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I'm working in a small team of developers and often it's very quiet. While that's a plus, it is sometimes a bit awkward if nobody talks for almost the whole day. It feels like you go to work, program the whole day and go home without exchanging more than two sentences with your colleagues.

The companies I worked at before had some sort of daily ritual – everyone would meet at the coffee machine or outside to smoke for 10 minutes or so and chat. I think such rituals are important to get to know your colleagues better and improve the atmosphere at work. I think it's also important to meet outside the office or at least constrain the "chat" time because it'd be very disruptive if some people would talk the whole time (all of us sit in the same room).

The problem with my current workplace is that aside from me nobody drinks coffee and we don't have any smokers either – we also somewhat lack a location to "hang out". Some of us have lunch together, but others don't live far from the office and eat at home (we also have many interns from nearby).

While those of us that have been working here for a while know each other quite well, I feel that more recently hired developers (especially interns) may feel uncomfortable at times.

We have been thinking about what we could do to inspire a little chat everyday, but were unable to come up with a good solution yet. We thought about trying some sort of "daily scrum" meetings, but that would hardly be a relaxed environment for smalltalk.

Now I know that companies like Google get very creative with such things, and I'd be interested to hear how other companies put some social interaction in their developers workday. To sum the up the above:

  • Looking for a replacement of the traditional "coffee break" – an environment for developers to meet, hang out and chat about unrelated stuff
  • Shoud not be obligatory (in case you're busy / don't want to) and not take too long. While I think it's important, we still got work to do. I think 10-15 minutes would be fine (once or twice a day).
  • Looking for something we could do daily. Every two weeks or so all of us are invited to a local pub where we hang out, which is great, but probably not enough to "integrate" new developers. While ideas for events like this are appreciated too, I'm primarily looking for ideas on a daily or at least more regular basis.

Thanks in advance & let me know if something is unclear / not concrete enough

  • 46
    Programmers that do not drink coffee?! What madness is this? ;-) – maple_shaft Oct 1 '12 at 11:59
  • Silence is very important for developers to be able to focus and be productive, but so is social interaction I believe. That's why we're looking for a daily opportunity to talk to each other without disturbing those that want to work. – enzi Oct 1 '12 at 12:35
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    I'm in software development and I've found that pair programming is an excellent way to get to know the members of my team and at the same time grow better at my profession. Pair programming sessions should of course not replace coffe breaks, and it might be hard to get going if nobody has tried it before. – David Pärsson Oct 3 '12 at 11:33
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    "[…]where everyone's right and no one's particularly more qualified to answer[…]" – excuse me, but isn't this true for most other questions on this site? I looked at some of your questions to figure out how I could improve mine, but I fail to see how it is different. Who is qualified to tell you how clean your desk should be or whether or not it's OK to play games during lunch? – enzi Oct 3 '12 at 12:00
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    I'm not saying those questions are not-constructive, I just compared them to my question and found them similar in nature – thus my confusion as to why mine got closed (but I get it now, didn't check the age). Too bad though, the answers so far were very interesting. – enzi Oct 3 '12 at 12:49
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I'd suggest you have some sort of "educational" meetings once a week. One of the team members can voluntarily pick an interesting topic (that has something to do with programming or maths) and tells about it to the others.

We've had such meetings for a while _ 4-5 of us were studying a new technology, so we decided to have such meetings to exchange our knowledge. As it turned out, our interns attended the meetings with pleasure.

The meetings were quite informal and very effective _ we learned a lot and knew each other better. We also noticed that some time later our interns also wanted to pick topics. Attendance wasn't mandatory, but we all were there.

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    +1, you could even suggest to make this into an intern-led activity which will make it even more informal as well as give them some sense of responsibility/ownership – enderland Oct 1 '12 at 15:14
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    We used to have a book group where we could pick a technical or non-technical but work related book and go through it as a group over coffee or lunch. Gradually these meetings became more relaxed and devolved into a sort of a discussion group.. – Luhar Oct 2 '12 at 1:47
  • One place I interned for used to have "Software Video Lunches" every week. Pick an interesting video (or have your coworkers submit one), watch it together, and have a discussion about it afterwards. Example topics: clean code, functional programming, deep learning, ethics, statistics, cool new tech, TED, 3blue1brown's "essence of linear algebra"... :D – Mateen Ulhaq May 9 '18 at 7:24
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How about an afternoon walk break? Everyone knocks off for 15 minutes and walks around the office park. You get to socialize, you get in some exercise which makes you healthier and the break will probabaly be good for productvity too.

13

Perhaps snacks that are out of the normal routine could do the trick? Every once in a while you show up with something people don't normally eat - maybe something sweet and unhealthy (Krispy Kremes, home-made butter tarts, your sister's famous lemon squares) or maybe something healthier than normal programmer fare (a bowl of Honeycrisp apples during their short season, cut up raw veggies, mini sandwiches) - and everyone stops what they're doing for a moment because hey, there's cool food here. You gather around the food and talk about who made it, or who found it if it was bought, and what you like about it, and perhaps some other small talk happens too.

If the company as a whole wants this to happen, seems like a small budget to allow you guys to take turns buying/making stuff, along with a loose schedule for whose turn it is which week, could be pretty easy to arrange.

  • Some of us already bring in cake etc. from time to time – only that right now, we just drop it in the office and everyone grabs a piece when they feel like it. While that's OK too, we should really use this as an "excuse" for all to stop working for a moment, head to the kitchen and enjoy a delicious snack whilst having a little chat. Good idea. – enzi Oct 1 '12 at 12:32
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    We have Bagel Fridays. Everyone loves Bagels. Send out an announcement that they are in the kitchen and come and get them. If you send an announcement, you are more likely to draw a crowd at the same time. – HLGEM Oct 1 '12 at 13:35
7

I know it's not an option to 'replace the coffee break' but still considered important to share as it gave, at some level, similar expected results...

So, have you tried some out-of-office activities? Thinking of integration, I've started a similar wave in my company. We've done so far, two:

  • Paintball
  • Kart racing

And the results are great. Everyone got in touch with other teams' members that, beyond these activities, wouldn't have an opportunity or reason to talk to each other.

Besides these two, there are much more that could be done (even for small groups):

  • A BBQ
  • Championships of some specific games (maybe using the workplace infrastructure, but out of working hours)
  • Participate in neighborhood activities (here in my city there are from time to time cycling nights, organized by the city hall)

It may not help to solve the question (replace the coffee breaks and smalltalks) but may solve the underlying problem (create opportunities to get everyone to better know each other).

Cheers

  • +1 Almost exactly like what we do. My company has "Friday Munchies" every Friday afternoon at 5pm. There is usually something like pizza/bbq/fish&chips/chinese takeaway/etc. etc. Also our IT team sometimes walks down to the local Go-kart track after work. – James Khoury Oct 2 '12 at 5:21
  • some offices have so toxic environment that there is no way yo can plan this activities no body will attend :( – kifli Aug 3 '16 at 11:15
5

At our office, we have a small area aside from the working environment with a sitting group and a dart board. We started to play casually for 5-10 minutes almost every day, giving us a break from work and a simple way to have an informal gathering with non-business talk.

A game like darts sounds like a good replacement for a coffee break when no one around drinks coffee (in a parallel universe?) !

3

Have lunches togather if possible , I regulary have lunch with my team , almost 50% of my communication happens here. At end of each sprint[we follow agile], we go out for bowling , paintball or something similar. I also found it helpful to workout with my team mates.

1

You can suggest having regular "stand-up" meetings.

Our small developer team recently started meeting for about 15 minutes every other morning in the hallway, and we just stand-up during it. Its a great way to open up communication between the developers and our director, and we all have a chance to bring up any serious issues we're facing.

0

Cross training.

Our manager created a goal that requires us to cross train in different areas. This means that we must get up out of our seats and talk to the other developers to gain knowledge in an area we do not have.

This also greatly helps the program and is a win-win solution.

  • how do I +1 my own answer...this is a really good one... – Greg McNulty Oct 11 '12 at 21:57

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