Two Years. That’s how long it’s been since organizations have had “normal” circumstances at their workplaces.
24 months of varying degrees of COVID lockdowns, restrictions, teleworking, remote employees, and for many, a very real sense of disconnection.
The statistics back this up. According to the Pew Research Center, “65% of workers who are now teleworking all or most of the time but rarely or never did before the pandemic feel less connected to their coworkers now.”
Research done by Cigna found “62% of U.S. workers may be considered lonely and…may cost their employer nearly $4200 a year in additional workdays lost. Loneliness could cost the economy over $406 billion a year.”
Clearly, the impacts of this disconnection are felt far and wide by both employer and employee.
Why does connection matter?
Connection matters because it’s the way our brains are wired as human beings. We need a connection to survive and thrive, especially social and emotional connection, which has been significantly lacking for the majority of us during the pandemic. A look. A smile. A friendly hug. A high-five. A handshake. A pat on the back for a job well done. A laugh between co-workers or friends. Lunchroom discussions. In-person recognition in front of peers. When was the last time you experienced those things and how did it make you feel?
When an employee experiences a lack of connection, it leads to lower levels of commitment to their position and organization, higher staff turnover, lower job performance, and productivity.
Since the majority of us have been reliant on technology as the main source of connection with our leadership teams and coworkers, meetings have become transactional, body language isn’t read properly which leads to miscommunications, and there is no sense of higher purpose amongst teams. The bottom line, people miss people.
So, how can we address this connection conundrum?
Organizations need to create a Connection Strategy. Forbes.com recently posted an article, “14 Ways to Foster Connection Between Employees”, and we think this is a great place to start. We’ve summarized the top five below, but you can read the entire article by clicking here.
- Leaders within the organization need to create and encourage opportunities for informal connection. A check-in time weekly within office hours, establish a peer recognition program, host a happy hour outside of the regular workday, and provide a social area for peers to connect during breaks. Find a way to create some of the connections that used to happen naturally in the office.
- Also, it’s essential to establish, or re-establish, a culture of appreciation. Get to know how your team prefers to receive validation and strive to provide that regularly.
- Foster open dialogue that is founded on two-way communication. Employees need to trust that their organization’s leaders will listen to their questions and concerns. Communication cannot come solely from the top-down as this can lead to miscommunication and frustration.
- Seek out employee feedback when creating your connection strategy and include your team members in the decision-making process as appropriate. Everyone appreciates when they feel their voice has been heard.
- Create shared opportunities for team-building activities. Consider volunteering for a community organization like Habitat for Humanity or your local food bank. When we focus on others and giving back, it creates bonds of connection that will positively impact what happens within the workplace.
Above all else, don’t fall into the trap of letting technology replace actual human interaction. Instead, use it as a tool to enhance human connection.
When organizations and team leaders focus on creating human-centered environments, magic happens because connection happens.
If you need help creating a connection strategy within your organization, the team at Akramoff is here to help. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to take the first step towards a better, healthier, and more connected workplace.