How team chat online is used to build trust and collaboration

How team chat online is used to build trust and collaboration

Keeping the ‘water cooler’ conversation alive through team chat online is an essential part of managing effective teams that work from home. But how do you do that?

One of the biggest impacts of COVID19 has been that people who were once working in the office are now working from home. As a result many people have lost that incidental “oh Bill, while I see you here in the lunchroom …” kind of conversation. This can have a large impact on the cohesion and communication of teams new to online ways of working.


These casual water cooler conversations are an essential part in the cohesion and collaboration of organisations and teams. These informal conversations are how people at work get to know each other, build trust and resolve issues. These are the conversations about sports tipping, lunchtime rugby, the annual curry competition or going out for Friday night drinks.

While it might be easy to discount these conversations as meaningless and pointless, the reality is they are not. All of which are essential to a high performing organisation. Without a place for people to have the “how are you going?” causal conversations, it becomes very difficult to build an effective team.

When you shift to working from home, you lose those physical spaces where these important but informal conversations would naturally occur. As a result, building trust in the team can be more difficult when working online. That is unless you have in place the right tools that support informal conversations.


Working online doesn’t not mean that working teams need to lose the capacity for informal conversations. It just means that you need to provide appropriate channels through which they may be conducted. It is essential to encourage people to use these tools and maintain informal connections throughout the team.

Message boards and video chat are essential tools in the modern online workplace. For organisations using the newly renamed Microsoft 365, Microsoft Teams offers an excellent selection of chat and video calling tools for just this purpose. Other online team chat options include WhatsApp and Slack.

These tools enable informal conversations among the members of an online team. This makes them essential component for the success of all teams who work online.


Trust is created when people can converse and share ideas. It means having the freedom to push boundaries and challenge ideas. It means being about to have conversations about how people are feeling about the work and the people involved. This only happens in an environment where people feel confident that they are not being watched.

As an employer you do not own or have right to know about every conversation that your employees undertake. Nor should you want to, as this achieves nothing but undermines trust within your teams and organisations.

In a digital workplace, it is essential to provide online team chat channels for informal and throw away conversations. At work as in life, privacy of conversation between people is an essential part of building trust and performance This means allowing your team to use online team chat software in ways that are not maintained as permanent records and where individuals can delete conversations and messages as they see fit.


When you begin working online the convenience of physical location is lost.  This greatly reduces the opportunity for incidental conversation between team members. The digital alternative to the water cooler or lunch room is for these important team building conversations need to occur across online team chat tools. Providing your staff with access to these channels and active encouragement to use them, will help you to restore the trust and collaboration within your team no matter where they are.

For more tips about working online, download our free ebook: 10 Lessons about business software that will save your time and money

Carl Sudholz is the founder at AGContext and specialist in the integration of information technology within organisations. He holds two degrees, is a certified Business Analyst and a Director of the Australia Chapter of the International Institute of Business Analysis. Carl’s expertise and experience spans 15 years serving public, private and non-for-profit organisations to take control over technology.