Virtual Water Coolers For a Thriving Team Culture in Hybrid and Remote Teams

Organizations will need to pivot their team culture if they wish to survive and thrive in the world of virtual collaboration after the pandemic. The most important changes will stem from the wide-scale and permanent shift to hybrid and fully-remote modes of working.

Why Did Corporate Culture Suffer During the Pandemic?

Culture refers to the social and emotional glue that bonds employees together into a community of belonging, motivates employees, and protects against burnout. It includes the norms and practices that determine how people collaborate. It also involves the values that guide the community of your employees into the increasingly-disrupted future.

During COVID-19 emergency lockdowns in March, companies shifted to working from home. Numerous companies simply transposed their office culture-style of collaboration to remote work, to unsatisfactory results. For example, organizations used Zoom happy hours and similar activities to try to address decreased connections between team members. But research shows such events are actually disconnecting: they not only waste employee time but also go directly against the company’s goals.

Only a select few took the strategic approach of revising their company culture to fit the needs of remote work. Such companies had much better employee retention, morale, and engagement.

Adapt Your Culture to Virtual Collaboration in the Post-Pandemic Normal

In the post-pandemic era, most companies will have a hybrid-first model. That means most employees will come in once or twice a week, while a significant minority of employees will be fully remote. You need to replace bonding activities from office culture with bonding activities designed for a hybrid and remote virtual format, taking advantage of digital technology.

Most of my clients who I helped adapt to the future of work implemented a “Morning Update” for four to eight-person teams within their company. Teams establish a separate channel for personal, non-work discussions using collaboration software.

Every morning, all team members send a message answering the following questions:

1) How are you doing overall?

2) How are you feeling right now?

3) What's been interesting in your life recently outside of work?

4) What's going on in your work: what's going well, and what are some challenges?

5) What is one thing about you or the world that most other team members do not know about?

This activity provides an excellent foundation for developing relationships, rebuilding trust, and accommodating differences.


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