The Link Between Watercooler Talk and Employee Productivity


When we talk about company culture, we often overlook a vital tool in building that culture - the watercooler. This ordinary office item has become shorthand for relationship building with  ubiquitous watercooler conversations acting as a bonding exercise among colleagues. 

Employers might view these breaks as unproductive but they’re actually the opposite. Communication is crucial to performance, and managers who ignore watercooler chat aren’t getting the most out of their team.

Why does watercooler chat matter?

To the average employee, watercooler talk is simply an opportunity to take a break, have a chat, and hang out for a minute before getting back to the grind. But there’s more to this bit of office etiquette than you might think.

Humans are highly sociable animals and we don’t work well in a vacuum. Research shows that employees who chat a lot with their colleagues are happier, more productive, and more engaged with the business overall

Congregating around the watercooler for a quick social break:

  • Relieves workplace stress, promoting employee wellness
  • Gives employees the chance to get to know each other, which leads to them working better as a team
  • Encourages creative thinking and brainstorming in an informal (and therefore non-threatening) environment
  • Improves staff retention
  • Breaks down barriers between senior staff and junior employees

Harnessing the power of casual conversations is a must for managers, but how do you create those watercooler moments when you don’t actually have a watercooler?

How to recreate the watercooler in a virtual workplace

Gone are the days when employees gathered in busy offices. The pandemic may be coming to an end, but its impact on the way we work is likely permanent with the majority of employers now offering fully remote or hybrid models. This gives employees greater flexibility, but it also robs them of the ability to gather and socialize in an office setting. 

Thankfully, technology has the answer, providing plenty of tools that, managed correctly, can help employers create a digital watercooler to build remote but effective rapport.

Messaging and chat functions are the best channels for informal discussion. A recent study from the Prodoscore Research Council shows that these apps are directly related to productivity - the more message and chat usage, the higher productivity within teams. In fact, a company’s productivity increases by 7.7% on days when their internal communication networks are most used.

If your workers need something more structured before they feel comfortable taking breaks, you might want to plan virtual happy hours, coffee mornings or lunch activities to encourage informal bonding. Integrate these into your workspace by creating a channel in messaging platforms such as Slack, solely devoted to non-work related talk. 

Once the tools are in place, you have to let employees know that it’s okay to use them. Often team members are hesitant to be seen taking breaks so managers must use their own communication skills to get the message out. Let your employees know that time-outs aren’t just allowed, they’re encouraged

Prodoscore is an Employee Productivity Monitoring solution which enables managers to understand how their teams are engaged, so they can quickly identify which employees need a break, and which struggle with time management. Secure, unobtrusive, and transparent, the system gives each team member a single productivity score, derived from utilization of various business productivity applications. Contact us today to arrange a demonstration.

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