People in any profession and at all levels can suffer from isolation at work. Those in senior roles often carry huge amounts of responsibility and can feel like the only person with the answers. Interns may struggle to integrate and long-standing employees often feel disengaged. What can managers do about workplace loneliness and enhance team togetherness?
The top reasons for workplace loneliness according to new research are:
- Feeling pressure (44%)
- Not fitting in (42%)
- Isolating themselves (32%)
- Not knowing anyone (26%)
- Mental health struggles (23%)
- Facing discrimination (21%)
Ensuring team members aren’t isolated is really important, but it’s also difficult to keep on top of – especially if you’re a new manager. Feelings can be hard to spot if people aren’t vocal, and it’s even harder if you’ve got remote workers.
Despite this, there are several positive measures managers can put in place to successfully keep teams together and combat workplace loneliness:
Focus on engaging employees
Employee engagement correlates with job satisfaction, which in turn has a big impact on performance at work. Yet, without a sense of belonging, it’s difficult for people to feel truly engaged. Managers must understand what motivates team members both on an individual and group level. Offering meaningful rewards and incentives is a great way to boost engagement.
That said, this is more about overall employee experience than giving the odd gift card for good performance. The increasing consumerisation of HR means workers now tend to seek benefits like a good company culture. For example, fostering a sense of trust among all employees is well-received in terms of engagement and reduces feelings of isolation.
Encourage team and cross-team bonding
Siloes may be breaking down in modern workplaces, but there’s still the risk of individuals in teams becoming isolated, as well as teams becoming distant and uninvolved with each other. Particularly if a demanding workload means there’s not much time for staff to communicate.
One way to tackle this is to encourage meetings both in small teams and as a wider group. Too many meetings can leave people worrying about not having enough time to finish their work. However, small catch-ups and check-ins ensure everyone is on the same page. They enable people to share ideas frequently and to be involved in giving and receiving peer recognition.
Another idea to reduce isolation is encouraging employees to leave their desks at lunch and sit together. Or, if you’re remote, have a virtual coffee or breakfast call. The benefits of taking proper time out during the working day and having a chance to relax in an informal setting are huge. These things prevent people from becoming too consumed by their work and disconnected from others.
Use technology to enhance collaboration
Using technology to reduce workplace loneliness may sound counter-productive, given the issues of isolation arising from remote work. However, tech can be used to bring colleagues closer together and enhance collaboration. For example, project management tools can help teams stay on track and integrate with each other through uploading files, messaging and update notifications. It’s often much more straightforward and group-friendly than sending emails back and forth.
Social media at work can also be useful to make sharing information easier. Whether it’s work related, or things like favourite recipes and music recommendations, apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams allow social bonding to happen naturally at work. The rise of memes and gifs also leaves space for dynamic relationships between teams. In fact, research by HBR shows that 82% of employees think social media can improve work relationships.
Don’t forget diversity and inclusion
Diversity and inclusion today aren’t just buzzwords and they aren’t just about checking a box. The benefits of having a diverse team include an increase in innovation and productivity. Think about it: put lots of different people in a room together and they’ll all have different perspectives and ideas to help solve business problems.
However, companies that don’t take D&I seriously are likely to have many isolated and lonely employees. Those who work towards creating a diverse and inclusive culture are the ones that will succeed. It’s a good idea to have some sort of diversity and inclusion event—perhaps a full day carved out—where employees can discuss things openly and empathetically. Things like this will help foster the trust and collaboration needed to combat isolation at work.
Thanks for this post go to our friend, Zoe Morris, Chief Operating Officer at Anderson Frank, a subset of global IT recruitment firm Frank Recruitment Group.