While the impromptu, casual in-person conversations we loved to have around the water cooler with our coworkers may look different today, they are still achievable if you have a process. 

Slack, Google Chat and other platforms are often used in a very utilitarian manner, and the conversations that happen lack social context.

Casual conversation in the workplace yields a multitude of benefits, including: increased productivity and collaboration, the establishment of trust between employees, team building, and deeper engagement. These serendipitous water cooler moments lead to a more united and well-connected team that produces stronger work.

So the question really becomes, how can you create serendipity in a deliberate way? How do you replicate in-person office water cooler moments in a virtual setting? 


At NEWaukee, these are 3 things we’ve done to create our own virtual water cooler:


1. Breakout Room Roulette: In Zoom, and many other virtual meeting platforms, you can send people to random breakout rooms for select periods of time. We have been designing and facilitating breakout room team building sessions for ourselves and many of our clients since the start of the pandemic. This practice is great because it offers an opportunity for 1:1 connections. When designing this type of team building session, it’s important to have specific themes and/or prompts to get the conversation going.

2. Facts of the Day: Have you ever been in a conversation with a coworker, and one of you had no idea that an initiative or project was happening in your company? At NEWaukee, we create a connection point at the end of every day where each team member writes a short recap of what they worked on and adds it to an email thread. It takes less than 5 minutes to write, but it offers a bird’s-eye view of what’s happening throughout the company. Additionally, each day features a different question prompt to respond to in an effort to gain insight into team members’ personalities and build more meaningful relationships.

3. Inspiration Breaks: One Friday per month, a member of the NEWaukee staff hosts an hour-long course to educate the rest of the team on one of their unique skills or passions. The TED-talk style presentation doesn’t have to have anything to do with our industry – for example, our team’s passions include travel hacking, eco-friendly transit and even the Real Housewives franchise. Sometimes these inspiration breaks are illuminating and deep, and sometimes they are surprising and hilarious – but in the end, they are always very engaging.

We laugh, talk about our personal lives, go on tangents and get sidetracked.

But ultimately, we know that these new water cooler practices are important to the overall success of our organization. 

We encourage you to find the practices within your organization that will lead to water cooler moments. Workplace culture and relationships among team members should be a priority – not an afterthought.


Are you interested in flipping the script on your employee engagement strategy? Want to learn more about creating workplace culture in a virtual setting? Our experts are ready to help.

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