People usually worry about recreating the serendipitous water cooler talk in a remote context. In fact Marissa Goldberg (@mar15sa on Twitter) has a great thread about this very topic. It's an important and worthwhile consideration as a leader.
Today though, I'm going to turn the issue on its head, and talk through something you may not have thought about. Unlike the water cooler in the office, or Zoom rooms, Slack is the water cooler that you're always waiting around at. Past and present. Because the history is there. The conversation can be picked up now as if you were there at the point in time where it took place.
Rather than having to deal with the traditional water cooler FOMO, because you weren't there you can't chime in, Slack allows you to turn that on it's head and realize you are always "there" for the conversation. Because "there" is just a matter of scrolling up a bit.
This challenges us to figure out, much like chatter in an open office, what do I ignore, vs what do I actually jump in and contribute towards?
This is an open ended question. It will vary a lot depending on the organization. The general advice I'd give is to consider your organization, prioritize chats that are directly related to your team, followed by your area of expertise. I'd also give it some decay value, where past a certain age, it's likely no longer valuable to chime in. Finally, ask yourself what are the costs to the organization if you opt out of conversation necromancy and don't reanimate these Slack threads?
I'd love to hear about how do you and your teams deal with this water cooler that defies time and space. Email me or @brit_broderick on Twitter.