The quick catchup at the coffee machine, a casual chat in the hallway or a conversation at lunch. Having non-work-related conversations can be hard in a remote team.
Having these conversations in a growing team is crucial however. It helps your team talking to people outside of their direct group, which indirectly leads to a better team dynamic and chemistry. It also helps with exchanging knowledge and socializing – if people don't have group members in the same timezone, it can help to at least talk to somebody else who is working on a similar schedule.
These conversations don't happen organically. By using asynchronous communication devices, and utilizing them primarily for work-related things, switching over to a more casual context can feel forced, sometimes even like a time waster. So what can you do?
Apps like Donut could potentially help you to encourage communication across teams and groups. Using Donut or a similar app, you can randomly match team members every week or so, and let them be matched up and talk for that specific week.
In some cases, it can even make sense to set up weekly calls with other team members. In that case, conversation can really feel forced though, so don't do it if initial feedback is bad. It can also be a huge time sink.
By setting up specific 1-on-1s, you get people out of their comfort zone and hopefully plant the seed for further communication after the matchup has ended. This can't be forced - some people click, some people don't. But it can be a good way to get things started.
Create a company culture, then live it
The most crucial part of being able to promote casual conversations, is to create a company culture where it is okay to talk about non-related work things.
As a manager or founder you're an important signal in that process. If you're working 16 hour days and rarely, if ever, share things about your private life and get personal, your team will take this as a sign that it is not okay to do so either.
Imagine what you would like your company culture to be. Are casual conversations even something you're interested in? Are you okay with people having a healthy work-life-balance? Would you like to promote wellbeing and health, or rather hustle and grind?
Whatever you decide on - live it. If you want things to get more casual, take the first step. If you'd like to build a thightly-knit remote company, start with building relationships.