Are you missing that spontaneous conversation with your colleagues? Those small talks around the vending machine or the break room chats kept us lively and cheerful in the office. Thanks to the myriad digital collaboration platforms out there now, we can transform those office chitchats into virtual water coolers.
Virtual water cooler tools facilitate conversations online that enable individual members to learn more about each other’s interests, whether it’s the latest Netflix series they’re watching or their favorite destinations.
So let’s find out about the numerous virtual water cooler tools and activities that you and your coworkers can enjoy as a group.
1 What are Virtual Water Cooler Tools?
Simply put, softwares that supports online water cooler activities are called virtual water cooler tools.
A water cooler refers to all casual interactions and talks employees have in between tasks. Traditionally, these talks are done beside the coffee-maker or the office canteen. But with employees staying at their homes, these meetups have been transformed digitally. As a result, tools such as Slack, Trello, Zoom, etc., have become the go-to for such water cooler activities.
2 Best Virtual Water Cooler Softwares in 2021
Slack is one of the best virtual water cooler tools for remote teams. You can designate a channel for casual conversation and invite all team members to join. For example, we have created a channel #off-work topics where we talk about everything other than work. Then, every Friday evening, we join the channel and share our thoughts, and have a laugh or two.
Similarly, you could make various channels for different interests, such as a writer’s room, gamer’s lounge, etc.
Trello is somewhat similar to Slack. You can create boards there instead of channels. These boards can be used as water coolers where coworkers can hang out from time to time and chat, have video calls, and converse about topics other than work.
To avail of Trello’s facilities, you’ll have to download the software and create a premium office account. Everyone can log in to the account and start interacting with each other.
Zoom is one of the more popular platforms for virtual meetings. It can serve as an excellent water cooler as well. Coworkers who prefer face-to-face conversations can create meeting links and send them to others. Or they can hold simple calls whenever needed. Moreover, once the call starts, they may create breakout rooms if there are too many people.
2.4 World Time Buddy
Because of the outbreak, we have no choice but to work from our homes. And with everyone scattered throughout the world, scheduling collaboration sessions across time zones has become very tough.
World Time Buddy is a software where you can enter time zones and find overlapping times. Once everyone downloads the tool, you can set up a company account. Following that, you can organize meetings, create water coolers, send audio or chat messages, etc.
Microsoft Yammer is another enterprise collaboration software that you can use for virtual water cooler events. In your private Yammer network, you can set up discussion groups that are public to everyone, or if necessary, private to smaller teams.
Sococo’s platform provides a digital office environment that mimics physical office space. Coworkers can view what others are doing. It gives an office map where they can see who is free and is up for a chat. Based on that, teammates can chat or call each other and talk about anything they want.
Sococo online office space allows your team to connect spontaneously and genuinely, rather than trying to force a conversation over email or text.
2.7 Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Teams is another popular collaboration tool. You can create around 250 teams in the tool, which can have 10000 members each. Besides, there is a chat facility where people can write messages and share thoughts. You can add a personal touch to your conversations with GIFs, emojis, or quotes and reply to people in-thread.
People can have video calls with one another. Moreover, a host may create a meeting link and put it on everyone’s calendar. That way, all will be notified on the day of the meeting. MS Teams is one of the best water coolers out there. It’s easy to handle and the whole enterprise can get connected.
2.8 Social Media Groups
It may sound unconventional to meet on social media sites, yet they can be an effective way to foster connection among virtual teams. You can simply create a closed group on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Office members can join these groups from all over the world and interact with each other. They can share memes, photos, chat with one another, etc., Anyone can issue challenges to the group, such as “snap a picture of your workspace,” “share your best work meme.” etc.
Besides, these platforms make it easy to reshare content with coworkers. So you can relive those moments once again and improve the bond.
2.9 Spatial VR
Spatial VR is a next-generation collaboration tool. It lets you create a 3D avatar of yourself. That way, you can get the feeling of sitting next to your coworker. In addition, you may use a webcam to be present with your 3D versions during the meeting.
Your room will become the monitor and the mouse can be used as your hand. You may scribble any ideas on the whiteboard, present your thoughts in 3D format, and interact with everyone. This tool is supported by Android and iOS.
2.10 Mozilla Hubs
If you’d like a unique way to meet up with coworkers. Mozilla Hubs might be a great choice. It allows you to socialize in virtual reality while other participants can join through mobiles or laptops.
With Hubs, you can create an immersive 3D space with built-in features that allow you to watch videos, give presentations, or have virtual water cooler chat. Moreover, if you’d like more control of the space you’re using, you may use the Spoke tool to create a customized room. You may install everything you want in that room while meeting with your friends. For instance, you may give your VR room the look of a spaceship or a submarine, or anything else for that matter.
Participants can even move through the space through teleportation and several other means depending on the device. Besides, they may also create smaller group chats to have a more interactive session.
Basecamp is another remote work platform with multiple communication features. You can create forums, instant messaging, teams, and check-ins. Moreover, the program has various virtual water cooler setups as well. You can post a personal poll for teammates, start a group chat, have virtual meetings, etc.
3 How to make a Virtual Water Cooler for remote teams?
3.1 Choose a platform
This is the first thing that you should do. Since you’ll be hosting the event virtually, you’ll need a platform that supports it. For instance, you could choose a tool such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or Google Meetup. All these tools can hold a considerable number of people, and you can run any event for 45-60 minutes on the free version. On the other hand, if you avail of the premium version, then you can have limitless meetups.
3.2 Invite the participants
It’s good to send invites to the people in advance. That way, everyone can clear their schedule and make time for the water cooler. However, you must make sure you already have a list of all the participants to send invites via emails or Whatsapp.
3.3 Select the activities for the event
After you’ve chosen the platform and invited the participants, the next thing that you should do is note down the activities. Besides, you may have to download some online water cooler activities or apps. Some of these activities may also require you to sign up and register with the team. So, it’s better to get everything set up in advance to avoid last-minute problems.
3.4 Formulate the conversation topics
This is more of a choice than a necessity. Water coolers happen automatically. People will meet up and start talking about things such as sports, food, dresses, or any topic for that matter. That being said, have some table topics on hand to make sure everyone gets to respond and be an active contributor to the conversation.
3.5 Start conversing
After everything’s said and done, the last and most important thing is to enjoy the event. So, just talk with your colleagues, have fun activities, and make the virtual water cooler lively!
4 Virtual Water Cooler Activities you may try
4.1 Culture Clubs
Do you remember the various college clubs we had? We came up with random names and created clubs of our choice. No matter how silly it sounded to others, the club members shared a bond that was “unbreakable.”
Virtual culture clubs are similar to their college counterparts. You may create different breakout rooms in Zoom or Skype and ask others to join the clubs based on their choice. Following that, participants may meet other colleagues with the same interests and bond over those shared interests.
4.2 GIF Wars
GIF wars are one of the most fun and competitive virtual water cooler activities. For example, you can install a GIF generator such as Giphy and create virtual water cooler events. You may even issue GIF competitions such as “your weekend plans,” “when someone lies to you,” or “the worst GIF to send to parents,” etc. Participants can either submit GIFS based on the topic. You may even reward the best GIF and notch up the competition.
4.3 Show and Tell
Show and tell is another top remote water cooler game. My team and I played this game as our virtual water cooler game back in January of this year. We hosted the show and tell rounds such as “best dress,” “homemade gift,” etc. Then, one by one, we showed pictures of those things and shared stories behind them. The activity helped us learn more about each other’s personalities and personal lives.
4.4 Snack Time
This was the best water cooler back in the pre-Covid days. People could just talk and share thoughts in the break rooms or near the vending machine.
But even now, with your office coworkers at a distance, you can still socialize virtually by organizing virtual coffee breaks and lunch socials. For instance, you may host snack parties every Friday and send those meeting links to the people. Every member can join with a cup of coffee and some snacks of their choice. And everybody can enjoy a fun evening talking about stuff outside of the office.
4.5 Question Games
Question games are fun but straightforward water cooler activities. There are various question games that you can play over any virtual platform. Some of the best virtual question games are:
- This or That
- Would you Rather
- Twenty Questions
- Truth or Dare
- Never Have I Ever
4.6 Animal Cams
Animal cams are one of the most relaxing virtual water cooler activities. Everyone can join over a video call and watch animal cams during breaks. They can take turns selecting the animal webcam of the day and message each other while watching. For example, DashDucks is a video stream where teammates can gather and watch animal videos. Besides, they can even provide a small fee to feed the animals.
5.1 What is a virtual water cooler?
Virtual water coolers are simple interactions between coworkers about daily-life topics, sports, news, etc. Like real water coolers, these events can be done online.
5.2 What are the different types of virtual water coolers?
Here is a list of the different digital water coolers:
- Team water coolers
- Work water coolers
- Office water coolers
- Digital water coolers
- Happy hours water coolers
5.3 Which are the best virtual water cooler tools?
Various virtual water coolers can be considered top-level. These are:
- Microsoft Teams
5.4 What are some water cooler conversion topics?
Some of the water cooler conversation topics are:
- What is the last Netflix show you binge-watched?
- Which food item can you eat at any time?
- What is the best holiday destination that you have been to?
- What are your weekend plans?
- Who is your favorite music band?
- What is the most bizarre event that you have faced?
- Which show always makes you laugh?
- What sports did you play while in school or university?
- Which is the best mobile game that you’ve played to date?
- Is there something that you have always wanted to try?
- What is the best thing about your hometown?
- What was the best moment of your childhood?