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Encouraging Workplace Community With Water Coolers

hot and cold water cooler

We've all heard of wacky workplace engagement schemes: from obscure challenges to downright boring ones, being forced to interact with coworkers tends to defeat the point -- after all, if you wanted to chat, you'd chat, right?

Apparently not. There are a number of subtle things that influence how we engage and interact with our coworkers; from the layout of the lunchroom to the placement of the cubicles, many different aspects come into play to encourage -- or discourage -- workplace community. As Jessica Yeun discovered when she joined tech startup Gusto in 2014, the location of the office water cooler is one of the major ones.

Location, Location, Location

Yeun became a Gusto member when the company was only comprised of 40 employees, crammed into an office space that was just barely big enough. She described two commercial water dispensers: one in the kitchen, and one in the main office adjacent to an area they called "the living room." After the kitchen water cooler service broke, the living room cooler was moved, and the reaction was instantaneous: with the added distance, employees no longer engaged in short conversations by the commercial water cooler despite the fact that the employees were still friendly with each other. The proverbial "water cooler talk" had ended.

"With these two conversation spots missing, I found I didn't ask 'How's your day going,' or 'What are you working on,' as often," Yeun said. "I missed hearing about my colleagues' last amazing customer calls or tricky engineering bug fixes. Overall, it seemed harder to keep up with what was happening...harder to feel connected."

The Power Of The Water Cooler

It seems ridiculous to believe that something as simple as a hot and cold water cooler could have an impact on the daily conversations of a company's employees, but it's nonetheless true. Introducing a hot and cold water cooler may be the jump-start your business needs to plant the seed of employee interaction due to the fact that the average American is drinking 38% more water than they were 15 years ago. Provided you choose the right placement, employee engagement and satisfaction could soar.

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