The modern office: reviving water cooler talk

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The time-honoured tradition of employees shooting the breeze around the ‘water cooler’ (or in the kitchen, between desks, in the hallway…) may seem like a waste of time in today’s fast-paced, productivity-focused business world.  


But believe it or not, the role of casual conversation in the workplace can have enormous benefits for businesses. 


Let’s dive into the details… 


Why should you embrace workplace chit-chat?


It turns out that rather than hindering productivity, water cooler talk could actually be the ticket to your company’s success — and here’s how. 


Builds company culture 


So-called water cooler chats can help enhance company culture by bringing people together on a personal level.  


Through quick daily catchups, employees can forge new connections and deeper relationships with their co-workers — or even other professionals sharing the same office space. Creating this sense of community is essential for providing a fun, relaxed, productive work environment — and proven to increase engagement and retention… 


According to Harvard Business Review research, 58% of employees are more likely to thrive in a work environment when there’s a good sense of community — and 66% are more likely to stay with their organisation. So, developing a friendly company culture is good for business as well as your employees’ well-being! 


Encourages team collaboration


With (on average) 50% of employees spending their workday engaged in collaborative work, ensuring your teams can work together effectively is vital to managing heavy workloads and boosting creative idea generation. 


Collaboration is much easier when employees already have mutual trust and respect — and taking short breaks to discuss non-work-related topics can help build these connections and spark new creative ideas… 


For many of us, our best ideas come when we’re not forcing them. Time spent away from the desk, without pressure, could be just what your team needs to come up with ‘the next best thing’.  


Increases facetime with management


As a business leader, you’ll know how important it can be to be a visible and accessible figure in the workplace — and the ‘water cooler’ could be just the place to break down traditional office hierarchies. 


We’re not saying ditch the title and dive into the gossip, but relaxed chats can go a long way in improving work relationships, gaining informal feedback and developing a better sense of your company’s culture whilst making staff feel valued and comfortable. 


How can you encourage casual conversation at work?


So, it’s simple: when done right, water cooler talk can be great for business. But it seems to be a fading relic of pre-pandemic times, with virtual teams spanning the country (or globe) and increasing pressure for companies to prioritise their profits.  


Want to revive the art of casual office chat? Here are our top tips… 


Plan informal team breaks


Schedule a time every week, like half an hour every Friday afternoon, for team members to indulge in relaxed conversations without agendas. 


Putting these meetings in your employees’ calendars helps facilitate team bonding without staff worrying they’re wasting company time. Checking in with colleagues and de-stressing during the workday can also help prevent burnout and feelings of isolation — especially for your more introverted employees. 


Speaking of which… 


Keep everyone involved


At the end of the day, not everyone has the gift of the gab — and even organised fun can be a little overwhelming.  


Luckily, these water cooler sessions are perfect for small groups of staff, providing introverted employees the opportunity to engage in casual chit-chat.  


Give more reserved team members the chance to prepare for a breakout session by scheduling it in advance and sharing topics of discussion ahead of time, helping participants feel more confident about getting to know their colleagues. 


Which leads us nicely to… 


Get creative with casual breaks


As the work week gets more and more hectic, employees may feel like random nattering isn’t too high on their list of priorities. So, make these breaks creative, engaging and personalised. 


Think: upgraded version of book club. Try setting a new prompt each week — books, TV shows, sports, etc. — for your team to explore and debate. Participants can share their recommendations and opinions and get hooked on new hobbies and interests outside of work.  


Find the right environment 


Choosing the optimum workplace setting is crucial for businesses that want to embrace the water cooler chat whilst striking the right balance between collaboration and productivity. 


That’s where private offices in coworking spaces come in — offering something for everyone. 


With access to quiet meeting rooms and exclusive phone booths, staff can get their heads down in isolation — whether for strategic business meetings, confidential calls or even kicking back and enjoying their downtime.  


At the same time, team members who want the freedom to brainstorm new ideas, decompress and connect with their colleagues don’t have to miss out, with access to shared social spaces and breakout rooms.  


Plus, by mingling with coworking neighbours — from freelancers to CEOs — employees can tap into a network of like-minded people, presenting new opportunities for your business. Coworking spaces often host after-work drinks, social get-togethers and other networking events, which are the perfect places to strike up water cooler chat and connect with other professionals.  


Sound too good to be true? We know of a flexible office space you can rely on… 


Working from The Brew’s private office spaces in London means you can reap the benefits of superfast 1 GB Wi-Fi, an expert concierge service, social events and much (much) more. Keen to get involved? Discover The Brew’s office locations and get in touch to discuss your requirements today.