Just because you work virtually doesn’t mean you’re a robot. Nor are your coworkers... we hope! That means that social niceties like small talk and fun chit chat still apply, even when it’s through a Zoom call. The reality is that working virtually can be both challenging and lonely. We still need human connection.
We also still need team building because even though you might work ‘alone,' you’re not working in a vacuum. You have to work with your team members as well, and it’s always better for everyone when good relationships are prioritized and fostered.
Not only does small talk promote a sense of well-being, but it also contributes positively to your team’s emotional barometers and overall team morale. Not to mention, it helps build relationships between your team members, makes them feel included, and could even enhance productivity.
Granted, it can seem unproductive to waste time chatting about trivial things. That may even be true in a traditional office setting. However, if you factor that time into your call and use it intentionally to build bridges between you and your team members, the benefits of small talk can far outweigh any negligible cons.
What if Some Team Members Don’t Like Small Talk?
There will almost always be someone who doesn’t really care to be social and chit-chat. They want to hop on Zoom, get down to business and get off. That’s understandable, and some people would prefer to utilize that time to spend with family or attend to their own personal interests. It’s a delicate balance between respecting everyone’s time yet still leaving room for those who do want to engage and connect more.
Also, Zoom fatigue is a thing these days! Depending on your business, you could be hopping in and out of meetings all day long. Though it seems like they would be less tiring than in-person meetings, they can actually be just as exhausting, if not more so.
So building time for chat into your structure is important, but you also want to respect everyone’s time and not let the small talk go on for too long. You could even give a set window of time for small talk to your team and give them the option of engaging or logging in a few minutes later once the small talk window closes.
While you might strongly encourage the engagement, perhaps don’t make it mandatory, at least not for every meeting. Alternatively, you might set the time for small talk at the end of the meeting. That way, anyone who wants to chit chat can, and those who are ready to get back to work can log off.
Another way you could incorporate the benefits of small talk while still honoring everyone’s time is by creating a time each day for a sort of virtual coffee break. Create a video chatroom that people can join during breaks to have a few minutes sharing with whoever might drop in, or perhaps create a set time that it’s open, like first thing in the morning or at the end of the business day. Make it fun and no pressure, something for your team to look forward to.
What Small Talk and Chit Chat is Not
While it’s nice to be able to share and connect with people, always keep in mind that small talk is not about gossiping. You’re not taking a few minutes before a Zoom meeting to rant about other people, complain about someone who can’t speak to their side of things, or gossip about that one coworker who couldn’t make the call and you ‘heard they might ______.’
That kind of pre-meeting chatting creates negative vibes and provides no positive or beneficial effects for you or your team members.
Keep things friendly and upbeat, with a focus on fun and laughter when possible. That’s not to say serious topics can’t be mentioned, but they should never be mentioned negatively or maliciously.
Working virtually is certainly different from face-to-face meetings. Still, there’s no reason you can’t foster those human connections and watch the positive rewards become an integral part of your team’s culture.
If you're trying to figure out a hybrid or back to the office plan, call in the management experts at StellaPop.