor by doing the activity simultaneously.
It could be anything, such as:
- Learning a new language
- Basics of coding
- A new pasta recipe
- Painting a scenery with watercolours
- Handwriting analysis
- Different facial emotions in theatrics
- Rules of table etiquette
These sessions are refreshing as they divert the minds of the employees from their daily work.
I’ve taken sculpting classes before and decided to teach what I’d learned in the last skill-swapping session. It was enjoyable for both the team and me. In return, I learned the basics of French from one of my colleagues who is well-versed in 3 non-English languages.
2.10 Host a Pet Show
Who doesn’t love watching cat and dog videos? You could ask the remote workers with pets to bring them in front of the screen for a fun pet show. Send an invite to those who have pets and prepare a list. Let employees introduce their pets, tell the story of their adoption, show photos, narrate funny incidents, and showcase their tricks such as for dogs it could be a spin, sit on command, ball-fetch, high-five, etc.
One of our colleagues is a mom to a furry cat – Katie. When she was shown around, everyone found Katie’s playful ways adorable. Some employees brought their dogs, cats, and even a set of parrots along with them. We were highly impressed when the parrot repeated a couple of words spoken by an employee – it was the highlight of the day!
2.11 Organize a Poetry Slam
Everyone loves poetry in one form or the other. Some like writing them down, while others like reciting them. A poetry slam is a great virtual coffee idea for all the poetry lovers that can bring them together.
Find out who all love poetry and can compose poems and send an invite to them. Let them read out poetry themselves or share the screen for others to read. This way, everyone would get to know each other’s taste in poetry and enjoy the coffee break to the fullest. Enthusiasts could discuss the poem’s analysis as well.
I composed a poem called “As If It Was the Last Day of My Life” which I recited in my last virtual coffee break. All my colleagues thoroughly enjoyed it and applauded my creativity. One by one, all employees recited their compositions in a poetic style and we never realized where the 45-minute break time flew!
3 How Do You Make a Virtual Coffee Break Successful?
A few good ideas to make a virtual coffee break successful are as follows.
- It should be short (Ideally between 15 mins to 30 mins) & casual (avoid work-related topics).
- Encourage employees to forge real connections and join as often (or as little) as they want.
- Be on time & turn on your video for better interaction and experience.
- Include a beverage of your choice.
- Try to make sure the technical/network problems are kept to a minimum.
- Encourage the first-timers to speak up and participate actively without any hesitation.
4.1 What does a virtual coffee break mean?
A virtual coffee break provides employees a well-deserved break from the daily load of work and stress. It gives them a refreshing and rejuvenating experience, ready to continue the rest of their day with higher levels of energy and motivation. Companies organize virtual coffee breaks for their staff regularly to increase their productivity.
4.2 How Do You Schedule a Virtual Coffee Break?
- Choose a video conferencing software for your virtual coffee break platform. Based on the number of members and the required features – such as recording, meeting duration, chat, emoji reactions, etc., you can select the best fit for your virtual coffee break.
- For smaller teams FaceTime and Google Hangouts is a feasible option.
- To accommodate a larger workforce altogether, Zoom allows up to 100/ 300/ 500 participants based on the subscription plan.
- Create a dedicated channel on your office communications platform to send invites and discuss ideas. You could give the channel a cool name like “Coffee buddies” or “But first, coffee”. Starbucks could take strategy ideas from us for their next big event!
- Plan the virtual coffee breaks well in advance, such that the scheduled time works for all remote workers across different time zones. If it gets difficult to accommodate everyone in a single time slot, you could plan for two sessions with different timings and give workers the option to join either session, or both for double the fun!
- Create an exciting invite containing the date, time, and meeting link, and send it to the employees via email which must also get added to their calendars. Add a note asking them to RSVP to the invite for a confirmed number of participants.
- Choose an activity for your coffee break that is not very tedious or monotonous. You could also ask the employees to send in their suggestions for the activity in the channel by sending a poll or a survey to find out their preferences.
- To ensure that everyone can participate wholeheartedly in the discussions, set up a few important ground rules such as:
- Keep the camera on, as and when required.
- Pass the instructions for the virtual coffee activity beforehand and ask everyone to read them before joining, so that maximum time is spent on the activity in the break.
- Do not check phones and work emails during the coffee break, and stop other work-related activities for the time being.
- Be punctual to the call, and try to engage in the discussions and activities as much as possible. Inform the team in advance if you have to excuse yourself from the call for the day due to an emergency.
- Try to keep the discussions thought-provoking, casual, and comfortable for everyone.
- Pick a beverage of your choice but keep alcohol strictly off-limits (unless stated otherwise). You could go for coffee, protein drink, fruit juice, milkshake, or a good old cup of tea. Bonus points for a cool-looking mug!
4.3 Why are virtual coffee breaks important?
A virtual coffee break is important because
- It helps employees take a break from the monotony and stress of work and lets them unwind and loosen up. This helps in driving their focus and productivity which in turn is beneficial for the organization.
- Employees get opportunities to socialize with other people and bolsters team-building efforts.
- It gives employees something to look forward to and takes the drudgery out of work.
4.4 What icebreaker questions can be asked during virtual coffee breaks?
Some icebreaker questions that you can ask during virtual coffee breaks to keep the environment friendly and light are:
- Are you finding the work-from-home engaging or willing to be back in the office? How about a balance of the two?
- What’s the biggest challenge according to you while working remotely?
- Do you have a home office at your place?
- What is your daily routine while working from home?
- How do you stay productive and motivated working virtually?
- Do you like taking tea, coffee, green tea, or any other beverage to keep your energy high?
- Are you an early bird or night owl?
- Which web series are you watching these days? Do you like binge-watching?
- Which kind of movies do you like the most? Thriller, Romantic, Comedy, Romcom, or any other?