Virtual Coffee Break: What Is It, Ideas, How to Plan One

Virtual Coffee Break.
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Have you ever taken a virtual coffee break? If you haven’t, now is the perfect time to add one of these sessions to your remote work routine. 

After all, even the most devoted remote workers need time to rest and regroup. Virtual coffee breaks can be used for one-on-one discussions, group games, team activities, and even mindfulness sessions. 

But if you’ve never received a virtual coffee break invite, you’re probably wondering how to start planning this type of meeting yourself. While you don’t have to follow a specific format, it can be helpful to have some ideas in mind. 

Below is everything you need to know. 

What is a Virtual Coffee Break?

A virtual coffee break is a planned break for remote workers, giving them the space they need to recharge and not talk about work. The format offers plenty of flexibility, so you can tailor activities to your team, 1:1 with a coworker, or just on your own. 

Although there is no strict definition, per se, a virtual coffee break will always allow employees some time away from their regular workload. 

If you’ve worked in person before, think back to the coffee breaks at your office: You may have used them to catch up with coworkers, learn about other colleagues’ projects, or just take a moment to breathe and enjoy a treat.

Virtual coffee breaks can be all of the above and more. 

How long should virtual coffee chats be?

A virtual coffee break should usually last between 15 and 45 minutes. Again, you’ll want to use the “real life” coffee breaks as a guidepost. Virtual coffee breaks averaging half an hour or so allow enough time to do activities or enjoy treats, but they won’t eat too much time from the rest of the workday either. 

Additionally, you’ll want to think about the cadence of hosting virtual coffee breaks. Ideally, you want smaller team ones weekly, but larger company ones can be monthly or quarterly.

Since you don’t see these people in a physical office, you’ll want to ensure to keep those social interactions and check-ins happen more consistently.

Why Are Virtual Coffee Breaks Important?

Virtual coffee breaks are important because they can help ensure remote employees stay engaged and help alleviate isolation and team siloes. These breaks allow everyone to recharge and socialize, which can be challenging with remote work. 

And according to The HR Director, 67% of workers aged 18-34 stated that since working remotely, they have found it harder to make friends and maintain relationships with work colleagues.

Just one reason remote experts always recommend breaks and getting to connect with your coworkers. 

Benefits of virtual coffee breaks 

Virtual coffee break benefits can vary depending on how your workplace structures the activities, as well as based on your team’s makeup (is it a fully distributed team, or do just a few members work remotely?). 

However, benefits often include: 

  • Feelings of inclusion: Virtual coffee breaks can help remote employees feel less isolated or in a lonely silo as they get to know colleagues. 
  • Time to recharge: From seasoned managers to brand-new interns, everyone wins when they get a chance to rest throughout the work day.  
  • Opportunities to collaborate: The novel setting of a virtual coffee break can encourage brainstorming and collaboration that may not happen in the confines of a normal workday. 
  • The sense that your workplace cares: Don’t forget about this important one! Everyone at the company takes notice when their employers prioritize their talents and their mental health.  
  • Increased Internal Networking: Pending the size of your company, you may not interact with a majority of coworkers when they are distributed all over. By having team virtual coffee breaks, you get to meet and connect with others you don’t normally work with. 
  • Nurtures Productivity: When people do not feel burnout and can have time to recharge, it provides a boost of productivity and enthusiasm for the actual work. Remote companies should nurture and encourage these team breaks or virtual retreats.  

10 Virtual Coffee Break Ideas 

Although a virtual coffee break could be just you grabbing a fresh cup of joe and connecting with a coworker via Zoom, it can represent so much more. 

If you are looking to host a virtual coffee break for your team or a few coworkers, here are some ideas you can try:

  1. Play an online game: Encourage camaraderie and teamwork through online mystery games, trivia, and more. I’ve even hosted a virtual escape room before for my team, it was a ton of fun! 
  2. Taste coffees: Put the coffee in a virtual coffee break by having your employees taste a selection of brews (or teas, or sparkling waters).
  3. Practice meditation: Whether you host a guided session or just offer silent time for reflection, you’ll help everyone slow down with a dose of mindfulness.
  4. Ask icebreaker questions: Help coworkers get to know each other with fun, lighthearted prompts. 
  5. Brainstorm: Give space for colleagues to toss some thoughts back and forth — there are no bad ideas here. 
  6. Host a book club: Get everyone on the same page by discussing a book you’re all interested in. 
  7. Create a trivia series: You can make this a fun game of trivia, whether with teams or just 1:1. Think about different topics and subjects that would be fun. 
  8. Learning sessions: Not work-related, but maybe you have some unique skill or expertise in something to teach others. 
  9. Video tour of home offices: Only if people feel comfortable, but could be cool to see everyone’s unique setups for their work. 
  10. Show and tell: Get to know people with things they collect, make, or are interested in. For example, I could show some of my favorite vinyl records and talk about why those artists, since I’m a music nerd.

How to Host a Virtual Coffee Chat 

Hosting a virtual coffee chat.

To host a virtual coffee break, you’ll first want to narrow down your list of virtual coffee break ideas. 

Are you looking to offer a more casual session, or will you be brainstorming work-related ideas during the coffee break? 

Once you’ve decided on your goals for the coffee chat, you can plan a session, invite teammates, and ensure everyone has the necessary technology (and extra supplies, if applicable) to make it work. 

Tips to set up the virtual coffee break

Find a time that works for everyone. 

You want to give coworkers a break, not stress them out about an event they may need to miss. Plan early and send official invites in advance.    

Create an agenda. 

Even though this isn’t an official meeting, per se, you’ll want to be organized and create a simple agenda. 

After all, you still want to make good use of everyone’s time so that they feel the break from the “normal” workday is worthwhile. 

Test your technology. 

Don’t turn what should be a few minutes of reprieve into a battle against your laptop. Test all applicable technologies—Zoom, Slack, online games, etc—well ahead of time. 

There are different apps and tools you can use to improve your virtual coffee meetings, but test that they are working to make the most of your time. This should be a relaxing moment, not a time to scramble or be annoyed with tech. 

Lay out some simple rules. 

Do you expect employees to keep cameras on for the virtual coffee break, or are you okay with them turning cameras off for certain kinds of sessions (ex: meditation)? 

Let everyone know that is a part of the virtual break early on so that there’s no confusion. 

Solicit feedback. 

After the break is over, collect thoughts from participants. What did they like about the session, and what might they like to see changed for next time? 

Hearing from your teammates can help each coffee break become more successful than the last. 

And something to note:

These virtual coffee chats should not be held after work hours. This is still a work activity that you do during your working hours.

If you have people in drastically different time zones, try to overlap the working hours or split up the virtual sessions so no one feels obligated to attend at a time that is outside their schedule. 

Final Thoughts

When they’re well run, virtual coffee breaks can help employees decompress, reflect on their work and career goals, and even have some fun together. 

They’re also a great way to remind your team members that although they may be geographically distant, everyone is still on the same team. 

By considering some virtual coffee break ideas for work, you can set your team on a path toward a healthier, more enjoyable workplace. 

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About Todd Kunsman

Todd is the founder of Remote Work Junkie and has been featured in numerous publications like Business Insider, HuffPost, CNBC, and more. He’s been a remote work advocate for close to a decade and has been working remotely full-time for 5+ years. He’s also a marketing, personal finance, and music nerd 🤓

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