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If you have a dispersed workforce, chances are that you have teammates spread out across the country. You may even have a few coworkers that you’ve never met in person… based on entirely different coasts and time zones! 

While team members may not be able to physically connect on a weekly basis, the most successful remote teams recreate the best parts of an in-person office environment, online. A virtual watercooler model can do wonders to foster community and connection

Getting to know your coworkers also improves your team’s wellbeing and morale. Talking about travel can be a particularly effective way to open the door for further conversation. Travel-focused icebreakers are a great way for coworkers to bond and learn more about each other, especially for geographically diverse teams.

Leverage your team’s geographical and personal differences to your advantage. You can encourage your employees to embrace remote work to its fullest extent by initiating conversations and icebreakers that revolve around travel. By doing so, you can help create strong connections and build a strong remote work culture that reinforces itself.

An illustration 4 people at a table asking each other 4 different travel-related icebreakers that allow you to get to know people better. Questions include, "Describe your dream vacation", "If you could travel to only one other country, which would you choose?", "If money was not a consideration, where would you spend your days?", and "What is one goal that you plan to accomplish during your lifetime?"


The benefits of encouraging travel in a remote workforce 

If you have a remote team, you’re already giving them the gift of a built-in travel network. With such an array of local experts and backgrounds, distant team members are best suited to exchange travel tips and tricks (and maybe even offer some local secrets along the way). 

Some companies even offer subsidized travel to visit other coworkers and spend time together in a physical space! Other companies host quarterly or biannual conferences and offsites to get the entire team in one place. With “bleisure” set to become a $3 billion industry by 2032, there are many opportunities to take to the road. 

Encouraging travel is great too: it’s a way to inspire your employees to take their time off and fully disconnect. It’s easy to send off an email while you’re still at home – harder if you’re sightseeing in another city. 

In some cases, planning a trip is good for your mental health. Research has shown that anticipation for a trip can increase someone’s happiness more than the excitement of buying material goods. This is because people prefer talking about experiences, rather than purchases. 

An open work laptop, notebook and mouse sitting on a desk with a tropical vacation drink nearby. There is a water glass with flowers inside.

Exchanging travel tips at a virtual watercooler builds a strong remote work culture

In a remote capacity, team members have the ability to work from anywhere – so why not work while on the road? While some folks are true digital nomads, living on the road and never staying in one place for too long, others can practice it just by taking their work in a different location every once in a while. 

Regardless of what type of remote worker you employ, having a strong remote headquarters is paramount to making sure your employees are set up for success, no matter where they log in from. Encouraging your team to share tips and tricks about traveling can reinforce the flexibility and culture you’re building. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind when bringing travel talk into the workplace:

  1. Encourage people to be honest but mindful. Every person has a different financial or personal situation. Maybe a teammate can’t take a dream trip due to a sick relative or financial hardship. When talking about travel and vacation plans, be mindful that everyone might not be on the same playing field. You don’t want to alienate anyone!  
  2. Create open communication about time zones and availability. If you’re going to encourage travel and true remote work, make sure your team knows to communicate their hours. If the majority of your team works on the East Coast, but someone is visiting Seattle, a 9 a.m. ET meeting might not make sense. 
  3. Show, don’t tell. Digital tools offer an unique opportunity to express ourselves and share our stories online. Have your employees share photos or videos of their travels and adventures. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words! 
A person working on their laptop by the pool.

Virtual watercooler: Travel edition 

The whole concept about the “watercooler” is based on the random conversations people would have as they’re, well, getting water. Who knows who will be there and what kind of connection they can have in those brief moments?

Part of what makes watercooler talks so enticing is how spontaneous they can be. Some people describe the office watercooler as a liminal space – a place of transition between where you were and your destination. Liminal spaces can even be tied to creativity. 

One downside of remote work is the lack of serendipitous conversations, with some saying it’s impossible to design spontaneity. It’s why companies like Airspeed are focusing on recreating the types of interactions you’d have in-person online for the remote workforce – a virtual watercooler, if you will.  

Slack apps like Icebreakers can help facilitate this process by sending out questions ahead of a meeting (like an all-hands) and pooling responses. Your team can spend time together reading everyone’s replies at the beginning of your meeting. These questions can help connect people and start conversations. Some travel-related icebreakers include:

  • If you could teleport anywhere, where would you go?
  • Where was your favorite place you traveled and why?
  • If everyone came to where you live for a company trip, what’s the first stop on the tour? 

Maps is another app that can help connect people in real life as well. It shows the real-time location of team members, so they can schedule in-person time together, stay connected across time zones, and share upcoming travel plans.

Ultimately, finding ways to encourage travel talk among your team members enables leadership to practice what they preach, and reinforce the type of culture you are building among your team. And who knows – they may hit it off so much, you could have coworking pods throughout the country!

Join the fun – unlock Free Early Access to Icebreakers and Maps by Airspeed.

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