Random coffees – the secret to keeping your team connected?

20th May 2020

Eight weeks into lockdown and although there seems to be an end in sight, work won’t return to normal for a long time or ever. For us, as we work almost totally online and can work from home, we feel it’s not right to go back to the office until totally necessary. So, for our team at Secret Source, it may be many more months before we’re all together again. In the meantime, while we wait for things to return to normal, we still want to keep our team connected, so how do you do that when everyone is apart?

Random coffee

Over for the past few weeks we’ve been trialling many initiatives to keep our team together, some have worked and some have fallen by the wayside. But one trial that is still going strong are our random coffees.

Random coffees existed way before we were all sent to work from our bedrooms. The idea was the brainchild of Hootsuite and was created as a way to try to break down the invisible walls between teams / departments by encouraging people to go for a coffee with someone they otherwise wouldn’t have worked with. The premise was that they would facilitate those random connections which can often lead to unexpected beneficial results.

Update: apparently Hootsuite were not the brainchild of this initiative but Nesta in the UK in 2013 with their RCT (randomised coffee trial).

Nowadays we use it to keep our team connected and to try to overcome the principle problem of remote working – loneliness.

The feeling of loneliness is not caused by working remotely, it is an emotional response to a lack of connection, therefore the theory is that if you can help facilitate that connection it can help alleviate that feeling of isolation.

So, this is where random coffees come in. Every Monday every member of our staff is randomly paired with another person in the team, and at some point during the week they arrange to meet up and go for a virtual coffee. One rule – try not to talk about work! … And that’s it. 

We use the randomcoffee Slack plugin but there are many tools you can use and, if you don’t want to add yet another piece of software to the list, a Google Spreadsheet works just as well as anything.

So far it’s worked pretty well for us, anecdotally our staff have told us they like doing it and those that live alone have said it helps them feel more connected with the team. For our newer team members who joined just before lockdown, it has really helped them to integrate and meet the rest of our staff who they hadn’t got to know before we were all sent home.

Whether we continue this when we get back to the office remains to be seen, we’ll ask everyone’s opinion and make the call, but while we are all split up and spread around the island we’ll definitely be continuing our weekly virtual espressos. 

Here at Secret Source, staff wellbeing is one of our core values so we’ve been trialling various initiatives during the lockdown, if you want to chat and learn more about our experience please feel free to get in touch with me at [email protected], I’m only too happy to share.