It’s needless to say that anyone who has been fortunate enough to adopt the work from home model during this pandemic has enjoyed sleeping in, not commuting, and embracing the elastic waistband. That being said, it’s been over a year for most of us and there are some things for which there is no substitute. Interacting with coworkers via video calls just isn’t the same as the natural office socializing and conversations that used to occur on a daily basis in “the before times”.
As vaccinations roll out and hope for getting things back to normal glimmers on the horizon many of us are looking forward to heading back to the office. However, this is still months away at best and a little water cooler chit-chat would be really nice right about now.
Here are 3 reasons why making time to socialize with coworkers during work hours is a good thing for all of us to do.
1. Conversations can offer social support.
Whether you live alone or have a full house, this pandemic has left us all feeling isolated. We may not have ever realized it before, but regular conversation with our colleagues is a great system of support. When left to our own devices we are more likely to stew on something that is bothering us and the opinions of an unbiased third party help to give us perspective. And this is a two-way street. Your coworkers benefit from you weighing in on certain subjects as well, and hearing the opinions of others help us to make sense of the world around us.
Surprise a coworker with an impromptu call that’s not about work.
It’s important to remember that there’s a work-life balance during working hours as well. Without regular distractions to break up the monotony of our days, it’s more challenging to turn off “work mode” at the end of the day. When every ping and notification that comes through your work device is a potential increase to your workload, the stress associated with this home invasion builds. But if those notifications were also associated with a welcome conversation, some good news, or a funny story, we’d be nurturing the feeling of support from the people we work with and this is a great remedy for feeling isolated.
2. Improved communication at the office.
We may think that back-to-back meetings with our co-workers is keeping us connected but when all you talk about is pushing forward on the latest assignment we don’t really get to know who we work with.
Devote a chunk of your next meeting to shoot the breeze.
This type of casual conversation injects a new type of energy into your regular meetings and offers a fresh change of pace. Getting to know your coworkers on a more personal level promotes mutual respect and understanding which helps us to be more empathetic when regular work challenges come up.
3. Boost productivity.
Believe it or not, talking about something other than work can give you the motivation to get things done. Have you ever hit a roadblock on a project? Whether it’s writer’s block or you’ve exhausted an idea to its fullest, stepping away from your work is a great way to refill your creative mojo. Chances are good that a coworker is experiencing the same dip in motivation at any given time and would love to give their brain a much-needed rest. After a quick reset you’ll be ready to tackle that problem with a fresh set of eyes.
Schedule some time to catch up.
At Blade we are all about the “Coffee Chats.” These allow us to take a break, relax, and have a conversation about something interesting outside the regular day-to-day work stuff. This helps to promote positivity and work always seems easier when you’re in a good mood.
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When our only facetime with colleagues are the regular video meetings about ongoing projects, we break down our relationship to one that is based solely on deliverables. Wouldn’t it be nice if the next time someone asked if we had five minutes to chat it was just to catch up and see how you’re doing? You could argue with everything closed, nothing new ever happens but in a world so deprived, something as trivial as a new Netflix recommendation goes a long way.
Conversations are also important for our mental health, especially right now. Some of us are at home alone with no one around to talk to, some have screaming children running around and popping on our Zoom calls. It’s important to remember that regular friendly conversations are an important part of the job, and they’re a great reminder that it’s okay to press pause. Studies have shown that even a few minutes of a chat by the digital water cooler can improve cognitive functions.
Start making these conversations a task in your day, set a reminder to reach out to a coworker for a little social session!