(2022) Virtual coffee guide: ideas, questions & best practices

Chris Carnduff
Chris Carnduff
March 23, 2022
(2022) Virtual coffee guide: ideas, questions & best practices

Do you ever wonder how you could sit at your chair, in the comfort of your home, staring at a screen, and still somehow feel exhausted?

So you grab a coffee to re-energize. But now you remember that you’re isolated, and you feel lonely. You miss the days when you took a sip and continued your conversation with a colleague during lunch break. It’s draining. 

That’s why at CoffeePals, we’re aiming to bridge the work-from-home socialization gap by encouraging fun discussions and activities that build serious rapport. And in this article, we’re going to share exactly how teams can have virtual coffee breaks to improve workplace relationships and be more productive.    

Ready? Grab your coffee and let’s get started.

What is a virtual coffee break?

A virtual coffee break is an online event where individuals grab a (real) coffee, sit at their chair, and allocate some time (usually 15-30 minutes) to chat and relax through a video conferencing channel like Microsoft Teams. At its core, this is a remote team-building activity designed to grow deeper connections between colleagues. 

Why are virtual coffee breaks important?

The new work-from-home movement has changed many things, but one fact remains the same: we need breaks. Often they help us in more ways than one. So here are some compelling reasons why you could use a virtual coffee break:

  • Scheduled breaks can boost productivity. Detaching from your work and participating in relaxation or physical activity sessions has been shown to improve productivity when we get back to work. Virtual coffee breaks essentially give us an opportunity to reset.
  • They help us get to know co-workers better. The best part about virtual coffee breaks is that they’re informal. This means you can use them as an opportunity to ask more personal questions and learn more about your colleagues. It also allows for a bit of lighthearted banter, which helps break the ice and encourages trust-building. All in all it's a great way to make remote work friends.
  • They relieve work-related stress. In the long term, job burnout is a real danger. And with home-based work, that risk might be even higher since we can never really “leave” our jobs. So it’s important to find ways to manage and release that built-up tension. Joining virtual coffee breaks is one way to do that.

How can you start your own virtual coffee break?

The beauty of virtual coffee breaks is that they’re very easy and low-commitment to organize. All you need is a video conferencing platform like Microsoft Teams, some coffee (or any other drink), and a few friends or colleagues to join in.

Here are the steps:

1. Choose a time that works for everyone. With Microsoft Teams apps like CoffeePals, you can even organize regular matchings with colleagues by setting a day and time, group size, and frequency to eliminate back-and-forth, which is a leading cause for virtual coffee dates that never end up happening.

CoffeePals Teams

2. Add everyone to the chat and make sure your video conference is working properly. CoffeePals has a unique feature where you can opt to meet other teams in your company (e.g., Marketing meets Finance). But sometimes it can be difficult or nerve-wracking to reach out to remote colleagues you're not as tight with. You can kick awkwardness out of the equation by letting our tool randomize the matching process and select a team member for you to meet.

Corss-group Matching

On the user end, members can select the team they’re on to be auto-categorized. 

Select a group

3. Grab a coffee or drink and find a seat!

4. Chat about anything and everything – just like you would during an in-person coffee break. We get that it can be difficult trying to come up with discussion topics you might all enjoy. In which case, our app lets you post fun and thought-provoking questions to promote discussion. We have some cool virtual coffee break ideas coming up in the next section.

5. Wrap up the chat by thanking everyone for joining and scheduling the next virtual coffee break.

6. Rinse and repeat!

Virtual coffee break ideas

So you're staring at the screen blankly as your coffee starts to cool. You look at your wall, you make that pursed-lip face that signals you mean no harm while you question what on earth you're going to talk about or do with these people for the next 30 minutes.

That's one of the leading reasons why there's a natural lack of motivation for employees to hop on these calls. They don't know what they're hopping on for, or they don't like it.

Well, have no fear. Here are some great virtual coffee break ideas to help you get started:

Getting to know each other better

  • Share an interesting fact about yourself. In the workplace, people already have an idea of who you are and what you do, given your position. By sharing something unusual, something that could make a colleague(s) raise an eyebrow, you give them something to remember you by.
  • Show off your home office. It's often said that your workspace defines your personality. With the new work-from-home era, many people decided to invest in a nicer home office, so colleagues should unapologetically share their workspaces and give a glimpse of where the magic happens.
  • Exchange baby photos. This will surely get everyone laughing and giggling with ohs and aws being thrown everywhere. While taking the trip down memory lane, you can get creative (in a group setting) and have a competition where people win a point if they correctly match baby photos with the right person.
  • What's your favorite TV show? TV shows can say a lot about a person's interests, they're also fairly easy to build on – especially if colleagues watch the show or similar productions. You could explain the plot and why you like it, and before you know it the time will be up.
  • What's your favorite thing to do outside of work? Hobbies can be a great way to connect with people, and they don't have to be the same. If you like hiking and your colleague likes biking, what matters is you both like to be physically active! You could build from there and ask them about their experiences or favorite trails.

Revisit a work-related topic

  • Discuss a project you're working on or recently wrapped up. Did the project go as planned? What were some of the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them? This is a great way for colleagues to learn from each other and get better at their craft.
  • Share a recent victory at work. Did you do something great that you're really proud of and want to share with your team? Celebrating successes together can help motivate employees and make them feel appreciated.
  • Discuss a change you want to see. If you don't like something in the workplace setting or see room for improvement, chances are someone else might too. Or at the very least, they'll appreciate hearing your initiative. This is a great way for colleagues to relate and rally behind something they're passionate about, and it gives management the opportunity to create an even better work environment.

Talk about news and current events

  • Are you watching the Olympics? The Paralympics? What about the elections happening in different countries around the world? If there's something people are passionate about, there's a discussion to be had. And it doesn't have to be a huge debate – in fact, starting one is usually what kills the conversation. Try to agree to disagree and move on.
  • Is there something exciting you're looking forward to in your life? News doesn't need to be TV-worthy, you could ask colleagues if they know a good suit shop for a wedding you're attending, or offer birthday gift ideas. Maybe you went rock-climbing, what was the process like? You get the gist.
  • Consider using the virtual coffee break to invite colleagues to an IRL event or activity. Maybe you mentioned that you're running a marathon, and previously the colleague mentioned they like hiking, so they may be interested in joining you on a long-distance run. And so on. 

Get creative with fun activities

  • Swap dinner recipes. Most people are cooking at home these days, so why not make it a conversation starter in the next coffee break? You can exchange tips on your next lunch dish and try each other's recommendations. This can serve as the conversation starter for the next virtual coffee break where you can ask how everything was.
  • As it is a coffee break, you could even have a coffee-tasting mini event where you try something new for once. This could mean that you finally give up your latte and try your colleague’s favorite black coffee, and vice versa. Take turns sharing how you feel about it.
  • Play 'would you rather.' A classic game that's perfect for getting to know your colleagues better and for having meaningless debates on silly things. It's a refreshing activity that takes away the seriousness of the workplace while allowing you to find out what your colleagues value and what their interests are. Here are a few examples to get you started:
  • Would you rather always be slightly late or super early?
  • Is it better to live one life that lasts 1,000 years or to live ten lives that last 100 Years Each?
  • Would you rather commute two hours to your dream job or live two minutes from a mediocre job?
  • Do a quick virtual scavenger hunt. This one is perfect for when there's time to kill and you want to get up and move around. Split into groups (or if you're feeling really competitive, go head-to-head) and see who can find the most items in a specific category in the shortest amount of time.
  • Other fun questions
  • How would you feel if you awoke tomorrow as an animal? What would you like to be?
  • What kind of candy bar would you be and why?
  • Which age would you choose if you could stay that age forever?
  • What would you be famous for?
  • While on a call, did you ever go to the bathroom?

Take these virtual coffee pro tips with you

Now that you're packed with all those virtual coffee break ideas and questions, and you know how to start one easily on Microsoft Teams, all that's left are some best practices on how to execute a truly successful virtual coffee session.

  • Schedule meetings regularly. Throwing a single virtual coffee break will only do so much. Since they're a great way to maintain connections, try to do them regularly as you would in-office. Again, CoffeePals allows you to set these events on repeat (your choice when) so you can avoid chasing after employees and dealing with back-and-forth.
  • Establish the ground rules (or lack thereof). To ensure that these virtual coffee breaks are serving their purpose, you'll want to remind all attendees of say, a no-phone or email-checking policy, set a timeline, and/or put an emphasis on punctuality. Maybe on the flip side, you can reveal what employees can do during the break, as opposed to what they couldn't on the job.
  • Keep it small (e.g. break into groups). Virtual coffee breaks should create a welcoming space for people (like introverts) to open up more freely than they would in a larger meeting. If you have too many people in a Microsoft Teams call, then you're bound to leave people on the outside looking. Keep it small to two to three participants and see what works best.
  • Choose the grid view. This is more of a technical tip, but if you have a lot of participants in your virtual coffee break meeting on Microsoft Teams, then you'll want to choose the "Grid view" option. This will show everyone on one screen (like at a round table IRL) as opposed to just whoever is talking. It's great for getting a quick sense of the whole group and their reactions.
  • End on a high note. You want to make sure that employees come away from the virtual coffee break feeling satisfied, not drained. So, take a couple of minutes, in the end, to debrief on what was discussed or perhaps, set an intention for next time. This could be something as simple as "we'll continue our book discussion from last time" or "let's try out that new game we talked about."
  • Gather feedback. Remember that the virtual coffee break is meant to help team members, and the only way to find out if it's working is by asking for their input. You could check in informally and simply ask what could be improved or what they most enjoyed. Or, by making a poll on MS Teams, you can set more structured questions and collect anonymous, raw opinions.  

Last but not least: Use CoffeePals to make your virtual coffee breaks on MS Teams exciting.

You made it to the end. Congrats!

By now, you should recognize the importance of virtual coffee breaks, know how to start and schedule them on autopilot, and have some virtual coffee ideas and pro tips stocked up in your arsenal. 

For smoother operations all-around, consider adding CoffeePals to your MS Teams for free to auto-match different colleagues (great for onboarding new hires), enable mentorship opportunities, and never run out of topics to discuss.

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