My Virtual Coffee Break

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Sally Harrison
By Sally Harrison, Head of Social Media, Unify Enterprise Communications Ltd.

In another special guest post for Collaboration Week, Sally Harrison from Unify Enterprise Communications introduces us to the concept of the virtual coffee break.

Each day at 3pm I have a standing conference call. Yes, I know that is not unusual but what if I told you that I actually look forward to this call, – which has no agenda but is entitled “Virtual Coffee Break”.

My daily “virtual coffee break” lasts only 15 mins and each week I have this break with someone different on my team. There is no set agenda but the conversation inevitably drifts to a common topic, our business and what we are working on. This meeting always ends up being so different from others because the conversation is unfailingly honest and we talk about real issues at a new level and how we can help each other and the business. On numerous occasions I have found that my informal conversations have had a very positive impact on my work, removing blockers and improving business results.

Even though I am a true #anywhereworker (thanks to technology and the culture of my business) and I love the flexibility it offers – I do miss the personal connection that comes with talking to people (colleagues or agency partners) – understanding them and building those relationship.

That’s my experience and one that we at Unify felt was worth exploring further. We have always been interested in the way people interact (well you would expect that from an enterprise communications company) and increasingly how virtual teams work effectively.

The first in our new research series, Unify New Way to Work Index, ran between January and February 2014 and surveyed more than 300 executives across the globe focusing on the habits and constructs of successful teams. Among the results was the finding that 94% of respondents work on teams with remote and/or mobile team members.

It also gave some insight into the behavior of successful virtual teams:

  • Those on very successful teams are more personable in their habits. 71 percent of them engage in personal/non-business conversation with colleagues daily or weekly, compared to just 42 percent of those on less successful teams.
  • Successful team members reach out across locations. 86 percent of those on the most successful teams regularly reach out to colleagues at other sites merely to keep in touch
  • Dialogue trumps monologue in successful team meetings. 77 percent of those on highly successful teams say less than a quarter of their meetings are one-way monologues. Only 16% of those on struggling teams can say the same

Successful teams collaborate freely wherever they are. Only 16 percent of those on the most successful teams say they are less likely to voice disagreement on virtual calls than they would in face-to-face meetings; compared to 55 percent of those on less successful teams.
I fully appreciate that we are all extremely busy – but I promise you if do make an increased personal effort with your virtual team members – you will reap the benefits. So what are you waiting for? Open your calendar now and book a short virtual coffee break with a colleague you don’t see often, or ever…

It will be the cornerstone of a whole new way to work.

Sally Harrison is the head of social media for Unify, a provider of enterprise communications and collaboration solutions. Since October Unify has placed a huge emphasis on the new way to work – and that while technology is important, it is people’s mindsets and behavior that need to adapt.

One thought on “My Virtual Coffee Break

    […] articles – Enjoy perspectives from guest contributorsHoward B. Esbin, John Milne and Sally Harrison on topics such as serious games, virtual coffee breaks and making teams […]

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