Read the story here. Advertise at Before It's News here.
Profile image
By Environmental and Urban Economics (Reporter)
Contributor profile | More stories
Story Views
Last hour:
Last 24 hours:

"The Water Cooler" and Spontaneous Face to Face Interaction in a Hybrid-WFH Economy

% of readers think this story is Fact. Add your two cents.

Is face to face interaction over-rated?   I am not talking about participating in the service economy (i.e getting a haircut), romance, friends and family interaction. I am talking about workplace face to face interactions and the vaunted “Water Cooler” (WC).  

The cliche WC story has focused on serendipity and spontaneity that occurs when people casually chat about this and that.   This is not “directed search”.  
POINT #1;   Pessimists claim that the rise of WFH-HYBRID work will tax the Water Cooler such that organizations will become less productive.
Counter-Point:    The pessimists forget what they learned about self-selection.  Workers know themselves, they know when they want to be social and when they want to be left alone.  Such workers also respond to incentives.  If the boss says; “hey , let’s get our creative juices flowing”.  Workers will respond and be charming and engage on those days.
I claim that there is quantity and quality of F2F interactions.  The lazy urban economics productivity literature implicitly assumed that F2F interactions are homogeneous and are just a question of their count. So, if you meet with me 1000 times; the probability we have a breakthrough is 10 times higher than if we only meet 100 times face to face. I reject this.  Anyone who has met me knows that sharp diminishing returns kick in — -in speaking with me!
POINT #2;   The Water Cooler is a pre-AI, pre-UBER entity.   I am interested in directed search.  UBER matches drivers and riders to achieve efficiency criteria.  Why can’t successful firms introduce a type of UBER AI matching to bring different workers together?  Why can’t a boss make some recommendations about such matching?
Point #3  Given successful within firm AI matching of Water Cooler Workers, why do they have to meet at work? Is the firm afraid of romance?   That would be a funny reason for the persistence of the office!
Point #4;  Pessimists claim that we will get into a bad Nash Equilibrium such that social workers will go to the office and discover nobody to chat with as everyone else will be engaging in WFH on that day. In this age of AI Matching, can this misallocation really persist?
So, to summarize this blog post;  The Quality versus Quantity tradeoff always exists.    Organizations have strong incentives to experiment here to see how to maintain their productivity under different organizational rules.  How firms adapt to the new opportunity created by WFH is fascinating.
FINAL POINT:  Note that I set up this blog post such that the spontaneous face to face interactions occur by workers who work at the same firm. In this case, there is a residual claimant who has an incentive to get the rules of engagement right.
What happens when workers work at different firms but work in the same city?  I doubt that spontaneous F2F is that important for these folks.  There isn’t that much time in the day.   You might say that a Harvard economist and a MIT economist can have coffee and make research magic happen if they both go to work. I accept this example but this is a special example. Do Elon Musk’s Tesla engineers hang out at the local bar looking to chat with engineers from other firms?   
Since urban and labor economists do not have a real understanding of the production function of knowledge firms , we don’t understand how the time allocation equilibrium induced by WFH will evolve over time.
Of course, I do think that small firms will want to agglomerate close to each other for Labor pooling reasons but this is distinct from the gains from F2F interaction.  


Before It’s News® is a community of individuals who report on what’s going on around them, from all around the world.

Anyone can join.
Anyone can contribute.
Anyone can become informed about their world.

"United We Stand" Click Here To Create Your Personal Citizen Journalist Account Today, Be Sure To Invite Your Friends.

Please Help Support BeforeitsNews by trying our Natural Health Products below!

Order by Phone at 888-809-8385 or online at M - F 9am to 5pm EST

Order by Phone at 866-388-7003 or online at M - F 9am to 5pm EST

Order by Phone at 866-388-7003 or online at M - F 9am to 5pm EST

Humic & Fulvic Trace Minerals Complex - Nature's most important supplement! Vivid Dreams again!

HNEX HydroNano EXtracellular Water - Improve immune system health and reduce inflammation

Ultimate Clinical Potency Curcumin - Natural pain relief, reduce inflammation and so much more.

MitoCopper - Bioavailable Copper destroys pathogens and gives you more energy. (See Blood Video)
Oxy Powder - Natural Colon Cleanser!  Cleans out toxic buildup with oxygen! 
Nascent Iodine - Promotes detoxification, mental focus and thyroid health.
Smart Meter Cover -  Reduces Smart Meter radiation by 96%!  (See Video)

Report abuse


    Your Comments
    Question   Razz  Sad   Evil  Exclaim  Smile  Redface  Biggrin  Surprised  Eek   Confused   Cool  LOL   Mad   Twisted  Rolleyes   Wink  Idea  Arrow  Neutral  Cry   Mr. Green

    Load more ...




    Email this story
    Email this story

    If you really want to ban this commenter, please write down the reason:

    If you really want to disable all recommended stories, click on OK button. After that, you will be redirect to your options page.