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Topic: Engagement

5 steps to combat loneliness in the workplace

Recognition in the workplace has many research-proven benefits such as increasing engagement, retention, and overall employee morale. However, recognition can go far beyond improving employee engagement. Our latest research has shown that employee recognition in the workplace can increase connection between employees and lower feelings of loneliness and disconnectedness. Why is this important? Because in today’s society humans are feeling a lack of connection, even in our increasingly connected world. With all the different types of technologies, social platforms, and ways to connect you would think we were more connected than ever before. However, what employees are missing is genuine, human interaction. Even something as simple as walking to someone’s desk to ask a question versus emailing them can help bridge the gap between communicating and actually connecting.

A common misconception around this notion of connectiveness is the idea that loneliness is related to a sense solitude or depression. However, loneliness derives from our quality of relationships, not quantity. Sigal Barsade and Hakan Ozcelik explore this idea of The Painful Cycle of Employee Loneliness and How It Hurts Companies  in their article published in Harvard Business Review. They discuss how a sense of loneliness in the workplace can relate to lower job performance. They go on to say, “lonely employees were perceived by their coworkers to be less approachable and less committed to the organization.” This type of loneliness has a direct effect on the steady 30-year decline in American’s satisfaction with peer-to-peer relationships at work.

These types of feelings of loneliness don’t only hurt job performance, but can be costly to the company. The Center for Prevention and Health estimates that mental illness and substance abuse caused by poor emotional wellbeing can cost employers between $79-$105 billion every year through a decrease of productivity, absenteeism, and increased healthcare costs.

This problem begs to ask the question: what can we do about loneliness and disconnection in our own organizations and teams? The solution is easier than one may think. Creating a more connected culture doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or become a drain on resources. Follow these 5 simple steps to combat loneliness in the workplace.

• Focus on creating an inclusive workplace culture – A great workplace culture is the best place to start. However, an inclusive culture doesn’t happen overnight. It has to be cultivated and supported from the top down. Start with campaigns or town halls during work hours to help your employees feel listened to, valued, and included in internal company initiatives.

• Give genuine, timely, and public recognition – Giving public recognition doesn’t have to be saved for large company meetings. Gather a few team members together to share a great accomplishment, give a shout out for a job well done, or share a box of donuts on Friday and call out the wins over the week. The benefits of this type of recognition far outweigh the costs. The important thing to remember is to make this a moment for people to connect and celebrate together.

• Share successes as a team – It’s human nature to want to produce something awesome and celebrate with friends. Don’t keep successes private. Invite the whole team to celebrate together.

• Connect your team members to your company’s purpose – When people have a shared purpose to rally around they are more motivated to be more collaborative, create meaningful relationships with coworkers, and crave challenging opportunities.

• Encourage more face-to-face interactions – If you have a quick question, walk over to your colleagues’ desk instead of sending an email. Give yourself an extra 10 minutes on the front end of meetings to ask how everyone’s weekend was. Overall, try to use technology a little less and one-on-one connection a little more.

Read more about the importance of creating a connected and inclusive culture in our Global Culture Report.

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