Remotely working: Recreating the office chance-meetings

One benefit offices have is the chance to meet and chat with people in the organization you wouldn’t have otherwise.

It can happen in the kitchen while preparing your lunch, by the coffee machine, or when you take a walk to free up your mind. It’s random, and it creates connections between people from different parts of the organization, leading to partnerships and cross-domain projects down the road.

Every book about the history of the tech industry and of silicon valley in particular mentions the magic of Xerox PARC. How all the smart people were there, and just the ability to meet up randomly and then team up for a project created so much innovation. We need this kind of connectivity and random meetings in the remote work environment.

The subject of random talks and cross-organization networking is broad. We can dive deep into the why which will lead to a better understanding of how exactly to do that. Matching up people for one-on-ones randomly? Or maybe by departments? What about ignoring the job positions and matching people by interests? Suggest a topic for them? How long should the meeting be?

I’m working on an essay to explore these questions, but the low hanging fruit is the fact that creating a place for random meetings between people from the organization is obviously beneficial.

And if something is valuable for businesses - you can be sure there will be products selling this value.

Even though you can manually manage it with elaborated Excel sheets (as pretty much everything in this world) it’s much easier and convinient to use a tool designed specifically for this, lets explore some of them:

ChatFox

ChatFox offers diverse tools for team engagement in chats. Their “coffee break” feature is the one to create random chats in the organization.

As far as I can see you can’t control who matches with whom, nor can you “force” weekly meetings like this through the tool. But it is a nice basic tool for this purpose, and maybe some of their other cool features will be useful for you as well (:

Donut - remote connection

This tool is more elaborated on the “chance meetings” features. It allows for a selective group of people to be chosen from by creatin dedicated slack channels and it has nice features around new hirees.

Meetloaf

This is the first tool in the list that does not require Slack. It works around team members’ calendars to find spots to schedule one-on-ones with other random team members.

Coworker Coffee

Once you have a profile, this tool will regularly introduce you to new colleagues as well as allow you to explore more about known acquaintances. It provides scheduling tool and the worker’s profiles are within the same app (as opposed to those relying on Slack or simply Calendars links)

Office Roulette

Self-explanatory name. But this one requires an app or browser extension to work with. It has a decent free version, too.