Virtual coffee breaks at KSB

During times when physical distancing and avoiding personal contact are vital, it is all the more important for us to stay in touch and exchange thoughts and ideas. Nouman Aziz (Global Talent Management Expert) and Gianna Hoffarth Eckert (Personal Assistant to the Board) explain what virtual coffee breaks at KSB are and why physical distance doesn’t have to mean social distance.

Virtual Coffee Break Logo

KSB organises virtual coffee breaks with its employees. What exactly is that?

Virtual coffee breaks (VCBs) are video calls with colleagues from all over the world used to take a break and socialize. We encourage our colleagues to devote some time each week to connect via a VCB, approximately equivalent to the time someone working in an office might spend chatting while walking to meetings, grabbing a coffee in the break room or having lunch together in person. During the tough times of the COVID-19 crisis, we want to ensure that physical distance doesn't mean social distance. The VCB is a way to bring those unofficial refreshing coffee sessions from the office to the remote work space.

What topics are discussed in this round?

So far, we have organised around five sessions with colleagues from the KSB Group and discussed various topics revolving around life events, personal learning during the COVID-19 crisis, how to be productive when working from home and maintaining physical and mental fitness.

How did the idea of creating an informal, virtual communication format come about?

Not having colleagues around is clearly the biggest drawback of working remotely. So, how can chance exchanges happen that connect people and generate great ideas while working from home?
At KSB, we've found a way to make this happen through the VCBs. Face-to-face connections are potentially much more beneficial for avoiding potential burnout and alienation in a remote environment. We have therefore established ways to recreate the benefits of workplace fun and a balanced sense of camaraderie between staff.

What would you advise other companies to do to promote interaction between colleagues during times of coronavirus?

As your team isn't located in the same place, you don't have the privilege of meeting at the coffee machine or walking down the hall. This means fewer chances for informal conversation and no opportunities for quick updates or clarifying questions at the water cooler. Therefore, it's an excellent idea to create opportunities for your team to connect virtually. Try to communicate via video calls often and not only by phone or email. While video calls are not as ideal as meeting in person, they are definitely more reliable and effective than a voice call. Introduce a social hour, for example, a quick video call break every week to maintain team engagement and to discuss informal topics. For example, you could eat your lunch or drink coffee together in a virtual environment. The main focus should be on regular communication to provide social support for each other.

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