How to Make Your Remote Culture Work: Coworking and Virtual Water Coolers

by Joanna Pineda Posted on June 15, 2022

I’ve been thinking a lot about work 3.0 and how to make sure that my company continues to foster collaboration and create social capital, even though we’re all remote. I found this great article in Forbes by Dr. Gleb Tsipursky. I heard Dr. Tsipursky speak during one of my Vistage Worldwide, Inc. meetings and have found his work fresh and inspiring.

Dr. T talks about two things that make remote work even better than in person: Virtual Coworking and the Virtual Watercooler. Virtual coworking is when you and a co-worker (or co-workers) park on a Slack, Meet, or Teams call and just work side by side. You don’t need to be meeting or even working on the same thing. You’re co-working and able to talk to your co-workers instantly.

The virtual watercooler is when you have a Slack or Teams channel for off-topic things, not work related.

When I read these articles, I realized some things about myself and my company, Matrix Group International, Inc.

We Were Already Coworking Before the Pandemic

Matrix Staff in Zoom meeting

Before the pandemic, we had several spaces in our office that were devoted to co-working. We had a large space we called the “war room” where we gathered for staff meetings, launches, and troubleshooting. The space had several, long standing desks, a couple of couches, lots of power, and a large LCD screen. The biz dev team was also in the habit of co-working. We would park on a conference call when working on slides or a proposal. And sometimes, we gathered in a conference room just to be able to work next to each other.

When we went 100% remote in March 2022, coworking continued. The biz dev team routinely parks on a Slack call or Google Meet to just work together or work on a proposal. Sometimes, when I’m lonely for company, I’ll ask on Slack “anyone want to war room this afternoon?” When I get at least one yes, we work silently until one of us wants a break, or needs something. It’s been a great way to work together without needing to be in a “meeting.” Other teams at Matrix Group co-work mostly during launches or when troubleshooting a problem, but after reading the article by Dr. T, I’m going to ask them to experiment with more coworking time.

Virtual Water Coolers Are Great Fun

I admit that before the pandemic, I sometimes fretted over the watercooler channel we had on Slack. People would post cat photos, talk about the weather, link news articles, post memes, or just say hello. I worried that too much time was being spent on socializing.

But when the pandemic hit, even I found myself gravitating toward the watercooler channel for some socializing. It was fun to see the furry companions of my staff; the view of the snow from wherever they were, or their kids doing distance learning in a tutu. Staff used to ask for permission to create new social channels, and now, I give them free reign. We have a parenting channel where parents can rant, commiserate, or ask for advice. We have a cooking channel where people share recipes and post photos of their dishes.

Even I have been inspired to post emojis and funny gifs. I’ve even blessed funny memes during staff meetings!

Work 3.0

I know that many CEOs are eager for work to “return to normal” and for staff to come back to the office. No matter how you or your leaders feel about remote work, some type of remote work is here to stay. So I’m devoting myself to figuring out how to make Matrix Group really good at it.

How about you? What do you think about work 3.0? How do coworking and virtual water coolers fit into your culture?

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