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Coffee Chat Goes Virtual and Is Still as Potent

Coffee Chat Goes Virtual and Is Still as Potent

Coffee Chats have been powerful networking and learning opportunities for Ellevate members and the DC Chapter has an especially active Saturday schedule. The DC leaders didn’t want to sacrifice that opportunity and time for connection while everyone is safe at home. 

Embracing #alonetogether, the chapter organized a Virtual Coffee chat for the last weekend in April. Tapping into members in various locations with experience working remotely and managing remote teams, the chapter expanded the reach of the coffee chat and provided a timely topic. Tanjina Shapiro, Curation Health, Selena Ramkeesoon with DualStar LLC, and Maggie Ruvoldt of 2U, Inc. shared their expertise with the group. Here are some key takeaways from the conversation. We hope you find them helpful as you work from home.

Simple ways to define your space

Finding boundaries between work and home are particularly important during this time. Whether you have a specific room in your house or carving an area within a space, you can make where you work defined from home--even for short periods of time. Inexpensive screens can help define any area in your home while on webcams. A screen can hide distracting or personal spaces and give other members of your household a signal of an area to avoid when you are on camera.

Leaving the home office

Scheduling both the start and end of your work day enables you to control work from taking over the entire day and evening. Most calendars allow you to set working hours so co-workers can see what your office hours are. This can be especially useful if you are working unusual hours to accommodate children’s schedules or elder care responsibilities. Having an “accountability” partner at work to remind you to end your work day can be helpful and supportive. 

We are in greater danger of spending hours on end at the desk. The simple act of leaving a conference room, walking together and taking a break, or getting some water along the way, is gone. Reminders and alarms on your phone can be the push you need to take that break and getting in some steps.

It’s still the office

Because we are working from home, work expectations have not become more casual. Dressing as you would for work and taking meetings from appropriate work locations will enable you to be in the right mindset. They also send a clear message of how you are approaching your work responsibilities at this time.

Learnings from this time to take back to the office 

We are all getting a taste of what remote workers have always known, connecting from a distance over technology requires different skills. The informal conversations which add both to productivity and connections are harder to come by. When we return to offices, an increased number of people may continue to work remotely, and blended (in office and at home) teams will be more common.

Cameras are key. Currently, it is clear meetings with cameras are more productive than audio-only meetings. Body language and engagement are increased when we can see each other. Back at the office, everyone can open their laptops and join a virtual meeting even when some are in the same conference room. That will bring remote employees closer to the conversation in the office.

Those casual conversations can still happen today if we are more intentional about having them. The internet is filled with stories of people meeting remotely for happy hours, or as this group did, for coffee chats. Teams can continue those once back at the office and include members in various locations.

For workplace reentry, maybe start meetings with an “Ask-and-Give” where each member asks for what they need and gives/offers something they can do for someone or the group. This tool can help create and/or strengthen the bond between team members and also acknowledges that people are in a period of adjustment.

As this time continues, everyone in the group reminded each other to lead with kindness, and recognize the balancing acts all employees and leaders are doing right now.

Coauthored by Selena Ramkeesoon and Maggie Ruvoldt

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.


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