The Surprising Benefits of Office Gossip

While gossiping in the office is usually associated with negativity, complaining about the boss, and spreading rumours, it turns out that Aussies usually just want to talk about their holiday plans.

Global workplace provider Regus surveyed more than 22,000 respondents across 100 countries, and found that both men and women in Australia talk most about their holidays with colleagues (82 per cent of Australians, compared to the global average of 71 per cent).

Interestingly, Australians are above the average global citizen when it comes to chatting about personal details at work for every topic, including details about our children (56 per cent compared to 55 per cent), our pets (56 per cent to 47 per cent), our previous job (55 per cent to 53 per cent) and our health (27 per cent to 26 per cent).

Forty-four per cent of Australians talk about their partners, compared to the global average of 32 per cent. And while both men and women generally avoid talking about their love life, women are more likely to share intimate details (14 per cent) than men (9 per cent).

Top gossip subjects at work for women:

1. Holiday plans

2. Anecdotes about pets

3. Diet and exercise tips

4. Anecdotes about partners

5. Anecdotes about children

Top gossip subjects at work for men:

1. Holiday plans

2. Anecdotes about children

3. Anecdotes about previous job

4. Anecdotes about pets

5. Diet and exercise tips

In terms of the workplace itself, only nine per cent of Australians discuss outcomes of their performance reviews (compared to the 15 per cent global average), three per cent talk about our salary or other job benefits (compared to 4 per cent), and eight per cent talk about who in the office they don’t like (compared to 9 per cent).

There are also differences when it comes to business size and geographical location. Those in small businesses are more likely to share social media contact information (20 per cent) than employees in large organisations (12 per cent).

Sydney-siders gossip most about health (31 per cent), those in Melbourne and Perth talk most about their children (59 per cent and 75 per cent, respectively) and employees in Adelaide chat most about their pets (69 per cent).

 

Paranoid you’re the subject of gossip? Here are 7 things you’re doing your boss hates. 

 

Paul Migliorini, CEO of Regus Australia and New Zealand, said “Whether it’s discussing holidays or sharing fitness tips, sharing personal information is a great way to build rapport with fellow colleagues. In today’s busy workplace it’s easy to forget the importance of getting to know one another and building up good relationships.”

“More and more businesses are realising that these personal and professional interactions give birth to valuable ideas and build strong teams. It is therefore important for employers to support collaboration amongst teams and create environments for remote or flexible workers to ensure they feel like part of the team.”

Dr Jana Matthews, ANZ Chair of Business Growth and Director of the UniSA Centre for Business Growth, says it’s important to encourage informal chats in the workplace.

“There are generally three types of informal conversations taking place in the workplace: casual comments about day-to-day issues, sharing personal issues, and discussions about work. Innovative businesses like Google, Apple and Salesforce recognise that some of the best new ideas come from accidental chats and even structure their offices to encourage this happening.”

“For growing businesses, fostering collaboration can be the key to harnessing the power of informal chats. Make sure that all of your team are engaged, and they understand your company vision and goals. A conversation that begins about pets or family can often evolve into a deeper discussion about work, and the next great idea for your business may be just a water cooler away.”

So don’t just dismiss office gossip as a negative time distraction, because staff aren’t always complaining about the office or the boss.