Can we put the Coffee back into Virtual Coffee?




Call me crazy but are folks missing the point? As we venture deeper and deeper into the world of remote work, I find myself wondering... where has all the coffee gone?


I miss the days of a walk and talk (am I right Cyn?) when we could grab our Starbucks and brainstorm key must-do's.


I miss the days of taking a break to grab a latte with the co-worker I never get to see during the day.


Heck at this point, I would jump at the chance to talk to someone when one or both of us isn't guilty of breaking eye contact to multi-task during the "catch up" we have squeezed in between the Zoom that ran over and the one I know I will be late to because I still have to add a link to the calendar invite.


As convenient as it is to have my entire professional world in a 4 ft. radius of the kitchen, I have been grappling with just how to get the pleasantries of a genuinely casual co-worker pause back.


I have decided the first problem is that we have to stop scheduling virtual coffee unless we agree to actually make a cup and bring it.


Granted it could be tea, or water, or really whatever floats your boat but we have to have mugs. Without them, it is as if our agreement to log-in and chat requires some sort of validation-- otherwise, we will surely fail to be "productive" while we are here.


Inadvertently we default to working vigorously, circling back to an action item from a prior discussion or brainstorming next steps.


The collaboration is always fruitful, but neither of us benefits from a break.


Before we know it, time is up, and back to work we go.


But at what cost? What do we lose in the process?


1. We lose perspective- believe it or not our walk and talks, coffee shops, and sipping were opportunities to connect, talk about a variety of topics, and gain insights about our colleagues. These moments gave us time to SEE and KNOW each other.


2. We lose concentration - When our phones are ringing, Slacks are pinging and we are still pulling off a text while on a Zoom call-- we are doing many things at once but potentially few things well.


3. We lose authenticity- Even with the best of intentions, our attention is divided. We may fail to make eye contact, listen actively, or show engagement. The folks we are in meetings with may read our segmented energy as disinterest or disregard.


4. We lose laughter - humor and playfulness are critical components of an enjoyable workday. When we deny our co-workers and ourselves the chance to give pause, laugh, and be joyful, the seemingly endless to-do lists and productivity may drain us in new ways.


Okay, so to be fair....it isn't really the absence of coffee from our virtual coffees to blame-this is a symptom of a broader threat to our professional well-being...... Neglect.


We cannot neglect ourselves, each other, or the time that we put in face to face to see and hear each other in the remote work environment.


Whether you are onboarding to a new team or simply trying to bring back the spark with your current one, to you I say....bring back the coffee.


Bring back the connection.


Bring back the attention you pay to one person without distraction.


Bring back active listening.


Bring back laughter.


Bring back the motivation that comes from taking time to pause together and pour it all back into the collaborative effort you put into shared work.


Cheers.


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