The Surprising Benefits of Water Cooler Talks
Water cooler talks have always been the unsung hero in the story of office productivity. With the opportunity to talk informally, much can be achieved with a stroll to rehydrate.
On the surface, you might glance and see distracting conversations, mostly personal and therefore ‘pointless’ in the corporate world, but human interaction is intrinsic to our working relationships. There are a variety of proven benefits that come with engaging with your colleagues in this way… an informal chance to catch up without another long meeting, it allows employees the chance to relax and unwind with a break away from their digital screen.
Whether an office has an open-plan layout or another style of office architecture, the addition of a water cooler can make a huge difference in the way that employees work and enjoy their work environment.
What are the top 8 benefits that come with water cooler talks?
1) They give employees the chance to have the necessary physical and mental breaks
Giving employees the chance to take a break from work, they can de-stress. Often, employees might feel like they are swamped with the amount of work that they have been given. A water cooler talk will give them a moment to take a moment and regather their thoughts so that they can approach the task at hand in a positive way.
2) They can result in fresh ideas and improved engagement
When employees take a break to talk, they will usually return to their desk feeling energised and ready to carry on with work. A break can also result in fresh ideas being created, as employees can informally brainstorm. Sharing different perspectives on a project, it’s a more casual way of working that can transform a task.
3) It makes work more enjoyable
Often people will get wrapped in a task that they are doing, forgetting to take a much-needed break for their sanity. When work is getting too much and it starts to become a chore, rather than a passion, a water cooler talk should be on the cards. Building team rapport, informal chats give employees the chance to swap stories about their outside life, what they are doing on the weekend, etc. which will result in meaningful interactions between the employees. This also can result in a strong foundation when it comes time to collaborate.
4) It will break the barrier between managers and other employees
It’s beneficial to have a good relationship with your manager so that you can work with them without fearing them. Water cooler talks allow you to have a catch up with them away from the pressure of a formal meeting and will give you an opportunity to get to know them better. Breaking down the barrier, they will become more approachable and it will improve the teamwork within the business. As you become more familiar with them, you can ask for support when you need it.
Similarly, water cooler talks can result in you bonding with an employee in another department. Encouraging a healthy work culture, it will persuade you and others to branch beyond your team.
5) They are healthy for the mind and body
Modern professionals understand the need for a healthy workplace. With tension and stress rising in busy periods, water cooler talks are a way of taking a moment for yourself.
Even though a staff member’s health might not be a top priority for many organisations, it’s important that it becomes one. A healthy employee will maintain a positive mindset, turn up at work on time every day and is enthusiastic within their role. Stress from work can have a detrimental effect on their health, resulting in devastating repercussions. It’s vital that an organisation takes this into account and encourages informal breaks and chats between employees – for the sake of their mental and physical health.
In terms of physical health, it’s good for a business to showcase the importance of leaving your desk to a walk around the office. When the weather is hot, it’s also important to portray the importance of drinking a lot of water each day so that they don’t get dehydrated.
6) It will help to bring employees out of their shell
People often quit their jobs as they don’t feel comfortable within the workplace. This might be because they are working at a business that doesn’t encourage informal conversations between their employees, or because there simply isn’t casual opportunities to talk.
When you are nervous about interacting with others in a group situation, a water cooler talk is a great chance to get to know other people informally and casually taking away some of the pressure. A huge step in the right direction to collaborating, it will help to develop a relationship with them that will continue throughout your time at a company.
7) It gives employees the chance to practice their conversational skills
When you are working on a computer all day (maybe with headphones on), there might be little time for conversation with your employees. Conversational skills are key, no matter what industry you are working within. A water cooler talk will give you the chance to work on your conversational competence, improving productivity and growing the relationship you have with others at work.
8) It will give you the chance to get to know remote workers
When you are a freelance or remote worker, there might not be many opportunities to get to know those who work solely in the office. When they come into the office for a meeting or a project, it’s a good time to talk to them informally and become familiar with them over a chat at the water cooler.
There have been many studies conducted over the years to determine the impact and benefits of water cooler talks.
One particular study by Iris Y. Lin & Catherine T. Kwantes found that “Results indicated employees who engaged in high levels of private interaction with co-workers were expected to be better liked, to receive better performance evaluations, were more likely to receive co-worker assistance, and were thought to be more likely chosen for future projects”.
These results support the benefits that are listed above, demonstrating how water cooler talks are a great tradition that should continue to thrive. Making employees jobs more enjoyable, improving the productivity and strengthening the foundation of the business, there are an array of positive results that can come with encouraging water cooler talks within your organisation.
 Lin. Y, I and Kwantes. T, C – ‘Potential Job Facilitation Benefits of “Water Cooler” Conversations: The Importance of Social Interactions in the Workplace’ (2014), p 239-262, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00223980.2013.874322