By: Laurel Farrer
How can you expect your distributed team to talk to each other about budget cuts if they can’t talk about puppies? Casual water cooler talk is a valuable element in co-located offices to help employees build relationships, get to know each other’s communication styles, and connect around common interests. If an established friendship is in place, work conversations happen more easily, and processes run more smoothly. The same is true for distributed teams, but because we’re not bumping into each other in the break room, we need to intentionally design these spaces for casual conversations.
We’re hearing from more and more distributed companies—including our own—that “Slack is our office.” Add one, two, or ten of the following breakroom channels to encourage small talk and improve culture on your team:
1. Celebrations - From birthdays to baseball games, come here to share exciting news, brag about accomplishments, and show off. This space is high-five land, or if you’re the bot type, Bonusly land.
2. Hobby Clubs - Whether reading, jousting, gardening, or sailing is your thing, conversation is never lacking when discussing a shared passion.
3. Support Groups - We could all use some encouragement during tough times (single parenting, addiction recovery, weight loss, etc.) from others who might know what we’re going through.
4. Debate Team - Sometimes it just feels good to get something off your chest or really dig into controversial topics. Provide a safe space for anyone to discuss and debate sensitive content, but be sure to set clear rules to ensure conversation stays healthy, proactive, and respectful.
5. Funny Forwards - Throwing back to the days of the “Fw: Fw: Fw: Fw: Fw: Funny!” email subject lines, this channel is for those “too good not to share” memes, gifs, and stories. Also, it’s a great place to take a break when you need a quick pick-me-up.
6. Inspirational Poster - Need a little push to meet a tight deadline? Hop in here to look at a serene landscape photo or read a motivational quote that will recharge you for your final stretch. Bonus: integrate humblebot for a daily reminder on how to be a wonderful human being.
7. Welcome, Newbies! - A crucial part of remote onboarding, this space gives new team members access to important docs, answers to FAQs, and a place to ask questions as they get to know the company and settle into their role. You can even integrate the donut.ai slackbot to randomly pair up team members to work through blocks and questions together. (Tip: Make sure to pin the company handbook so that it’s always easily accessible.)
8. Agile Reports - Eliminate time-wasting team standup calls with a geekbot integration that will prompt each team member to report at an appointed time by answering custom questions. Then managers can get caught up on daily progress with only a quick skim. (This channel is tried and true here at Yonder, although we’ve customized our reports to blend with the “Celebrations” channel suggested above by asking, “What is something awesome that happened today?”)
9. Shark Tank - No matter what role a team member has, he or she will inevitably have ideas for improving the company. Don’t let those suggestion go to waste! Encourage these concepts to be shared and evaluated here. Then, at the end of the month or quarter, take a poll on the most promising concept. Invite the proposer to spearhead the project and see where it takes them...and the company!
10. Random - Have something to share that doesn’t fit into any category? Or maybe you just aren’t digging the other nine channel ideas, but feel obligated to provide something unrelated to work? Random is for you.
Are there other Slack channels your distributed company uses? Tweet us @yonder_io to let us know your favorite breakroom channel and why it works!
Laurel Farrer is the COO here at Yonder. She always has a notebook and pen within arm's reach, never sits with both feet on the floor, and drives (safely) without depth perception.