Work and teamwork are all about human connection. To build great relationships with coworkers, whether we’re meeting in person or online via virtual numbers, we have to speak to them. But is there a line when it comes to small talk? How much does it cost businesses a year, and does it make a difference to our wellbeing?


We spoke to 2,000 office workers from the US and UK to find out.


Small talk costs US businesses almost $12k per person a year

To determine the true cost of small talk, we asked workers how much time they spend small talking in the average day. This included various scenarios, such as small talking with their team, small talking with other departments, small talking during coffee breaks, small talking with their boss, and small talking during internal and external meetings.


On an average workday, we found that workers in the US spend 1 hour 58 minutes engaging in small talk. Looking at the median salary in the US, this costs businesses $11,918 per person a year.


Results in the UK were similar. The average worker spends slightly less time on small talk a day, with time spent coming in at 1 hour 45 minutes. This costs the average employer £6,409 per person a year when compared to the median UK salary.


Small talk calculator: how much do you cost your business?

Have you ever wondered how much chatting at work costs? We’ve created a calculator so you can find out. Simply input your yearly salary and the average time you spend in a workday on small talk to see how the cost of your small-talking compares to the average.


How much time do you spend making small talk in an average workday?


You get paid

to make small talk at work.


Why the cost of small talk is worth it

These figures may look shocking, but are they worth it? After all, time is money, right?

Well, not exactly. While a certain percentage of salary may be spent a year on small talk, the benefits when it comes to employee wellbeing more than outweigh this cost. Small talk helps keep employees happy, motivated, and enjoying stronger relationships at work—all things likely to encourage them to stay in a job, therefore saving businesses money when it comes to staff turnover. Keeping staff happy and motivated also reduces the chance of burnout, something else that can cost a business time and money in the long term.


Speaking to workers in the US, we found:


  • 72% say small talk makes their job/workplace more bearable.
  • Over three-quarters (77%) say small talk helps improve/maintain relationships with colleagues.
  • Almost three-quarters (73%) say small talk helps improve/maintain relationships with clients.
  • 67% say small talk has a positive impact on their motivation.
  • 69% say small talk has a positive effect on their wellbeing.


Similarly, in the UK, we found:


  • Almost three-quarters (74%) said small talk makes their job/workplace more bearable.
  • 8 out of 10 (82%) say small talk helps improve/maintain relationships with colleagues.
  • Almost three-quarters (73%) say small talk helps improve/maintain relationships with clients.
  • 69% say small talk has a positive effect on their motivation.
  • Three-quarters (75%) say small talk has a positive effect on their wellbeing.


So, while businesses could save money by discouraging small talk at work, the result would be demotivated, unhappy staff who don’t work well together as a team and have worse relationships with clients or customers. Suddenly the cost of small talk seems a small price to pay!



How to make small talk in the workplace

It’s clear that small talk is an essential skill that businesses around the world should embrace. However, after years of remote working and a lack of human contact, many people find their small talking skills are a little rusty.


If you’re looking to brush up on your workplace small talking skills, we’ve spoken to professional speakers, counselors, and psychologists to put together five top tips.


  1. Start slow and focus on being personable, not perfect

Tina Hawk, Senior Vice President of HR at GoodHire, reassures that small talk can be intimidating at first, but no one is perfect first time. Don’t be put off if you come away from a coffee break without an instant new friend—relationships are built over time. She says:


“When making small talk and building relationships in work, you should start off slow and focus on being personable, rather than perfect.


Small talk can be intimidating, especially when workplace relationships are not well-established. It can be tempting for us to feel like everything we say and do has to be flawless. In reality, one of the most essential elements of successful small talk is levity – if you’re taking yourself too seriously, people are less likely to engage with you openly and personally. If you’re uptight and guarded, whoever you’re talking to will feel that and respond in kind.


It’s also important to realize that most relationships are built steadily over time, rather than explosively. You don’t immediately have to hit it off with a colleague, and starting off with small, simple conversation is often the perfect way to initiate a relationship in the longer term.”


  1. Ask open-ended questions

Alexander Burgemeester, Licensed Psychologist, agrees that perfection should never be the aim. He explains that overthinking is one of the main obstacles when making small talk, so try not to put pressure on yourself.


“Overthinking about how other people perceive you can negatively impact your ability to build connections with them. Take away the added pressure of social interactions by trying not to worry about saying the wrong thing.”


Burgemeester also explains that questions are key for building relationships when getting to know people at work. However, you should avoid closed questions that require a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’, as they can often shut a conversation down. He suggests:


“It’s a good idea to ask open-ended questions that require the person to think about their response and provide a full answer. Focus on positive conversational topics that can help you to develop a closer relationship with another person.”


Dr. Lea McMahon LPC, Licensed Counsellor, agrees and adds that you should focus on positive questions as they’ll result in a happier interaction. She recommends:


“It’s been a rough couple of years, so make sure to avoid talking about gloomy things. Instead, the subject of your conversation should be interesting. For example, you could ask them about their weekend. A question such as, “What was the most exciting part of your weekend?” is a great way to start small talk. It’ll result in a very positive and uplifting interaction.”


  1. Make empathic statements

Once you’ve broken the ice when making small talk, Marcus Bales, a professional speaker, coach, and author specializing in social anxiety, recommends moving on from surface-level topics to help build stronger connections. He suggests:


“The key to great small talk is to branch outside of surface-level topics. Things like sports, weather, and company performance are not engaging enough to strengthen a relationship. That is why I recommend starting with an empathic statement. This starts by observing your coworkers as people and understanding what is unique about them. For example, “I noticed the bike rack on your car, do you ride often?”. By starting with an empathic statement, you allow your coworkers to open up about themselves, which strengthens the relationship.”


By engaging people in topics that interest them and finding things you both have in common, you’re much more likely to move from small talk to a friendship.


  1. Use active listening and follow social cues

A huge part of small talk is simply listening. You may be so anxious to fill awkward silences that you dominate the conversation, which you should avoid. Instead, focus on listening and allowing the conversation to develop naturally.


Pareen Sehat MC, RCC Registered Clinical Counsellor & Certified Mental Health Professional, recommends:


“The best way to make small talk at work is to use active listening. It requires an individual’s complete attention to what the other person tells them and asking appropriate questions. This way, both parties can engage in an interesting conversation that involves both talking and listening. You can also watch for any non-verbal cues, such as nodding, eye contact, etc. If they are making eye contact, it’s a good sign that they are listening to you. However, active listening requires some practice and patience, so take your time.”


Small talk at work can be challenging to navigate as some people may welcome a conversation, while others may be too busy to stop and chat. Pay attention to social cues; if someone is filling up their water and seems inpatient or is checking their phone, they’re probably in a rush and don’t have time for a conversation. If someone has open, relaxed body language, makes eye contact, and smiles, they’re much more likely to be interested in talking.


  1. Try mirroring

A final, excellent tactic for strengthening relationships is mirroring, explains Patrick Casey, Director of Growth Marketing at Felix Health. Mirroring isn’t just great for building friendly relationships during your coffee breaks but can also be used in client meetings to strengthen your relationships. Casey explains:


“To make proper small talk at work, use mirroring.

Mirroring is when you repeat back the last 3-4 words that someone says to you. Many people use mirroring subconsciously, but it can also be used deliberately to build a rapid rapport with the person you’re speaking with. For example, if someone tells you, “I went skiing over the weekend”, you could reply with, “You skied over the weekend?”.


Combined with an upward inflection to connote interest, mirroring almost always encourages the speaker to elaborate further on their thoughts and feelings. This is great for building relationships because it shows that you genuinely care about what your colleague has to say. This powerful technique works for everything from water-cooler small talk to critical business meetings, so try it out and witness the difference it makes.”



Small talk may seem like a ‘small’ thing, but the benefits when it comes to your wellbeing at work are enormous. Small talk doesn’t just increase your motivation and happiness in the workplace, but strengthens relationships, leading to better collaboration and productivity. While small talk is a skill that becomes easier over time, if you start small, ask questions, listen and find common ground, you’ll be well on your way to deeper and more meaningful connections at work.