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Houston expert: How workplace managers can tap into trends to promote engagement

Gone are the days where serendipitous water cooler chats take place. Here's how to promote engagement and socialization in the modern workplace. Photo via Getty Images

Wordle, the trendy daily word game and latest viral sensation, has taken millions of people by storm as they look for ways to feel connected and stimulated during times of isolation. The speed with which the word game took hold and quickly became a daily obsession is an example of society’s desire to participate in a common activity and share their scores and stats.

As managers search for ways to re-engage in-person, remote and hybrid teams, they should take cues from societal trends, behaviors and habits that can be easily adapted for the workplace. A unique tool that can help promote team engagement and serve as the foundation for an ongoing program begins with six letters – Wordle.

Below are ways managers can use Wordle and other activities to promote a cohesive and engaged workforce.

Create a virtual water cooler

Most employers and employees agree that a critical void in the existing work environment is gatherings around the proverbial water cooler, which facilitates daily chats about current events, hobbies and interests, social interactions that build bonds and teams, and opportunities for welcome breaks in the workday to clear the mind.

Managers should create a virtual water cooler by designating time each day for 15 to 30-minute coffee talks, depending on group sizes and workloads, that include semi-structured activities and enable employees to have valuable face time via video conferencing. Managers can poll the team about the best times of the day to host coffee talks. They should explain that while attending the talks is highly encouraged, there might be days when urgent projects/deadlines take precedence. Soliciting volunteers to coordinate and lead activities on a rotating, monthly basis encourages employee participation, promotes leadership skills and enables relationship building. When employees take the lead, they can more easily identify common interests, establish relevant formats and find ways to keep the team engaged and connected.

Develop the format

Managers and volunteers should develop a format tailored to the needs of the team, which can be fluid, structured or a combination of both to provide an optimal coffee talk experience. For example, some teams might need to have unstructured catch-up time every other day with planned activities on the remainder of the days, while other teams might prefer consistent daily activities and/or themes.

One of the advantages of coffee talk programs is that planners can experiment and request input because the ultimate goal is having dedicated time for face-to-face interactions that support an engaged workforce. The format should be inviting and not something employees dread, feel pressure to prepare for, or think is a waste of time. Coffee talks should create buzz and serve as a time that employees look forward to, offering a chance to decompress and leave energized to resume daily tasks. They are also critical for remote workers because it might be the only time during the workday they interact with others. This helps them remain connected to the team, culture and company.

Identify activities

Coffee talks are an ideal setting to incorporate Wordle into the agenda. Teams can create an account to virtually play the game daily, working together to solve the day’s new five-letter word and/or playing several practice games to extend the action. Wordle facilitates team building and encourages even those who are more reserved to take part in the activity. Conversely, employees who play the game at home can share and compare scores/stats from the previous night for friendly competition. Teams can also challenge other groups within the company to a monthly Wordle contest, helping to connect more people and expand networks, which is a great way for new employees to meet others.

An additional theme for coffee talks that can promote employee engagement is discussing the outcomes of sporting events, potential matchups and future winners. For example, the national sporting events get people buzzing and March Madness brackets/games are right around the corner. For employees not into sports, it can expand their horizons and/or even foster new interests and hobbies. In addition, with the prevalence of binge-watching and the continuous introduction of new programming, employees can talk about the latest shows, speculate on cliff hangers and make co-workers aware of new programs.

There are numerous activities that can be incorporated into coffee talks and employees can always find something to talk about that brings them together. Managers who can funnel these interactions into informal coffee talks are leveraging existing resources to encourage employee engagement and filling a critical need to keep employees connected, no matter the environment.

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Jill Chapman is a senior performance consultant with Insperity,a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.

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Building Houston

 
 

BUCHA BIO has raised over $1 million to grow its team, build a new headquarters, and accelerate its go-to-market strategy. Image courtesy of BUCHA BIO

A Houston company that has created a plant-based material that can replace unsustainable conventional leathers and plastics has announced the close of its oversubscribed seed funding round.

BUCHA BIO announced it's raised $1.1 million in seed funding. The round included participation from existing partners New Climate Ventures, Lifely VC, and Beni VC, as well as from new partners Prithvi VC, Asymmetry VC, and investors from the Glasswall Syndicate, including Alwyn Capital, as well as Chris Zarou, CEO & Founder of Visionary Music Group and manager of multi-platinum Grammy-nominated rapper, Logic, the startup reports in a news release.

“I’m excited to back BUCHA BIO’s amazing early market traction," Zarou says in the release. "Their next-gen bio-based materials are game-changing, and their goals align with my personal vision for a more sustainable future within the entertainment industry and beyond.”

The company, which relocated its headquarters from New York to Houston in February, was founded by Zimri T. Hinshaw in 2020 and is based out of the East End Makers Hub and Greentown Houston.

BUCHA BIO has created two bio-based materials using bacterial nanocellulose and other plant-based components. The two materials are SHORAI, which can be used as a leather alternative, and HIKARI, a translucent material that is expected to be formally introduced in November.

The fresh funding will help the company to accelerate its move into the marketplace next year by securing co-manufacturers to scale production. Additionally, the company is growing its team and is hiring for a new supply chain lead as well as some technician roles.

Per the release, BUCHA BIO is working on constructing a new headquarters in Houston that will house a materials development laboratory, prototype manufacturing line, and offices.

BUCHA BIO has the potential to impact several industries from fashion and automotive to construction and electronics. According to the Material Innovation Initiative, the alternative materials industry has seen an increased level of interest from investors who have dedicated over $2 billion into the sector since 2015.

“The time for rapid growth for biomaterials is now," says repeat investor Eric Rubenstein, founding managing partner at Houston-based New Climate Ventures, in the release. "BUCHA BIO's team and technical development are advancing hand in hand with the demands of brand partnerships, and we are excited to support them as they capitalize on this global opportunity.”

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