The water cooler is not what it used to be, but it’s still finding its way back into the office. Typically called hydration stations, refresh areas, or water bars, today’s water coolers offer benefits you may have never considered.
Organizational leaders are beginning to grasp that in a world of virtual contacts, meeting and socializing in person—while also satisfying a physical need—can result in enhanced happiness, well-being, engagement, and productivity at work.
Water coolers are a simple and low-cost way to maintain quality of service by meeting the demands of stressed employees in an office setting. There are, however, five significant reasons why every workplace should have one:
While water coolers can offer parched employees a way to quench their thirst, there are additional practical benefits. Water also helps with maintaining a healthy body by assisting with the removal of waste, aiding digestion and respiration, lubricating joints, and causing hormones and neurotransmitters for movement and other functions. According to Psychology Today, not only can proper hydration help with focus and cognitive performance, but it can also improve your short-term and long-term memory.
A water cooler space is beneficial because it encourages people to get up and move around. Any movement throughout the day helps with circulation and metabolism, even if it’s just for a few minutes. According to a Haworth research brief on the Workspace Nudge™, not moving can harm the body.
Regular movement enlivens our bodies to perform as intended—to move. This might assist in avoiding physical harm and discomfort. Our brains function better when relaxed, which is especially relevant for knowledge workers who spend much of their day at a computer screen.
When we can connect with others online more efficiently than ever, it might seem like we have less need for personal interactions. In reality, though, humans still crave face-to-face connection. A water cooler space in the office allows people to have honest conversations that help employees feel part of the team and prevent loneliness.
The water cooler’s casual ambiance also helps to minimize communication gaps between employees and management, as well as those that can come with having four very different generations at work together. People discover common ground in the basic necessity for hydration, which leads to chance encounters and conversations that promote communication, collaboration, trust, and better working relationships.
With technology and globalization, water cooler conversations have shifted from pop culture to work-related topics. These days, people are more likely to discuss yesterday’s brainstorming session or tomorrow’s presentation than they are, ‘who shot J.R.?’ Suggestions for process improvements, solutions for budget issues, and ideas for next year’s product line often come up.
Water cooler chat is a unique, unplanned phenomenon that can result in some of the best conversations. Because people don’t know who they will bump into or what they will discuss, water coolers are off-the-cuff and, therefore, more productive.
Placing a water cooler in the office allows employees to have impromptu conversations with one another, which builds relationships and fosters new ideas.
Under the leadership of CEO Steve Jobs, Apple went through a significant transition. When he was also CEO of Pixar, he strived to create an office space that would “promote encounters and unplanned collaborations.” To do so, he placed the cafe in a central atrium so people from different departments would be forced to see one another more often. According to John Lasseter, Pixar’s former CCO, this redesign was highly effective.
John Lasseter expressed that Steve Job’s theory worked from the very first day declaring that he hadn’t seen an establishment that promoted collaboration and creativity as well.
Even informal talks can allow our minds to wander into new areas and explore, allowing us to come across further information and link concepts that lead to a-ha moments. People may miss out on insights that foster creativity and innovation if they do not have time or space to engage their imaginations. Offering a water cooler space at work—and a leadership team that advocates the use of it—can create a nudge toward behaviors that support health, happiness, and human connection at work.
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