How to create connections at work in the age of isolation
Well, maybe you are, but not in the way you think.
A recent survey of more than 2,000 managers and employees in 10 different countries found that employees increasingly depend on technology to communicate with their colleagues, including email (45 percent), text messaging (15 percent) and instant messaging (12 percent).
Of those who cited email, more than 40 percent said they felt lonely always or often, were not engaged and had a high need for social connection.
Dan Schawbel, author of “Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation,” offered Reuters these tips on working remotely, managing technology and building a collaborative workplace.
Q. Is there a dark side of working remotely?
A. One-third of workers in the U.S. often work remotely. The number of remote workers is up 115 percent in the past decade. But just 5 percent of these workers see themselves staying at the same company for their entire career.
While we want flexibility so much, there is a tradeoff. Our research shows that remote workers are more likely to quit because of loneliness as well as low engagement. The reason why (co-working space) WeWork exists is because people want the human connection. Otherwise, people would just work from home.
Q. Is there a “right way” to work offsite and keep remote workers engaged?
A. These employees will work harder if they have a sense of connection. For managers, it is important to let a remote worker lead the meeting. It’s so simple and brilliant at the same time. It also makes sense to fly remote workers in once a year for an offsite or social event.
And be sure to use video conferencing often for meetings – you get to see and hear someone, which is much better than an email. It also forces you to dress like you are in the office. If you dress the part, you act the part.
Q. How can we maximize our time when we are in the office?
A. When you are working, you need time to focus, think deeply and pay attention to your words, thoughts and ideas. You also need collaborative time to share those ideas.
The actual work is important. But it’s also crucial to cultivate friendships. The workplace survey I led, which was conducted by my company Future Workplace, an HR advisory firm, and Virgin Pulse, a digital health company, found that 7 percent of all employees globally have no friends at work and over half have five or fewer total friends.
The majority of people (60 percent) said they would be more likely stay with their company longer if they had more friends.
This was especially true for younger employees. Gen Z (74 percent) and millennials (69 percent) say they would be inclined to stay with their company longer if they had more friends than Gen X (59 percent) and baby boomers (40 percent).
You will never be able to replace face-to-face interactions at work. Once you are in a room – at a meeting, event, or even celebrating a birthday at work – be present. Put down your phone and actually talk to people.
Q. People spend so much time at work. What is the best way to avoid burnout?
A. Even if you love your job, everyone needs a break. That is why some interesting things are happening around the world to combat burnout. For example, in Finland and in the United Kingdom, they are looking at a four-day work week. In France, you actually have the right to disconnect – workers there don’t have to answer email on the weekends or after work hours.
In Japan, every Japanese citizen gets the right to take Monday mornings off.
Overall, it is about what you do, and who you do it with. The people you choose to work with are more important than the work you do. Even if you love your work, and it gives you purpose, toxic co-workers will make it unbearable.
Editing by Beth Pinkser and Bernadette Baum