JobatFor many, a working day can only start with a first – or second – cup of coffee in hand. Why is our ‘cup of comfort’ so important at work, both socially and professionally? Which conversations are and are not appropriate in the coffee corner? And how do you approach such informal chats? Jobat.be spoke with Jari Kellner, expert at HR service group Liantis.
By Thomas Rosseel, in collaboration with Jobat
What do you think is the importance of an informal conversation at the coffee machine?
“Informal coffee machine conversations are invaluable. They help strengthen team cohesion and ensure a relaxed working environment. It’s a great way to reduce stress, discuss personal and work-related issues, and exchange new ideas. In short, the chat at the coffee machine is a valuable part of a working day.”
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What are good tips if you are not used to speaking to colleagues at the coffee machine who you do not know very well?
“Getting to know new people, especially in the workplace, is highly recommended. This way you immediately know who to contact for what, you can work together more easily, and you can possibly build new friendships. Especially if you’re new to the office, it’s smart to step away from your desk and walk to the coffee machine for a well-deserved break. In addition, it is a casual way to start conversations, get to know colleagues better, and quickly discuss work-related matters.”
“However, taking that first step to start a conversation is not easy for everyone. If you’re not used to speaking to strangers or are more introverted, you can use some effective tricks to get the conversation going. Ask open-ended questions, such as ‘what are your weekend plans?’, rather than yes/no questions, such as ‘did you have a good weekend?’. This way the conversation doesn’t immediately come to a standstill and you encourage people to share their stories.”
“Another tip: talk about a topic you know you both know, like that new TV show everyone is talking about. Once you notice that you have something in common, try to remember it as a framework for later conversations. This way you slowly build a personal bond and that makes conversations much more fun.”
“Also pay attention to the body language of your conversation partner. You can deduce a lot from that. Someone who is very tense may not have time for a conversation right now. Someone who seems very relaxed may be eager to talk about their vacation plans. And patience is a virtue: if the conversation doesn’t go smoothly right away, don’t despair. There will be plenty of opportunities to get to know each other better. Be patient and let the bond grow naturally.”
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Which types of conversations are suitable for the coffee machine and which are not suitable at all?
“Light-hearted conversations include podcast tips, weekend plans, holiday experiences or even a good listening ear. It’s all about a light and safe atmosphere, where you can be yourself and build connections. A coffee moment is more than a break, it is an opportunity to grow, both professionally and personally.”
“Work is more than just completing tasks, having lunch and going home. It is also the place where we can relax with colleagues and ask for help when we are confronted with challenges or doubts. During corona, everyone noticed how much more difficult it was to always be aware of what the other person is doing and to stay connected. Only then did it become clear how much information you pick up through informal conversations.”
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How important is it to be able to ask the coffee machine purely work-related questions, instead of sending yet another email? Or is it best to keep the coffee machine for informal business?
“Would you like to discuss something with a colleague or team member as a manager? Then a coffee break is an excellent moment. Although it is usually more light-hearted and relaxed, you can also discuss certain work-related matters here in an informal and comfortable way. But be careful not to make major announcements or raise highly sensitive topics, such as a layoff or pay increases. That can completely change the atmosphere and lead to bad situations or conflicts.”
“So see it primarily as an opportunity to check how your conversation partner is feeling, or to brainstorm about an idea together. It is an informal setting where you have room for candid conversations, without too much pressure.”
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This article was brought to you by our partner Jobat.be.
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