Feeling Isolated at Work?
The modern day workplace has introduced a plethora of social platforms changing the way employees and managers interact and communicate with each other. It would come as no surprise that employees, or even yourself, can go an entire day without engaging with a colleague in person. Even in a bustling open office environment, overwhelmed employees can inadvertently shut down and withdraw from genuine connection. This can have a negative impact on company culture, causing employees to feel isolated and lonely. According to a University of Pennsylvania study, “employee loneliness led to poorer task, team role, and relational performance.” This loneliness can trigger an employee to be emotionally withdrawn and detached from their work and their peers. With a surplus of personalities in the office, it may be challenging to create an environment where each employee feels welcomed, appreciated, and a part of the team. How can you create a more cohesive work environment and disrupt potential isolation?
Read further for 4 tips on how you can disrupt isolation in the workplace:
The value of Face-to-Face Communication:
Face-to-face interactions are invaluable to both management and employees. You may be surrounded by colleagues, but how often do you actually interact with them in person, and on a personal level? Around 50-70% of communication involves non-verbal signals and breaking down these non-verbal cues requires energy and effort. Sending an email about a work-related topic to someone in your office might sound easier and more convenient, yet it may end up depriving employees and managers of valuable non-verbal signals. Relying too heavily on electronic communication diminishes the opportunity to create strong relationships amongst colleagues. Without these strong relationships, miscommunication and misinterpretations can lead to disconnected feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Ways to Disrupt Isolation:
1: The first and easiest way is to involve yourself and employees is with face-to-face encounters. Instead of sending the work-related email to your colleague across the office, get up and go speak with them in person. Having face time is crucial to building working relationships.
2: Hold frequent meetings among your team members. Encourage team members to participate and interact. Although not everyone will speak up with ease, everyone will be in the loop and exposed to non-verbal cues.
3: If you feel lonely or isolated or notice someone else seems distant and unengaged, take the initiative to speak up and start a conversation. Make a point to greet everyone each day as you enter the office and wish them well at the end of the day as you head home. As a manager you should be engaging with employees and asking questions to get to know your team better. When management shows initiative in connecting with employees, they can feel more comfortable sharing and collaborating with their managers and other team members.
4: Plan bi-monthly team building events. Hosting a team or department lunch, happy hour, or bowling night will bring everyone together with a fun activity to bond over. The aim is to get your team members out of the office and in a setting where they can relax and converse about non-work related topics. This can help bring conversation back into the office the next day.
Fostering strong working relationships among employees and management reduces loneliness and isolation within the office. If an employee seems to have a deeper feeling of isolation that expands outside of the workplace, be sure to let them know which Human Resources Employee Assistance Programs are available to them. The culture of the workplace won’t change overnight, but continuously putting your best effort forward and being sincere in your connections will surely make a positive difference.