When Twitter announced recently that employees could keep working from home forever, it seems to have kicked off a trend. Facebook, Square, Shopify, and several other companies have now followed suit. Many other, lower-profile businesses are no doubt pondering allowing their people the freedom to work remotely indefinitely too. 

But while an all-remote future is great for job seekers in out-of-the-way places and employers fishing in a wider talent pool, it also raises an obvious question: How can a team feel like they're bonded together even though they're permanently physically apart

Zoom, after all, can be both exhausting and awkward, and water cooler talk just isn't available. Or is it? One startup thinks it has found a simple, long-distance replacement. Mariah Driver, head of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Webflow, shared the hack on Twitter recently: 

In the thread she goes on to share a number of questions that have gotten the Webflow team chatting, including: 

  • The coronavirus is gone and the pandemic is officially over. Global travel is back up and you have just won an all-expenses paid, weeklong trip to go anywhere in the world. Where would you go, and why? Who would you bring as your plus-one?

  • What was your best Halloween costume -- as a child or an adult? (Extra points for including a picture with your response).

  • What TV or movie character do you resonate the most with? Why?

  • What was the best gift you received as a kid (for a birthday or holiday)?

  • What is one song from childhood or growing up that you still know all (or most) of the lyrics of?

It's obvious that these light, non-work-related questions might be a fun way to spur the remote equivalent of friendly water cooler chit chat, but why would bosses want to do that? Science has shown that water cooler talk is when many of the most innovative ideas first get floated, and that it helps keep employees up to date on workplace developments (gossip isn't all bad), provides opportunity for short, refreshing breaks, and--assuming it's done with reasonable moderation--generally increases productivity. 

So if you're thinking of following Twitter's example and going mostly or primarily remote, don't forget to consider how you're going to replace water cooler chit chat. That might not seem like the most pressing issue, but friendly this type of bonding is probably a more important part of your company culture than you think.