Ah…the water cooler. It’s where we go to take a break, and of course, hydrate. The water cooler has grown to be an entity of its own in any office — sometimes, it’s not even a water cooler. It can be the kitchen, candy bowl, or coffee machine. What it represents, however, doesn’t change: a place to re-connect with your peers at the office. Sometimes, some of the best discussions take place around the water cooler, ideas coming up on the spot.

What if your employees aren’t in the same office? The water cooler is an essential part of any company’s culture and crucial to your employees feeling like a team, even if they aren’t working on the same project together.

Brainstorming sessions are important and the informal sessions around the water cooler are just as valuable.

So how do you create a virtual water cooler for your company? By creating a virtual space for them to check in when they can (especially if they’re in different time zones) and contribute to the conversation. Of course, instant messaging and emails are incredibly helpful with this — but a dedicated virtual space, a virtual water cooler, is key for your company’s culture.

This is where an internal social network, a place where your employees can communicate with each other and use their goals as a guide for discussion, comes in. As a successful manager, it’s your job to make sure that your employees are team players.

Virtual offices and teams are becoming more and more common. As you and your company move forward embracing the virtual model, you can still help maintain an old-school feel for your employees.

Whether it’s physical or virtual, don’t neglect the water cooler.