Water cooler talk has been an integral aspect of working culture since the dawn of office spaces—or at least since human beings started trading the wilds for the workroom. It refers to the spontaneous conversations that emerge in the workplace when employees are allowed to take their minds off their job for a few minutes throughout the day.

Though water cooler conversations might seem like idle banter that’s not directly related to running your business, the casual conversation may have some hidden workplace benefits. Water cooler talk could help to elevate employee morale, boost productivity, and even create a more collaborative, efficient work environment for your team. 

To promote water cooler team bonding at work, it helps to first understand why it matters. Then, you can take steps to promote this favorable form of fellowship within your own office. 

Why Water Cooler Talk is Good For Business

If you aren’t encouraging on-the-clock conversations between your employees, you could be missing out on huge benefits for your business. 

That’s because water cooler talk isn’t just an opportunity for your team members to gab about the current limited series du jour or catch each other up on their weekend plans. It’s actually a vital time for interfacing, networking, and collaborative thought. 

Here are just a few ways water cooler conversation can be good for business:

  • It boosts morale – When you foster a workplace culture where your employees feel free to chat amongst themselves, they’re more likely to enjoy work and view the office as a place where they want to be, not just a place they have to be. 
  • It builds employee relationships – Water cooler conversations give your employees an opportunity to build more meaningful connections with each other. This helps transform your workplace into an environment where people feel comfortable sharing ideas, collaborating on projects, and asking for help.
  • It encourages collaboration – No matter your specific line of business, your company can’t be successful without the combined efforts of all employees. Whether your water cooler chat area is literal or proverbial, employees from every sector of your business have a chance to interact and converse with one another, which encourages cross-department collaboration and communication.
  • It improves employee retention – Work environment is frequently listed among the top causes of workplace dissatisfaction. Your employees spend a significant portion of their week in the office. When it feels more like an open, positive environment, you end up with a workforce that’s happier and more motivated—and less likely to leave for a new position.
  • It enhances productivity – When your team members feel free to momentarily disengage from their various tasks, they’re able to de-stress, decompress, and recharge their batteries. When they return to their desk, they may feel more refreshed and ready to go.
  • It encourages innovation – It only takes one team member  to ask another how their work is going for water cooler conversations to veer into professional territory. When that happens, colleagues exchange perspectives that can foster new ideas and strategies. 
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4 Tips to Encourage Water Cooler Conversation in the Office 

Now that you know what a boon water cooler talks can be to your business, you’re probably interested in finding out how you can encourage it in your workplace culture. 

Surely there must be ways to foster casual conversations amongst your in person or remote employees, right?

Right! In fact, there’s a lot you can do to encourage socialization in the workplace. A company culture that’s accepting and welcoming of discourse and discussion is the place to start. But how you design your office can also play a big part in how apt your in person or remote employees are to engage in office lively conversation. 

Here are four tips for designing an office that’s conducive to water cooler conversations.

#1 Arrange Work Stations Thoughtfully

Perhaps the best way to encourage water cooler conversation is to arrange your workstations in a way that makes those conversations possible. 

Sure, everybody wants the corner office with the imposing doors and panoramic view. But if you want to break down the metaphorical walls between you, your employees, and their colleagues, you might want to consider dispensing with some of the literal ones first. 

Here are a few ideas for arranging your office furniture in an open, collaborative way: 

  • Open things up – You’ll likely always have a need for some private offices. But if you have many employees working behind cubicle partitions in an otherwise open space, you might want to think about breaking down some of those walls. 
  • Collaborative zones – In your effort to encourage water cooler talks, take care not to run roughshod over your employees’ privacy. In other words, you don’t have to abolish individual workstations to enhance socialization. Instead, perhaps you have an underused conference room or other space that you can transform into a collaborative zone. Fill this space with both large, communal work tables and areas for smaller groups. This can help your employees view collaboration and communication as an option, not a mandate.
  • Make people accessible – It’s possible to design individual offices or workspaces in a way that doesn’t totally remove them from your company’s ecosystem. For example, you might think about doing away with doors or replacing walls with glass windows that give the sense of an open environment, while still allowing for some privacy.
  • #2 Create Flexible Workspaces

    Like inspiration, you never know when collaboration may strike. That’s why you want an office that’s ready and able to transform on a dime to fit the needs of the moment. 

    The solution? Modular furniture. 

    Modular furniture is office furniture that can be used in individual pieces or in larger arrangements for whatever needs arise. 

    For example, imagine that your employee Nancy is sitting at her desk when Phil stops by to ask a question. One minute, Nancy is explaining a business procedure or technique to Phil. Next, they’re collaborating on solving Phil’s problem. Because your office uses modular furniture, Nancy and Phill can quickly rearrange and even conjoin their workstations to facilitate working together. 

    With modular furniture, you can say goodbye to the days of cramped workspaces that prize individual accomplishment over group achievement. 

    #3 Encourage Breaks and Socializing

    Creating an office culture that encourages your employees to take breaks and socialize is among the best ways to facilitate water cooler talks and boost productivity.

    That said, taking time off during the workday isn’t always smiled upon. Let your in person or remote employees know break time is okay by:  

  • Having a dedicated break room – A separate space where your employees can gather and relax is vital to a company culture that prizes water cooler conversations. To quote Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come”—so offer a room with amenities like a coffee station, free snacks, dining tables, and comfy chairs. 
  • Leading by example – If you want your employees to know that idle office informal conversation isn’t forbidden, you can help by participating in it yourself. Take time during the week to visit with your employees and spark conversations that don’t have to do with work. 
  • Building breaks into the schedule – Taking a break from work can benefit the health of your employees and promote water cooler talks. But with so much to accomplish during the work day, your employees might be reluctant to spend too much time away from their desks. To counter that, make room in the schedule for regular, reasonable breaks or fun virtual happy hour games. 
  • Hosting company lunches – Every now and then, take everyone in the office out to lunch. Simply spending time together outside of the office can encourage conversation, inspire collaboration, and build morale. 
  • #4 Have a Variety of Spaces 

    Water cooler talk doesn’t only happen around the water cooler. When it comes to encouraging conversation and collaboration, it’s important to have a variety of areas in your office where those interactions can happen. 

    Here are three spaces to keep in mind: 

  • Large meeting rooms – Depending on the size of your company, you may desire a space where all of your employees can gather together. Large, adaptable meeting rooms with customizable furniture are the best choice here. 
  • Huddle or breakout rooms – For those times when smaller groups are working together, breakout rooms or huddle rooms can be a benefit. You can reserve specific rooms in your office for this purpose. If these aren’t available, consider investing in modular training tables or workstation dividers and panels to easily and instantly compartmentalize your office space. 
  • Lounge areas – Aside from a dedicated break room, it can help to have comfortable lounge areas strategically placed throughout your office. This can facilitate those spontaneous gab sessions on which true innovation thrives.

  • Revitalize Your Workplace With Juniper Office

    Thinking of revamping your office to encourage water cooler talks among your staff? Juniper Office has all the solutions you need. 

    For over 100 years, we’ve been providing offices of all kinds with functional, adaptable, innovative office furniture solutions. That includes everything from desks, cubicles, and workstations to lounge furniture, seating, dividers and panels, and even office storage solutions. 

    At Juniper, we understand the importance of an office environment that fosters conversation, creativity, and collaboration. And we know what a big role the furniture you choose can play in building that environment. 

    Find out what Juniper can do for your office today. 


    Sources: 

    1. Alert-Software. Water Cooler Talk: 6 Tips on How to Make It More Beneficial For Your Team. https://www.alert-software.com/blog/water-cooler-talk 
    2. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management. Workplace environment, employee satisfaction and intent to stay. https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/IJCHM-04-2017-0230/full/html 
    3. Forbes. Flexible Solutions For Wherever The Future Takes Offices. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffsteele/2021/08/28/flexible-solutions-for-wherever-the-future-takes-offices/?sh=4c81ef3d400a 
    4. Michigan State University. Breaks During the Workday - Toward a Respectful Workplace. https://workplace.msu.edu/breaks-during-the-workday/#