It can be a delicate balancing act, but allowing for workplace banter improves team morale and collaboration – especially for design teams for whom teamwork is critical to their performance. Healthy interpersonal relationships, which are partially created through playful conversation, foster trust, communication and innovation.
While too much small talk pulls people off of their tasks leading to unacceptable inefficiencies, too little leads to a siloed environment where lack of respect for coworkers and poor team culture can lead to rivalry, finger pointing and poor project handoffs – also contributing to unacceptable inefficiencies.
The rule of thumb is that any personal conversation that creeps over the 5 minute mark is probably best tabled to be picked up again either at lunch or after work. It’s critical that the whole team is on the same page and that everyone gives the other team members permission to end a conversation and thus ensure that feelings are not hurt if someone calls a time out.
The biggest challenge can be running interference with HR and upper managers who don’t understand the design team culture and the benefits that banter bring to the team’s performance. “Click”, a book by Ori and Rom Brafman on the value that strong personal connections bring to business is a quick read that can provide rationales to support a more informal culture when dealing with doubters of that type of environment.