TA Group Holdings

What Happened to the Water Cooler?

What Happened to the Water Cooler?

BY RICK NELSON, TAG CO-FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN OF LAUNCH CONSULTING

"I went into the office last week and found.... a ghost town. Empty meeting rooms, abandoned desks, un-watered plants. As I stood alone in the kitchen that used to be our bustling hub, staring at the forlorn water cooler, I realized I've been thirsting for the serendipity of kitchen conversations."


Just about a year ago the business world saw a titanic shift. Many of us moved to virtual work environments to reduce the spread of a nasty virus. Initially, we thought that might last for a short time. Then, it became clear it would be longer than any expected and longer than some wanted.

Today it’s fairly apparent that some industries will have a significantly reduced office footprint if any at all from that day forward. The whole thing has left me thirsty. Thirsty for human contact. Thirsty for spontaneous brainstorming. Thirsty for the nuggets of personal information that were usually shared in a break room, during a “drop in” visit or yes a random meeting at the water cooler.

In the new work environment I scheduled a call to talk about how to replace the closeness, learning and experience sharing that came with the office experience I had enjoyed. Previously, I’m certain I would have done a drop in visit to see if mine was a shared or singular experience. These new times called for our watercooler replacement, the “Video Conference Call”. The fact that we had to set a meeting to talk about the topic gave it an elevated sense of priority. That wasn’t intended, it just seems to happen when there is a Scheduled time slot, Agenda and Desired Outcome’s. Rather than a light hearted give and take about what I was feeling became a key Corporate Culture topic way before it’s time.

I’ve thought hard and spoken to some trusted folks to create a few actions I can take to return those feelings of closeness, learning and first level problem solving in my new eco system. I’d like to share them:

  1. Allow the first 5 -10 minutes of the meeting to be free engagement on those things that matter to people
  2. Start with empathy. Listen for what others on the call may be feeling or experiencing and ask about it if appropriate or follow up with a call after the conference
  3. Create timeslots for calls that are creative or conversational in nature

I’ve embraced the shift. Now the work begins to find a new water supply.

If you have suggestions on how to stay connected emotionally, professionally and intellectually, I ‘d love to hear from you! Please comment below.

Please send me a note at rnelson@tagroupholdings.com

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