A Gallup survey from this year states that 43 percent of employed Americans say that they spent at least some time working remotely. As employees push their employers to accept remote work, HR managers are looking for ways to maintain a company culture and collaborate with each other without missing a beat.
In order to work efficiently and accurately, employees need to maintain communications about every aspect of their responsibilities, schedules, projects and more, ensuring that everyone is on the same page. Technology advances have made conversation even more central to the everyday workflow, with email, texting, messaging apps and other new technologies making conversation faster and more convenient throughout the workday.
Many businesses are making use of chat apps such as Slack, GChat, and HipChat to enable personnel to communicate instantly and continually. These highly capable programs do much more than promote watercooler conversation—they allow meetings to take place on the fly and without relocation, provide separate communications channels for vendors and clients, and support easy sharing of images and files between coworkers without cluttering email. In fact, a recent Slack survey reports that users see an average 48 percent reduction in email usage and 25 percent reduction in meetings. There are multiple benefits of instituting this kind of network chatting service in your workplace.
Surprisingly, watercooler conversation itself also comes with benefits for your workplace and employees. Many employers look down on watercooler chat, thinking that it hinders productivity and encourages personnel to waste time and interrupt important business for unrelated topics. However, there are many benefits to permitting coworkers to talk about non-work topics. Building employee relationships helps to grow your company culture, helping coworkers feel comfortable and engaged with each other. It helps to smooth relationships along the employee hierarchy, making employees more comfortable with their bosses. And breaks from work have been proven to actually increase productivity, by allowing mental rest and rejuvenation. Letting your employees chat at work helps to grow your culture and promote connectivity between employees.
In addition, instituting a work-wide chat service helps to make efficient dispersal of information and of work product. Most chat services integrate functionality for filesharing, allowing you to easily send documents, images and other files through the workplace network for editing, routing and approvals. Search functionality allows these files and specific topics to be easily found.
As technology makes it possible to do more and more work remotely from the central workplace, employee chat is an important mechanism for keeping remote employees engaged in your process. Chatting allows these employees to be in constant contact, much as if they were on the premises, and to feel involved in workplace culture and decision making. As fostering a healthy work environment is essential to employee satisfaction, including remote employees in the workplace chatter can help them learn the office quirks, feel more connected, and learn the lingo that they would otherwise miss working remotely. After all, that same survey by Slack reports 80 percent of users claim it improves transparency and culture in the workplace.
Many chat services also include functionality to make it easier to communicate with clients and vendors, creating a shared work environment where conversation flows freely to include those who only work with the business on occasion. Chatting makes it easier for a vendor or client to get to know their new business partner by introducing them easily to the entire team, rather than a single point of contact, and makes them feel more like part of the business. In addition, many of the benefits stated above can be applied to introducing vendor/client channels—using chat to inspire new ideas along with easy sharing of files and data.
An additional benefit of instituting a chat system at work is that it helps to smooth the relationship between employees and management. Employees can be intimidated by management, so allowing chatting—even if it’s not always work related—can help to create trust between employees and management, with an understanding that the chat system is meant for (mostly) work conversation. Knowing that they are being encouraged to talk, employees are more likely to respect their employers—helping them reduce stress and work better and harder.
Though allowing employees to chat may not immediately seem like a good idea on the surface, there are many advantages that go along with it. Chat programs can make workflows easier to follow, between personnel and also with clients and vendors. Relaxed chat policies foster trust between employees and management, and letting employees chat about non-work topics has been proven to reduce stress and encourage creativity. And chatting can help to bring remote employees into the fold and encourage their participation in workplace culture. The multitude of benefits to employee chatting make it a smart decision, helping to foster a better work environment overall.