Back in the day when hybrid working was alien, water coolers were an office essential and water cooler moments an unconscious perk. Unplanned interactions with a colleague, whether making tea in the kitchen or in the corridor enroute to lunch, could often lead to sharing a small piece of business or personal news, sparking further conversation or an idea. Whilst these informal catch ups didn’t feel hugely business focused at the time, studies have shown that ‘water cooler moments’ can increase productivity by up to 10%, boost morale and increase employee satisfaction.
Water cooler moments were in fact a key part of a great office environment, allowing colleagues to chew the fat as they grabbed a drink or snack, making connections with like-minded people or providing some comfort when the pressure was on. One of the main drawbacks of hybrid and remote working is the loss of these informal interactions between colleagues – reducing innovation, knowledge sharing and impacting company culture.
However, there are ways encourage these moments whilst working a hybrid work pattern. Try implementing a few of the following to encourage the return of water cooler moments in (and out) of the office.
Wednesday + 1 philosophy
Wednesday + 1 is the introduction of 2 days per week back in the office. Choosing one day when everyone comes in together, plus one additional day which can be chosen at team or individual level is a great way to ensure everyone can mix, connect and collaborate.
Use office time wisely
Support your colleagues to use their time in the office wisely. Encouraging teams to be in the office at the same time and avoiding numerous Zoom calls can create more opportunity to chat informally. Think about the type of work that works better within a face-to-face environment and create time and space for team collaborations or brainstorms, and creative work.
Have informal Teams or Slack channels
Encouraging channels for discussions beyond business and for lighter conversations is a great way to help colleagues move beyond business as usual. It allows employees to momentarily take their minds off work and discuss life in general even if working remotely. Creating these channels at team level and considering removing managers can make them a much more relaxed space for employees to communicate with each other freely. Such channels can stimulate organic discussions and create safety and trust between teammates.
Create collaboration spaces
The days of everyone needing a desk may be behind us so isn’t it time to rethink your workspace so that your team can collaborate and connect more easily when they’re in the office. Redesigning your workspace, considering the types of work colleagues benefit from in the office, will not only encourage more use of the space, it will help drive productivity when colleagues are in.
Have regular social gatherings outside of work
Having team dinners, offsites and planning team building activities can be vital to stimulating wider conversations. It allows you to get to know your team better, find those with similar hobbies and interests and just come together as a team! These interactions outside the office can lead to friendships and stimulate water cooler moments during working hours, which not only make work fun but also enhances performance.
Hybrid working has made informal interactions at work harder and work design needs a rethink, along with workspace design to support this. Interested in how to create the space to help your people and business thrive, get in touch for a free consultation.