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How to create routine "Coffee Drop-in" virtual spaces

How to create routine "Coffee Drop-in" virtual spaces
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How to create routine "Coffee Drop-in" virtual spaces

By creating our informal Coffee Drop-ins, Adaptavist has created a way to casually catch-up with colleagues that we might normally chat with at the office, but aren't necessarily connecting with as often now that our work has gone 100% remote.

We stand by the assertion that cross-team conversation and collaboration are crucial elements of a successful organisation and are essential to sparking innovation. Seeing people who aren't on our team, but form a key part of our work-lives, is important at Adaptavist.

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Photo by Micaela Karina

We recognise that the current situation around Covid-19 is changing rapidly, but many of the principles we followed in implementing this series of open meeting rooms will be useful for us (and maybe for you as well) in the future.

Some assumptions are made in this guide. None of them are terribly difficult to find alternatives for, but as you read this keep in mind that:

  • An identity management system is required
  • HR will need a way to share (internally of course) your users' location information

And now that we've got that out of the way, this is how we created the Coffee Drop-in program.

Group up

To make our admin's lives easier, and keep their hair from getting pulled out, we used the naming convention "CoffeeDropIn[Location]" to keep everything nice and geographical. Each of these new groups featured a unique identifier to make our admin's jobs easier and was always prefixed with "Coffee", ie. "coffeedropinXXX."

Please note that the debate around labeling this program after Coffee or Tea was fierce, but eventually, the (generally) higher quantity of caffeine in coffee won the day.

We also created a central mail account, "coffeedropinhq", which is the owner of all of the coffee mail groups and from where we sent all of the calendar invitations. We'll get to inviting people soon! Also, we distributed access to this account, so that the chosen location leaders could arrange times that worked for large quantities of people in a particular region.

Location Location Location

Next, we pulled a list from our HR team of colleagues by location and added them to the appropriate mail group. This step required some manual verification, and if you choose to follow a similar path we recommend double-checking your user import.

Zoom Zoom

We've been extremely flexible about where people work from since day one, so we've used Zoom since way back in the day. We're fortunate to have the luxury of a few extra licenses, which we've utilised as one per location. This allows us to have meetings that overlap across different regions (which is pretty "extra" as the kids like to say). If you are not on Zoom premium or don't have extra accounts laying about, fear not! You can use free Zoom accounts to a similar effect, albeit with a reduced window of meeting time.

Roll Out!

After the mail groups were created, users were properly added, and our Zoom accounts were set up, it was time to announce the program and start downing caffeine. To ensure that everything was clearly presented and accessible from minute one, a cross-functional team of HR, marketing, and Information Services did the following:

  • Set all coffee Zoom meetings to "Join before host"
  • Created meeting invites on the central "coffeedropinhq" calendar, linking each regional Zoom account's room in the invite.
  • Invited the mail groups to the relevant sessions
  • Laid out a lightweight series of guidelines for the designated meeting hosts to keep things upbeat (stuff like quick quizzes, pop-culture talk and bad jokes – What does a nosey pepper do? It gets jalapeño business!)
  • Clearly explained the concept and setup to the company via email, Slack, and an internal blog post
  • Began holding routine casual sessions with our colleagues

There was one change made early in the program: the addition of "Breakout rooms" in the Zoom account settings, which allows people who might want to carry on about a different topic to do so in a really frictionless manner.

In Coffee We Trust

Having attended several of these drop-ins, we're experiencing positive effects. This program was instituted in mid-March, and still attracts attendees around the world daily. We're seeing and connecting with people who matter to us outside of our immediate sphere of work and keeping each other propped up in these utterly mental times.

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Photo by Micaela Karina

We hope this inspires you to create a space that's "at work" but not "about work". It uses technology that exists to keep productivity moving fast and efficiently - to do almost the complete opposite - to slow down and be human with one another for a few minutes a day in these weird times.

We'd like to hear how you've been dealing with the new normal. Reach out to us on social @Adaptavist.

If we can be of service in creating your own program, give us a shout!

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