Best Practices for organizing company-wide coffee chats?

teresaman's profile thumbnail
This is such a great idea for your company! A couple thoughts:- I like the idea behind renaming chats to breaks so that "it's more appealing to those suffering from burnout". That said, I don't think renaming is the be-all end-all and a lot more can be done there to consider those who are experiencing burnout. Something that you may want to think about is, if employees are inundated with meetings, should these meetings be opt-in or mandatory? What time are they held to be most effective while minimizing interruptions or stress into their work day? What resources are there in place for people who are experiencing burnout?- Regarding who should facilitate the conversations, my general thought is that anyone interested to do so regardless of their formal background or experience level at the company should be able to. And perhaps there could be co-facilitators as well (increasing the collaborative aspect between coworkers, even across teams or locations!). I tend to think that if only those in leadership are facilitating this, it adds so much more of the formality / seriousness to what seems to be a much more casual, informal meeting for people to unwind and chat, plus perpetuates the idea that the knowledge of the discussion topics are exclusive to leadership only when that really isn't the case.
rachelreiss's profile thumbnail
Thanks for your response! - It would 100% be opt-in. The goal is to create pull, rather than push, to engage people.- Agreed; thanks for validating my initial thoughts.
arielleshipper's profile thumbnail
Hi Rachel! I work at Donut (https://www.donut.com/) so I've worked with a bunch of teams (including ones of your size) to set up similar programs. Leaving a few tips below, but feel free to shoot me an email if you have more specific questions or want to bat around some more ideas:- I'd recommend making the program opt-in if you can; engagement is always way better on opt-in programs, and when people have a good experience with other folks that are engaged, they're more likely to stick with it and recommend it.- Agree with Teresa that anyone can facilitate the conversations, but honestly you may not necessarily need a facilitator, especially if you have some great conversation starters. - That said, you should definitely encourage execs + leaders to participate and to visibly promote the program through email, Slack, in all-hands meetings - whatever channels you have available.- If there's anything you can do to incentivize participation, I would! Some teams send swag packs with mugs and coffee/tea to people's homes, others create a designated coffee slot every week (like Wednesday at 2pm) for everyone to meet so they don't have to find time on their schedules, and some do things like public recognition or awards for most meetings completed. Sharing "selfies" of meetups (even virtual ones) with a fun fact they learned or something they discussed afterwards is also super impactful.- Collect feedback regularly, and be open to changing things like group size, frequency, how they're facilitated, etc. The most successful programs we've seen definitely look different from the day they launched because they've evolved to make sense for a particular team's makeup and needs.Hope that helps!
rachelreiss's profile thumbnail
Thank you Arielle, this is so helpful; plus, I hadn't heard about Donut and it sounds like such a neat tool. Unfortunately there's a lot of red tape we'd need to go through to secure funds for swag packs (although I love the idea) and not sure we'd be able to do it at scale. I think I just lack the confidence that these would be successful since it's a first-go, and, everyone has meeting exhaust as it is. I don't want these to seem like "one more thing".
arielleshipper's profile thumbnail
Swag packs aren't essential - just an idea! If you can get some early champions for the program, either team leads that believe in it or a few people that are really excited to connect with their teammates, that'll go a very long way towards drumming up interest and participation. I get the meeting exhaustion thing (and feel it personally). Having an opt-in program is really helpful in combating that feeling of exhaustion—because people are choosing to participate—and there are also all sorts of stats around workplace happiness and engagement that empirically support the need for this kind of programming! I can attest that for many teams, this is a very beloved employee engagement initiative.Good luck!!