The Coach's Corner

Is the Lack of Water Cooler Discussions Hurting Learning?

March 8th, 2021 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

We’ve all had to deal with lots of change during the global pandemic. Actually, some of the changes are good. I may post a blog in the future sharing the positive changes in my life/routine. Anyway, I do have a concern about the loss of informal conversations that used to happen in the workplace — commonly referred to as “Water Cooler Talk.” Having  devoted decades in a professional/knowledge-based environment, I’ve been reflecting upon how I learned. Formal classroom training played a small role, while on-the-job training played a much bigger role. As I’ve thought it over for the past few months, I would say some of the most impactful lessons took place at the water cooler. They were unscheduled, impromptu discussions with colleagues about a client and/or business issue.

For years, my office was at the end of a long hallway. When I was working on a sticky client issue, I’d often look down the hallway to see whose office lights were on. Determining who was around was the first step in helping me identify someone who could help me solve my problem. I would stroll or race down the hallway and barge in on them unannounced, then ask the famous question: Do you have a minute? Usually, they’d respond yes, because they knew that at some time in the future, they would be standing in my doorway. This past year, as I’ve engaged in Zoom, GoToMeeting, and other video tools from my home office, I’ve wondered, Would I call/contact others while working remotely? Unfortunately for me, the answer is probably no.

To make matters worse, I think going forward post-Covid, many businesses are going to have large portions of their workforce continuing to work remotely.

So do we have a systemic problem brewing in professions that depend on knowledge workers?

I’d love to hear from you.

First of all, do you agree there’s a potential problem where professionals working remotely will not ask — and therefore will not receive — important knowledge?

Secondly, have you adopted practices to mitigate the loss of Water Cooler Talk?

I can’t wait to get your feedback.

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The Advisor’s Corner

Tom DoescherYou’ll find stories from the trenches, business lessons, and pertinent questions to help you find inspiration, professional growth, and leadership savvy.

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