The water cooler gets more than its fair share of bad press. Many management teams across various sectors see it as the place where people congregate. And, if people are gathering it means they are gossiping, which means that they are not working. It might be that Debbie from accounts has something deliciously juicy to tell Sarah in Sales about Alan in the depot. But you’ve spotted Debbie there before, ranting then to the dozen to Sarah but then, you have always known that Debbie finds working in accounts stressful at times. Or maybe that conversation between Brian and Jason is about clearing the air over an email that was sent last week that Brian was not happy with. Or maybe that conversation with David about the lack of spare toilet roll in the downstairs washroom is taking place by the water cooler. In other words, some of these conversations are needed, with the outcome required to move people on and to move the business on. They all service a purpose. Unfortunately, these conversations are not given the value that they deserve thus when employees spot management ‘watching them’, they chuck their cups in the recycling bin and scuttle off, to continue the conversation via email. Possibly. The truth is that the water cooler has a Return of Investment (ROI), the tentacles of which snake across your company or business without you noticing. But, there again, once they are pointed out to you, you may have realised… So look beyond the water cooler as being a place of despotism and revolution, and see it as something innately positive for your business:
- Water is good for all your employees
In the UK, every business has to ensure that its employees have access to clean, safe drinking water and thus, your water cooler ticks that box.
It also has significant health benefits too. While Debbie is venting her spleen about yet another lost invoice in accounts, she is taking in water and letting out stress. Dehydration, even in its mildest form in its early stages, causes the brain to shrink or shrivel, experts would have us believe.
And a shrivelled brain is no good for functions such as short-term memory. Water also help people to function in many other ways too, including psychomotor functions that impact on how well someone focuses on a screen, reading the material, as well as concentration and hand to eye coordination.
The longer term also helps the body to flush out toxins, as well as bugs that compromise the immune system. So, they may congregate at the water cooler for a few sessions now and then, but water is good for everyone, so why not?
- Boost productivity
We have already mentioned how water is needed to keep the brain plump and hydrated for the human body to function, and to function well. But productivity is given a much bigger boost that this.
Taking a break now and then – even if it is a few minutes’ walk to the water cooler and back – can help an employee focus on the task in hand. To a certain extent, to control this ‘down time’, industry tend to set prescribed break times.
Unfortunately, as employees we can go too far the ‘other way’, spending eight hours a day at work and not taking breaks or lunches. Our brains are not wired to spend extended periods of time focussing and concentrating on the minutiae for long periods.
And why aren’t employees taking this time? Guilt was the main answer to a study carried out by a well-known stationery. Guilt that their managers would think that they are not working and not interested and so on.
- Collaboration = Innovation
Think about those work-related conversations that have turned into something great… those type of things could be happening around the water cooler. For systems to work better, everyone who is part of it needs to understand the role and part that other people play.
There is nothing wrong with people crossing paths, chatting, sharing ideas, connecting and exchanging thoughts and ideas.
Is your water cooler doing all this?
The water cooler can be an active place for people to meet. So the next time you are flying about the office, why don’t you stop and have a cup of water – and chat with the employees that are stood there? You could learn something valuable too and find your next big business idea too.