While you might think that a virtual coffee break just entails sitting in front of a computer sipping on a beverage on a Zoom screen, they’re really so much more. These small breaks are great for breaking up a day of meetings or personal work by stimulating creativity and allowing for an increased sense of engagement.
A small 2020 study notes that even if individuals have mixed feelings about Zoom meetings, it’s still a generally positive way to connect with others. Participants reported feeling happier and prouder on days where they were engaging informally with coworkers.
1. Choose someone new
Christoph Drebes, a co-founder of Mystery Coffee, saw that a lack of communication within his company decreased productivity and slowed down workflow. After brainstorming with a teammate, they thought of an idea: having different departments meet one on one for lunch or coffee.
“Currently, virtual Mystery Coffee plays a major role in company’s culture and is more important than ever,” Drebes says. “Many employees no longer have a physical place to identify with their employer; they don’t meet spontaneously and don’t have those random talks in the coffee kitchen or elevator.”
The idea worked, and increasing cross-department communication created a better workflow. So whether you’re using Mystery Coffee or just a referral program in your workplace, finding a new face in your company that you’ve never spoken to before can brighten up your day, spice up your virtual coffee break, and teach you a bit more about your company.
2. Pick an objective
Another great way to make your coffee break more than just a reprieve from your schedule is to make it an intellectually stimulating adventure.
“To improve the start of the conversation,” Drebes says about Mystery Coffee connections, “we added inspiring icebreaker questions. Those questions vary for every match and can be customized entirely by our clients. Some companies ask their participants to brainstorm ideas on the corporate strategy or answer questions related to cultural change.”
If you’re working for a psychologically safe company, these conversations, which may be considered hard in another firm, can just be fascinating thought exercises for you and your coffee break mate.
“There are also specific formats like “Innovation Coffee,” Drebes explains, “or “Leadership Exchange” with specific topics and objectives for the coffee break.”
3. Walk it out
Another great way to spice up your virtual coffee break is to take it outside. You can still video chat or call a coworker and share your break with them, but you can also do it at your favorite coffee shop, an outdoor beer garden, or on a walk somewhere nice.
“Some participants do their virtual coffee breaks as a walking meeting or meet late afternoon for a beer,” Drebes says. This change of scenery can be a great way to introduce a coworker to a more intimate part of your life that they may not have ever seen. Showing them your world, or having them show you theirs, can strengthen bonds by making your experience more relatable, even if it’s just through a Zoom screen.
4. Embrace the virtual landscape
While you might be experiencing some Zoom fatigue, having a virtual coffee break can still be a fantastic way to connect – so rather than trying to make your coffee breaks amazing by pretending they’re not through a screen, embrace the format and use it to your advantage.
“In my opinion, the virtual setting is a great chance and even improves the range of possible connections – especially on a worldwide scale. With the changes in the pandemic, it became normal to meet new people online for the first time on Teams or Zoom. You can now quickly meet someone you would never have met in real life.”
Using either a matchmaking service or the connections around you, take time in your virtual coffee break to explore the world outside your home office by networking with your global offices or talking to a teammate on the other side of the country.
“Another benefit is the quick and easy setup,” Drebes says about virtual coffee breaks. “You can instantly jump from a meeting to your virtual coffee break.” In cases like these, if a meeting is stressful or overwhelming, you can have a virtual coffee break immediately afterward with someone you can bounce ideas off of, and you can process your frustrations with a more unbiased source.
5. Skip-level coffee breaks
It’s certainly intriguing to have an interdepartmental coffee break, but why not take it a step further? Instead of having a skip-level meeting, consider having a skip-level coffee break.
“The original system just matched employees across divisions to reduce silo mentality within each division,” Drebes says. “Today, we offer all kinds of matching criteria and configure systems for our clients depending on their requirements. Some focus specifically on matching colleagues from different locations or countries, even the participants’ languages.”
“Other companies run cross-hierarchy matchings or match recently joined people with more experienced colleagues. It’s also beneficial to bring together colleagues who know or want to learn a specific skill set. In the end, we customize each algorithm, and every matching option is possible.”
6. Group guided meditation
Sometimes a virtual coffee break with coworkers can be transformed into another work meeting, when what we really need is to take a break. How about avoiding an overwhelming set-up by inviting your colleagues for a moment of silence?
It doesn’t need to be all quiet! You can encourage your team for a guided meditation session, for example. You can volunteer to conduct the meditation, or use guided meditation videos from YouTube. (Here’s one of our favorite guided meditation practices!)
Although there are many benefits of meditation, starting with the practice alone can be challenging. Getting others involved adds accountability to the process, increasing the chances of making it a routine and achieving overall impact on the team’s productivity.
Pro tip: You can schedule your team guided-meditation practice using Hive recurring tasks (or actions). Get creative with how you spend your break, host successful virtual meetings and be original with icebreakers activities!