Why Giving your Team Idle Time a Good Thing for the Company
Breaking the national record in revenue that stood for nine years twice in a six-month period is just one of the things this amazing team did. This was around 2013 and things just started to click and we started hitting on all cylinders. We had an incredibly strong retention rate of our team members and clients. We were crushing double-digit same-store sales growth.
Can you guess the reason for this kind of performance? Perhaps, you would think it was that we had great technology to speed up operations. Maybe, it was the hiring and development. Or, we were just incredibly productive at all hours of the day.
The reality is that none of the above reasons was the driving factor. The secret behind this successful team was that we all hung out at work and grew to absolutely love each other as family.
While some teams believe in driving dead hours for lead generation and mundane administration tasks, we allowed people to simply hang out and mingle. Some people would spend their time playing sports or working out together. Some people would just take long lunches. No matter the time of the day you would always see people hanging out by the watercooler.
We often discuss that strong relationships and people liking each other at work are important for a happy workplace. This is common sense for most leaders, but when push comes to shove, the first place we cut out time from is the time our team has to play together. Why?
We cannot calculate the subjective ROI so we do not invest a lot of resources in it. I know that if an employee does a certain task there is an amount of revenue that can be calculated from the result. This makes it easy to determine if the task executed is the best one or not when we consider opportunity cost. By allowing people to “hang out by the watercooler” we cannot determine the exact ROI on it and hence many feel like it may be a waste of time. Just because we do not understand why something works, it does not mean it is not a great practice. Sometimes we cannot measure quality with a number; it is a feeling that lives within each team member that makes it work.
There are leaders who agree and believe in the value of giving people time to mingle and hang out, but they still hold back from actually encouraging the behaviour. I often see that the reason for this is fear and insecurity in management. We were raised to believe that idle hands are the devil's playthings. This means that many people assume that if employees are not busy they will do things that are not ideal for the business. The truth is, if you treat your employees right and give them the support they need, the idle time will not be used in a bad way. This will not create gossip as many people fear. This time will not be spent discussing leadership behind their back. This trust will actually destroy any “us versus them” environment that might be existing between management and the front line.
So, if you are a leader that likes to allow people to get to their potential versus micromanaging them, if you are a leader that extends trust versus makes people earn it, if you are a leader that believes that happy employees are the most productive workers, then let your people “hang out by the watercooler”.