Loneliness is an issue that touches many of our lives in some way.
61% of Americans who responded to Cigna's 2020 Loneliness Index report feeling lonely.
As more research centers on the impact of loneliness on our lives, its effect on the workplace is coming into focus. According to Hakan Ozcelik and Sigal Barsade, who authored No Employee is an Island: Workforce Loneliness and Job Performance, employees who experience loneliness report:
- Less job satisfaction
- Fewer promotions
- Increased job 'hopping'
- Increased likelihood of quitting their current job in next 6 months
It's important to understand that loneliness isn't a personality trait; it's an emotion that can be triggered when an individual feels their social needs are not being met in an environment. As more employees work remotely and as all employees rely more heavily on technology to communicate, we are more 'connected' than ever. However, there are fewer physical, in-person interactions that foster the social connections that we all need to thrive. The lack of personal connection, or sense of belonging, could lead to individuals feeling socially isolated or lonely.
Yet technology, in the form of recognition and social platforms, can also play a role in encouraging the types of interactions that create a greater sense of community among all employees.
Here are four ways technology can bring your employees together and keep loneliness at bay:
Build a sense of belonging
Encourage your employees to proactively reach out to one another through any digital platforms or software your organization is using. Take the time to build rapport among your team. If a new employee is joining your team, make sure co-workers take the time to welcome them by sending recognition or an email that lets a new member know that co-workers are looking forward to working with them. If members of your team work remotely and other members are on site, encourage your employees in the office to reach out to those who are remote a few times a week to check in and say hi. Acknowledge your team for the everyday things during team check-ins so that they can see that their contributions are meaningful. This can make all the difference to employees and help them feel included.
Since many organizations have their employees working from home amidst the COVID-19 crisis, consider hosting a 10-minute daily meeting where you can incorporate recognition moments. Set aside a specific time where employees can spend a few moments of their day connecting with their team and find ways to recognize each employee for something positive they've done. By setting this tone, your employees are more inclined to follow your lead.
Prioritize face time
Video conferencing platforms, like Skype, provide an effective way for employees to feel they are staying in touch with their co-workers in real-time while collaborating on a project. Remote workers can also use video chat during lunch time to connect and socialize with a co-worker or group of colleagues. Also consider using video chat features to schedule group check-ins at least once a week so that your team can catch up on the week's priorities, discuss project updates and share any necessary communications with your team in real-time, so they feel they are included in the conversation.
Create a fun social space just for them
If your organization uses an instant messaging platform, like Microsoft Teams or Slack, create a channel that is just for your employees to be able to keep one another updated on any projects or initiatives they may be collaborating on. To encourage social connections, think about creating a separate channel where they can share with one another in a more informal setting. This can include personal updates, family and pet photos and inspirational quotes to help keep everyone in good spirits. You can post a question of the day or host a fun ice breaker style game on Friday afternoons to allow your team to get to know one another more personally. You can also dedicate a specific time for a group lunch meetup, or a happy hour hang out in a Teams room to help your employees unwind from work.
Make time for recognition
Recognition also plays a role in keeping your workforce connected. Employees that don't feel they are part of the team or recognized for their work may become disengaged and more prone to loneliness. Communication platforms can unify your team by allowing them to acknowledge one another's team work as well as congratulate one another for life events like birthdays, service anniversaries and other significant milestones. Encourage employees to send messages to co-workers on their team and colleagues in other departments to make sure everyone is proactive in creating a cohesive digital community where everyone can be acknowledged.
By setting the stage to create an inclusive team and encouraging them to recognize and connect with one another, you can help reduce the chance that they experience loneliness. But another key step is to make time to be available to your employees. If an employee reaches out to talk, schedule a meeting and give them your undivided attention. Make sure they feel heard and if there is any way you can offer assistance, remove obstacles, or provide resources let them know that you will support them.