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Are Your Team Members Feeling Isolated at Work?

Wednesday August 5, 2020

Are Your Team Members Feeling Isolated at Work?

Wednesday August 5, 2020

Remote employee with head in hands feeling isolated at work in front of their laptop

Are you concerned that your employees might be feeling lonely? It turns out that feeling isolated at work is more common than some may think. Approximately 82% of employees have reported feeling lonely at work at one point.

Understanding when this is an issue and knowing what to do to rectify the problem can go a long way toward creating a successful workplace.

Read this article to learn more about isolation at work, why connection matters, and how to encourage communication in a business as you continue reading.

Why Are Employees Feeling Isolated?

As mentioned above, a majority of employees have reported feelings of isolation and loneliness. Regardless of gender, nationality, age, or any other demographic factor, loneliness is a feeling everyone can relate to.

According to research from Harvard Business Review (HBR), when these feelings occur, most people seek support from home first. The next place people search for a sense of belonging is the workplace, above neighborhood communities and places of worship. This poses a problem, since feeling isolated at work may keep them from doing so.

So why are employees feeling so lonely? Here are some potential answers:

  • Lack of workplace friendships: The Guardian reports that 42% of people have no close friends at work.
  • Difficulty adjusting to remote work: 70% of workers struggle with socialization while working remotely.
  • Few face-to-face interactions: Even in-person employees can feel lonely, especially if interactions with peers are limited.

To address these feelings of isolation, many workers develop their own strategies to cope with loneliness and isolation–from intentional check-ins with colleagues to arranging badminton groups, curry nights, and similar activities.

 

Since people spend so much of their time at work, removing barriers to workplace belonging is essential.

The Importance of Workplace Connection

Based on the above, it’s clear that many workers feel that belonging to a group in the workplace is essential.

HBR quantified the value of workplace belonging, both with correlational and experimental findings. The study confirms that companies reap substantial bottom-line benefits if workers feel like they belong.

These benefits include:

  • Productivity: The individuals who felt a high sense of belonging in the workplace were more productive. Job performance had a whopping 56% increase while turnover risk went down 50% compared to those feeling isolated.
    Increased attendance: The high-belonging team members also had a 75% reduction in sick days.
  • Cost savings: For a company with 10,000 employees, a strong sense of team belonging could result in annual savings of $52 million or more.
  • Employee satisfaction: Employees with higher levels of belonging had a 167% increase in their employer promoter score (which refers to how willing an employee is to recommend their place of work to the people around them).

In addition, those who didn’t feel isolated at work received 18 times more promotions and double the raises of those who felt out of the loop.

How To Detect Employee Loneliness

Sometimes it can be hard to identify the problem, especially with all of the regular work tasks demanding your attention. Those employees that are silently suffering in isolation or loneliness can easily slip through the cracks.

There are things that both employees and their team members can do to recognize the problem and do something to make a positive shift. So what are the symptoms of being isolated?

Here are some signs of loneliness and isolation to look out for in your team members:

  • A decline in productivity, organization, and interest
  • Decreased participation in team meetings and activities
  • Low confidence or self-esteem
  • Passive or even aggressive attitudes
  • Increased distraction and forgetfulness
  • Lack of friendships in the workplace
  • Poor physical and mental health
  • Increasingly sporadic work schedule or use of sick days
  • Showing little interest in career development

Identifying team members that are struggling socially in the workplace can be a tricky and sometimes daunting task, but helping even that one person feel more comfortable as part of the team can create a more positive and productive team environment overall.

You may also discover that those individuals have a lot more to offer than you realized once they feel safe and connected because they’re then more willing to participate and let their talents shine.

Making time for frequent individual check-ins with each of your team members will give you more opportunities to notice these signs when they show up.

How To Encourage Communication

According to McKinsey & Company, finding a way to incorporate informal interactions is an excellent method to encourage meaningful connection in the workplace, both within and across teams. Making space for these light interactions allows you to create better trust-building and more social cohesion in teams.
Here are five ways you can facilitate these interactions:

1. Leave Free Room in Meetings

One method of cultivating informal communication is leaving part of the meeting agenda blank.
This time can be used for employees to talk about any topics that are on their minds. Individuals can connect and get to know each other without a specific subject that needs to be adhered to.

2. Make Room for Less Formal Interactions

Whether it’s in-person or virtual, hosting team chats, lunches, or activities gives employees opportunities to participate in stress-free conversations with leaders and teammates.

When team members know how to connect with each other in these less formal situations, they’re more likely to feel comfortable communicating and connecting at work.

If you need help facilitating these gatherings, Teamraderie offers several exciting team-building experiences for both remote and in-person offices!

3. Keep the Doors Open

Another way to foster connections is by creating a policy of the leaders’ doors being open. Rather than leaving the space open to topics related to work, let employees know they can step in to talk about their superiors less formally. This will make them feel more confident about reaching out about any issue on their mind.

If you work in a remote setting, consider making room in your schedule to host informal meetings. These should be optional, and shouldn’t have a specific agenda.

4. Include Employees in Decision-Making

Including struggling team members in conversations about important decisions makes them feel more trusted and respected. When they know their input is valued by others, they’re more likely to give it.

This practice also fosters more equality and confidence among team members when they aren’t under the impression of a hierarchy of importance within the team.

5. Further Learning and Training

Team members feeling lonely may feel more valued and connected if they’re told that they’re just the right person for an important job or responsibility.

Identify tasks that could be delegated out and fit well with their strengths and offer the opportunity. That may just be the little kick they need to get their enthusiasm and confidence levels back to a good place.

Even when people are feeling isolated at work, they might be happy to have an opportunity to change that. Making sure employees can connect with peers, leaders, and other teams is a huge part of the process. Once those abilities are put in place, more workers will feel as if they belong which offers a host of benefits, such as being more engaged, motivated, and productive.

What Are the Implications of Isolation for Teams?

When someone at your company is feeling isolated, it isn’t something that just affects them. It can also affect the business as a whole.

For example, feelings of isolation and loneliness may make it harder for the team to communicate. When communication breaks down, it can take any feeling of cohesion with it.

Finding opportunities for team members to communicate in low-stakes situations can be beneficial for the workplace as a whole.

The more employees communicate, whether about work agendas or other things, the more they will find things they have in common. Employees who let others get to know them are more likely to make friends with others in the workplace. This can make work a place of excitement and enjoyment. It can prevent people from feeling isolated at work and make a team stronger.

Building Connection With Teamraderie

The last few years have proven that teams can work just as well on a virtual basis as in a shared physical location. However, some people may find the remote environment tied to feeling isolated at work and becoming lonelier.

Creating shared virtual experiences can be a solution to this issue. Make sure employees have a way to connect and a formal for informal interactions. This can cut down on isolation for distributed team members.

Teamraderie’s experiences are live, virtual, interactive workshops that promote connection and trust. If your team is struggling with loneliness, these experiences are an excellent way to reverse that trend.

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