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Mint Lounge: The benefits of small talk, even on Zoom calls

01 Apr 2021
According to the researchers, "On days workers made more small talk than usual, they experienced more positive emotions and were less burned out."

Originally found at Mint Lounge, by Shrabonti Bagchi.

The pandemic has taken many things from us that we would earlier indulge in fearlessly—going for a movie, relaxed Sunday brunches, a quick swim—and for most of us, office water-cooler talk falls in that category. While some people may prefer highly focused virtual meetings, the more social and outgoing among us miss the casual chit-chat of the physical office, whether it was sharing anecdotes over lunch, catching up on personal stuff while waiting for everyone to show up for a meeting, or the quintessential water-cooler conversations.

Casual work-talk is also often more productive than focused ‘brainstorming’ meetings—throwing around ideas with a colleague can lead to breakthroughs that happen organically and spontaneously. All this and more are now gone from our lives, hopefully temporarily, as the work-from-home situation continues.

A study published in the Academy of Management Journal by researchers Jessica R. Methot, Emily H Rosado-Solomon, Patrick Downes and Allison S Gabriel looked at the effects of casual work chatter on a small cohort and came up with some pretty interesting findings. The paper ‘Office Chit-Chat as a Social Ritual: The Uplifting Yet Distracting Effects of Daily Small Talk at Work’ reported the results of the study that the authors conducted over a 15-day period on 151 workers. “Although small talk comprises one-third of adults’ speech, its effects at work have been discounted…. Results showed that, on one hand, small talk enhanced employees’ daily positive social emotions at work, which translated into heightened organizational citizenship behaviors and well-being at the end of the workday; on the other hand, small talk disrupted employees’ ability to cognitively engage in their work... Combined, results suggest that the polite, ritualistic, and formulaic nature of small talk is often uplifting yet distracting,” the authors say in the abstract of the paper.

Continue reading the original article at Mint Lounge.

Read the original research in Academy of Management Journal.

Also read this AOM Insights summary citing this research.

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