Ten years ago, when I was thinking of being new at my future job, I was thinking about how I was going to win over my coworkers with chatter about the latest TV shows (Are you all caught up on Scandal?) or our local sports teams (Go Blazers!) in the only place that made sense – next to the water cooler.
That familiar trope I saw time and time again where you casually run into someone and everyday conversations ensues. Fast forward to today, and my reality is pretty different. If you see someone near the water cooler, they are generally hurrying off to their next project before you can even say “Did you catch the game last night?”
So if we are not going to bond next to the water cooler, where are we supposed to bond?
I suppose the answer depends on where you end up, but my suspicion is that for most of us, this bonding now takes place behind a computer screen. Whether it be email or IM services, much of our communication with each other, even in a non-professional capacity, happens by never actually seeing one another.
Before you become defensive of the status quo, I am not saying this is necessarily a bad thing – in fact, I believe that it can be beneficial. The key is though, eventually, you have to step out from behind that computer screen and actually spend time together in person.
For instance, the agency I work with has a group message via Slack called #boozylunching that people write in to ask if coworkers want to join them for lunch or for a drink during happy hour.
As the intern, my gut reaction is always that these invitations are not meant for me but I have started to learn that if I am going to bond over TV shows or sports with my coworkers and really feel like a part of this agency community, this is my chance because it is not going to happen next to the water cooler any more.