Even though many workers didn’t have office water coolers to gather around and shoot the breeze during the coronavirus pandemic, small talk still managed to cost U.S. employers approximately $1.5 trillion in lost productivity, according to a new study by a telecom company.
TollFreeForwarding.com surveyed 2,000 workers in the United States and United Kingdom to find out how much time they devoted to non-work small talk during office hours. The company found that U.S. workers engage in small talk for nearly two hours — one hour and 58 minutes, to be exact — per day. British workers aren’t quite as gabby but still manage to flap their gums for an hour and 45 minutes every day.
The firm also found that Americans spend 11 minutes per day talking about the weather, opposed to nine minutes for the Brits.
Chewing the fat while on the clock might seem harmless at first glance, but TollFreeForwarding.com says it results in an annual loss of $11,918 per employee, which, when multiplied by the number of full-time U.S. workers, amounts to a shocking $1.5 trillion.
However, small talk does have its benefits, with 72% of survey respondents saying it makes the workplace more bearable, 67% saying it has a positive effect on motivation and 69% saying it reduces the likelihood of burnout and resignations. Thirty-eight percent of workers said they would quit their job if their boss tried to limit or reduce small talk in the office.
Chattiness is also good for relationships with colleagues and clients, the study found. Some 77% of respondents said small talk helps them stay on good terms with colleagues, while 73% said the same of clients.
“Small talk is the glue that keeps colleagues together,” states Naomi Murphy, a U.K.-based clinical psychologist, in a news release that accompanied the survey results. “It allows us to build relationships and feel more confident in contributing to group discussions. It enables us to see the human being and remind ourselves of the things we like about our colleagues even when we are feeling irritated by their opposition or criticism of our suggestions — liking our colleagues and having good connections with them keeps us emotionally nourished.”