It seems everyone is short on time these days. We are running at turbo speed and yet it still seems there isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done. In fact, this exact challenge is what propelled me to start studying productivity.
Not surprisingly, we are all on alert to spot low-value time sucks we can eliminate from our days. Idle chit chat is often considered an easy target. On the surface, this vague chatter appears to be a waste of time. But is this true?
I argue chit chat is not only healthy, but also a productive and meaningful contributor to our satisfaction at work.
Here are six reasons why a (seemingly) aimless conversation is quite beneficial:
- It helps warm up a conversation
Jumping straight into an intense conversation can feel abrupt, which generally doesn’t lead to the best outcome. A short conversational dance can help establish a more collaborative and effective routine.
- It helps leaders appear more approachable
The greater the power discrepancy between two people, the less the conversation seems to flow. Idle chit chat, prompted by the leader, helps to lower defences and prompt people to open up.
- It helps to relieve pressure
We don’t operate optimally with unrelenting high pressure, whether it be during a tense debate or high-stakes presentation. Thankfully, idle chit chat can provide a brief reprieve to help us metaphorically catch our breath before stepping into the limelight.
- It promotes team bonding
Team connections matter. The more team members know each other, the more helpful they are. Unfortunately, helpfulness doesn’t just happen naturally if there isn’t a certain level of familiarity. Random conversations and sharing help to build trust and connections.
- It boosts productivity
If any of your hard-nosed, “it’s all business” colleagues are dismissive of idle chit chat, you can appeal to their bottom-line mindset. Happy employees are 12% more productive while unhappy workers are 10% less productive. That’s a 22% swing and roughly equivalent to an extra day of productivity per person each week. On that note, if we trade off 5 minutes (or 8% of a standard one-hour meeting) for a dramatic boost to productivity, we will certainly see stronger bottom-line results.
- It makes meetings more fun
Social chatter simply makes work more fun. Some friendly banter in meetings is an easy way to bring more laughter into our work days. But I recognize meetings have a bad reputation. Many busy people spend far too much of their work day in board rooms, squeezing out critical time for independent work and emails. The miscellaneous chatter during the first few minutes of the meeting appears to be an easy target. It’s almost as if we are rewarding the late stragglers and penalizing the on-timers. But investing in a bit of fun appears to pay off. Companies where people connect, and form friendships are more productive.
This brings me back to my original question: is it time to ban idle chit chat? It seems clear we need to keep talking.
Should your entire day be filled with miscellaneous chit chat? Absolutely not. That would be called lunch. But a small amount of chatter can truly benefit our teams.
So, what can help with an overloaded day? Establishing clear priorities, setting meeting agendas and renewing your commitment to single-tasking (instead of multi-tasking) will all help. Just don’t get rid of the human element. After all, we were born to connect.
What are your thoughts about idle chit chat? Love it or hate it? And how are your chit chat skills? Do you silently wish for an empty elevator or have you typically made a few new friends by the time you reach your floor?
Please share in the comments below. Many of our readers say they value hearing other people’s thoughts as much as they like reading our articles. I can’t wait to hear what you think about this polarizing topic.