It’s no surprise that technology has changed the social landscape for most of us. This is especially true of the younger generations (Millennials and Gen Z) who have grown up with some kind of technology in their hands. We have entered a “new age” of digital communication, where texting, emailing, video chats and social media have become the primary methods of connecting with others.
Yet in this era of hyper-connectedness and constant virtual communication, we actually feel more disconnected and lonely. How? As we become culturally dependent on using the latest new tech, we have been duped into believing we are more productive, have a larger social circle of friends, and can multitask like a pro. The naked truth, however, is that it has contributed to rising feelings of isolation (emotionally, socially, even physically), and has weakened the building of inherent human relationships and bonds that we naturally crave to feel happy and secure.
These lonesome feelings easily bleed into the workplace environment as we have adopted the same methods of communication. The result is fewer human face-to-face interactions, a lack of interpersonal skills, as well as the creation of more remote positions, taking a number of employees away from a physical team environment altogether. Not feeling recognized and a part of the team can further contribute to feelings of isolation. This becomes troublesome since relationships, friendships and a sense of belonging are critical to happiness, engagement, productivity and retention of employees in the workplace.
According to a study done by global insurance provider, Cigna, nearly half of the 20,000 Americans surveyed report sometimes or always feeling alone (46 percent) or left out (47 percent). Generation Z (ages 18-22) and Millennials (ages 23-37) rated themselves highest on feelings associated with loneliness. A study from Deloitte of 4,000 Gen Z participants supported this notion: 92 percent are concerned about the generational gap that technology is causing in their professional and personal lives. Another 37 percent expressed concern that technology is weakening their ability to maintain strong interpersonal relationships and develop people skills.
Fitspot understands the need to find adaptable solutions for the modern workplace environment and this includes social aspects of how employees communicate and bond with one another. One of our core pillars is “Social”, which focuses on how we can encourage stronger connections with community-based activities. The result is boosted productivity, sustainable company cohesiveness and increased employee retention rates. In fact, based on our nationwide survey, 87.4 percent felt more positive toward their workplace since implementing Fitspot and 58.6 percent of participants met new people at Fitspot services! We believe that building a positive company culture is a fundamental component to combat loneliness in the workplace.
Here are some examples of the community-based services that Fitspot offers:
- Group fitness classes
- Yoga/ meditation classes
- Healthy happy hours (like kombucha, green juice or mocktails)
- Essential oil blending stations
- Build your own trail mix stations
- Tenant Appreciation or Wellness Days – We bring your favorite services on-site! Sample kombucha, get a chair massage, try out a Theragun.
- Educational workshops on topics such as financial wellness, nutrition, stress management, mental health, and personal development
- Volunteer/ service events
We encourage you to follow our lead to nurture engagement within your company or property to help facilitate human connection.
Here are some additional purposeful strategies to try that will help build the foundation for a more inclusive work atmosphere.
Welcome New Hires with Immediate Support
Transitioning to any new job position or office setting can be emotionally taxing for new employees as they are adapting to a new workplace setting, new office culture, and a new workflow of assignments. New hires can face loneliness during this time and establishing new workplace relationships can feel daunting. Employers can help beat them to it! Give new hires proper introductions and support. Other ways to provide support can be inclusive actions such as including them in team lunches, meetings, assigning them a “work buddy” to show them the ropes, or even arranging some snacks and socializing by the new person’s desk to help break the ice.
Reward Hard Work with Gratitude
Recognizing a person or team’s hard work and success truly fosters a sense of belonging and purpose. Simple acts such as a thank you, a quick note, email, a smile and acknowledgment for a job well done can have profound effects on employee self-esteem and team morale. Such simple gestures will surely have a domino effect within a company environment and build camaraderie and trust.
Actively Engage Remote Workers More
Remote workers are accustomed to working solo, separate from the traditional office setting. While they reap the benefits of more daily flexibility, this separation, however, can easily lead to feelings of being disconnected from the rest of the team. Give remote team members the ability to set the agenda for meetings (instead having them conference into already pre-set meetings). Handing over the responsibility to lead meetings will shift the focus to more inclusivity as an active participant (versus passive) and breed additional trust with intentional purpose. Another rad idea? Plan a quarterly or annual remote team meetup in an exciting location. Not only will feelings of isolation dissipate but happier employees means higher retention rates and that trip will more than pay for itself.
Read More: 5 Proven Tips to Encourage Remote Employee Engagement.
Get Outside the Office!
As great as in-house activities are for fostering connections, sometimes the office setting can feel stagnant and it’s best to opt for a change of scenery and atmosphere to build bonds. This becomes a wonderful opportunity to plan fun off-site team-building activities such as team lunches or special meetups/ fun creative gatherings / social events that are non-work related that offer employees the chance to blow off some steam. Planned team retreats are another great opportunity for employees to have meaningful interactions, since being outside of the office makes them more likely to open up and engage in more personal conversations.
Create Healthy Boundaries with Technology
Just as we have learned that we need to set healthy boundaries in our personal relationships with others, we must realize that we have also developed a very intimate relationship with our gadgets. We take them everywhere. How can one ever be fully present if we are always checking our phones, email, and social media on the go, during conversations, or even during meetings? Try turning off notifications and alerts on your smartphones and tablets so that when you are conversing with a colleague or are in a meeting, you can truly be engaged in the moment. If you are worried about future commitments, practice being more open and transparent about your availability so your mental space can be free while you are presently engaged. Another tactic to try: ban tech (phones and laptops) from meetings altogether to eliminate the distraction and revert back to pen and paper usage for note-taking.
Make the Extra Effort: Face-to-Face Communication
We all know that sending an email or instant message to a colleague is a faster way of communicating but did you also know that according to a recent Harvard Business Review study, one face-to-face interaction is more successful than 34 emails exchanged back and forth? Why? Emails lack context, body language and tone and often times they can be misunderstood. Extra time is subsequently spent having to clarify the true meaning of the original message. Instead, walk across the office or to the other building to deliver the message. You will not only get a few extra steps in, but you will also benefit from real human contact and it may just brighten your day.
Collaborate as a Team
Lastly, to feel a connection, one must become connected. Collaboration, whether it’s brainstorming for a project, participating in a company-wide challenge (like Fitspot’s), or creating special interest groups are great ways to facilitate connection. Furthermore, if you can build shared meaning and purpose with the entire team, a mutual understanding can grow as employers and employees alike begin to share what makes their work meaningful to them and vice versa. Ultimately, if everyone is on the same page and feels a true sense of belonging, promoting a commonly shared goal and mission will only improve the company.