“Social interactions between workers characterise the way things get done in an organisation. Employees are more likely to display innovative and speculative behaviour at work when enough of their colleagues do likewise.”

By Ian Horswill


Posted on October 24, 2019

Workers chatting around the office watercooler is often a bone of contention for fellow colleagues, let alone managers and CEOs.

However, new research published in the journal Games and Economic Behaviour, reveals the importance of workplace chatter.

Economists from the University of Sydney, Kyoto University, Japan, and Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, explain how managers can tinker with their organisation’s structure and physical work environment to harness workers’ informal interactions for the firm’s advantage.

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“Our model is based on the already well-documented fact that humans are particularly good at mutually beneficial collaboration,” said Associate Professor of Economics Andrew Wait, from the University of Sydney’s School of Economics.

“Social interactions between workers characterise the way things get done in an organisation. Employees are more likely to display innovative and speculative behaviour at work when enough of their colleagues do likewise.”

Associate Professor Wait said that if the company does not have a watercooler – anywhere small groups of employees can chat and collaborate away from their formal working space – employees are much less likely to share their ‘risky’ ideas and intentions.

“These ideas are precisely those needed to fuel innovation and productivity and improve culture in the workplace,” he said.

The economists recommended company bosses include job rotation programs, which see workers rotate through tasks or roles at the same firm. Communication and collaboration can also be encouraged by the structure of the workplace and through informal social events.

However, the economists warn that the larger a team, the less likely members are to engage in watercooler discussion which impacts on the firm. They also argue innovative research divisions often need to be kept separate from the rest of the business, to foster collaborative idea sharing – an essential element of innovation.

It is also important to remember that water intake is important. The human body approximately consists of 70% of water, our brain is made up of about 75% water while our blood consists of about 80% of water. The best way to stay hydrated is to have a regular intake of water: about 250ml every half hour throughout the day, especially during the productive hours of the day.

This way the brain can function properly and the mind is less likely to go wandering when working. Tiredness can be a symptom of dehydration as the brain is signalling for more water intake. Hunger can also be a sign of thirst.