In the corporate culture, sometimes things are accepted as truths simply because they have been told so often that it is believed that it has to be right. This leads to bad things in some cases as the supposed “truths” that people are giving voice to are not factually based. One such theory is that water coolers are huge drains on employee productivity. The “water cooler” in actuality could be anywhere that co-workers meet on an informal basis.
The “Water Cooler” Meetup
It is almost legend now that employees will gather around the “water cooler” to gossip about the latest goings on in the workplace. A lot of employers accept this as fact and want to believe that their employees are wasting company time. However, real academic research has been done on this very topic, and it has been determined that employees are often more productive when given access to “water coolers.” How can this be?
When a real water cooler is involved, an often overlooked benefit and a big positive for water coolers are the health advantages that they provide. Instead of having a workforce that is dragging, you can have one that is pepped up and happy to be going to work. Air-N-Water.com mentions this in terms of health benefits for drinking water. Keeping employees hydrated will result in a healthier workforce. Hydrated employees will not tire as quickly and end up being more productive.
New Ideas Generated
What was once viewed as idle conversation or gossip is now starting to be recognized as something more. When employees gather around the “water cooler,” they may be talking about the latest movie or office romance at first, but that often leads to other topics. Those other topics are where new ideas can be generated. Those news ideas can sometimes translate to a new ideas for business, and that is what every business owner would like to see happening. Studies show that many productive conversations occur when employees randomly encounter one another.
One of the pitfalls of the digital age is that is hinders the development of interpersonal relationships between co-workers. Virtually all interaction is done electronically by email. The “water cooler” allows for the development of these relationships in an informal atmosphere. These better relationship will result in better collaboration on projects through improved employee relationships.
Studies also suggest that knowledge exploration will not occur until employees have established a level of comfort with one another; this is why socializing interactions, though not always intellectually fruitful, play an important role in promoting more substantial discussion during water cooler run-ins.
Much of the current thinking related to workplace strategy includes having areas within your office for collaboration. Even those offices that are not specifically designed with collaboration areas can take advantage of the “water cooler” effect to allow employees to share ideas, develop personal relationships and hydrate which will end up fueling employee engagement.
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By: James Osgood
Photo Credit: paulswansen via Compfight cc