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Office Chit-Chat: Is It A Distraction Or An Enhancer?

Office Chit-Chat: Is It A Distraction Or An Enhancer?

by Chloe Weldon

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Do you enjoy your quick chat with your colleagues about what you did at the weekend, or that latest show on Netflix you are watching?

Whether your answer is a yes or a no – research from MIT’s Professor Sandy Pentland suggests that, contrary to popular belief, office chit-chat is extremely beneficial to increasing the productivity levels of employees.

Back in 2010, researchers at MIT studied the interactions of 80 ‘Bank of America’ employees in one of their call-centres, over a 6-week period. Trackers were placed on each participant in the form of a badge, but also in their mobile phones – this enabled the researcher to not only collect digital interactions, but also the more nuanced forms of interaction such as body language and tone of voice.

The researchers found that:

“individuals who talked to more co-workers were getting through calls faster, felt less stressed and had the same approval ratings as their peers. Informally talking out problems and solutions, it seemed, produced better results than following the employee handbook or obeying managers’ emailed instructions” – Prof. Sandy Pentland https://www.media.mit.edu/people/sandy/overview/

With these findings, the call-centre managers at the bank decided to rescheduled employee break times to coincide with one another as opposed to staggering them throughout the day. This resulted in productivity improvements equivalent to around $15m USD annually.


So why am I telling you all of this?

Well, I am one of the brave few who has ventured back into the office following the loosening of Covid-19 restrictions. I know the age-old saying is “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” – but in this case, it’s more like “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone for a while, and you get it back after 3 months of lockdown”. A bit more of a mouthful, and I am not entirely sure it will catch on, but you get my point.

Assuming that most recruiters are like me, overtly social beings, it was such a relief to be able to interact in person with my colleagues again. Sharing ideas, having a moan if I needed to, having a quick catch up about the weekend over a quick coffee run. All things that I had very much taken for granted.

Call me old fashioned, but as much as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, FaceTime and all the other new tools did come in handy and provide a social life-line for everyone during the pandemic – I just feel that there is so much more to gain from a face-to-face interaction that can never be mimicked or matched by technology.

I have already noticed a surge in energy within myself from being back in the office, my call time is up, my activity levels are up and more importantly, my mood is up.

So maybe let’s not be too concerned about the resident chatterboxes of the office, or the quick run down to the shops with your colleague, or the people who take their full lunch hour. Let us embrace some of these tactics, and who knows it might just hit that ‘reboot’ button for you and help you absolutely nail the start of the new Financial Year.  

Summary

Please get in touch with me or one of my colleagues here at Richard Lloyd Recruitment if you want to know what is happening in the Accounting market in Sydney right now. You can either call us on 0283245640 or send us an email. Don't forget to follow us on LinkedIn to see our daily updates.