Water Cooler Convos: Employee Bonding or Time Waster?

June 22, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Workers who love to hang out by the office water cooler for some daily chitchat may actually be doing their employer some good by more effectively bonding with their colleagues.

That was one indication of a new survey by Menlo Park, California-based OfficeTeam, a staffing service specializing in administrative professionals, according to a press release.

Four in 10 respondents said water cooler conversations increase productivity. However, only 21% of executives polled agreed, the release said.

“Informal discussions at the water cooler or in the lunchroom can often lead to new ideas, stronger work relationships and improved team camaraderie, which, in turn, can increase productivity,” said Diane Domeyer, executive director of OfficeTeam, in the release. “Conversations should not interfere with work that needs to be done. If talks steer away from business issues and continue for extended periods of time, it’s distracting to others. In these cases, the dialogue should be continued after office hours.”

Some 30% of workers and 41% of managers said water cooler conversations do not matter either way, while just over a quarter of employees (26%) and 34% of managers asserted that the water cooler goings-on were nothing more than a big time-waster.

Two surveys developed by OfficeTeam were conducted by an independent research firm and include responses from 150 senior executives at the nation’s 1,000 largest companies and 539 full- or part-time workers.