‘Empathy’ tops list of skills we are losing due to ‘work without the water cooler’

TRUMBULL, CT USA — August 25, 2020 — Seven crucial skills are at risk because people working from home are missing out on important social interaction at the office.  These are the so-called ‘water cooler moments’ which are critical to company culture and individual development, according to a new report by Questionmark, the online assessment provider.

Since the world went into lockdown, the increase of ‘work without the water cooler’ has reduced organic learning.  This is when people absorb information from their colleagues, either by seeing what they do or by having a quick chat to get a second opinion. 

This can affect company culture, productivity and competitiveness, according to the report ‘Workplace Training Without the Water Cooler.’ Working from home means we are missing out on this informal support, and fewer skills and less knowledge are passing from colleague to colleague.

Based on conversations with customers, the report identifies seven ‘at risk’ skills.

  1. Empathy – without observing the stresses and strains of daily life for colleagues, workers are less able to understand each other’s perspectives and priorities. 
  • Organic communication – managers are less clear on what team members are working on at any given point. 
  • Teamwork – workers are less likely to ask colleagues to ‘look over their shoulder’ virtually as they try and solve a particular problem. 
  • Time management – not having a train to catch or a rush-hour to miss means workers have less structure to the day. 
  • Focus – without the ‘peer pressure’ of colleagues informally observing productivity, tasks can expand to fit the endless time available.
  • Creativity – innovation often happens spontaneously when people and their projects accidentally bump into each other.
  • Collaborative efficiency – projects are often completed faster when colleagues develop subtle codes of communication, which happens more easily face to face.

Despite these problems, employers that invest in formal training are beginning to reap the rewards.  Skills are emerging that will help employers face new challenges. 

Lars Pedersen, CEO of Questionmark said: “How to recapture the ‘water cooler moments’ when people are working from home is becoming more critical the longer people stay away from offices.  A starting point is to assess the workforce so employers get the robust information they need to make good people decisions around managing this transition.  They can identify specific problems and help plot a path toward a solution. 

“While a change in working patterns could result in a loss of knowledge and some skills, assessments can identify where vulnerabilities lie.  They can give employers the information they need to make good decisions and develop strategies to compensate for any loss of organic learning.  Regular testing of the workforce can help employers decide if those strategies are working.”

Read the full report: ‘Workplace Training Without the Water Cooler.’

The report forms part of the ‘Questionmark Viewpoint’ series which explores the challenges that Questionmark customers face, and how Questionmark helps address them. 

www.questionmark.com