@James here are a couple of things I’ve heard that other teams are using to get people in the mode of more frequent communication:
1. As @Chrisco mentioned, using Slack can be useful, but sometimes our goal is to just get people to “yell across the room” more often. In the virtual world we have to get them habitually using a tool. One way to do this is to make the tool fun. I have some clients that have set up a “Watercooler” channel in Slack, where almost anything goes. It is place to brag about your kid winning an award, a cool recipe you made and loved, posting a funny video of your pet. It is just a place to be yourself and let others see the real you.
2. Some clients are having a daily “game” of sorts. Each day the ScrumMaster sets out a task and the team members show their results. It is always something that is simple so you aren’t taking a ton of time away from work. One is giving prizes to the “overall winner” each week as voted upon by the group. Tasks are things like “Upload a picture of the funniest orange thing in your home” or “Take a picture of a left-handed coffee mug”. It lets people be creative and express themselves. Again, around the theme of letting them be human!
3. Some clients are scheduling watercooler times on Zoom. One has 10:00-10:20 and 2:30-2:50 each day blocked out as an open Zoom for anyone to get on and chat. They have Zoom set up so people can go in and out of breakout rooms for more private conversations if needed. One has created some standard breakout rooms like “Music discussions”, “Sports discussions”, and “Video game discussions”. Again, getting people interacting together.
4. One client simulates “yelling across the room” by having one channel in whatever their collaboration platform is (whether Slack or Teams or whatever) that is deemed the emergency channel. If something comes through that channel it is treated like someone needs help right now. You can ignore discussions in every other channel, but not that one. If a message comes through that channel, someone is drowning and needs to be saved right this minute. The channel is rarely used, but it gets everyone’s attention when it is.
Maybe some of these ideas can help you out. Others of you, please add more ideas!