Considering the average person spends one-third of their life at work, a job must provide more than just a paycheck at the end of the day.
One meaningful aspect a job can provide to employees is positive social connection. The relationships we develop with colleagues are associated with a host of positive benefits, like a sense of belonging, productivity, and improved physical immunity. On the other hand, workplace isolation can lead to increased job stress, animosity towards colleagues, and even shortened lifespan.
Isolation is created by various circumstances, like remote work, feeling like a social outcast, or witnessing a mass layoff. For these employees, leadership needs to step up and create solutions to improve connections amongst staff. Here are six ways to help get you started!
1. Foster Friendship Building
- Having a work bestie is truly the best, so encourage your team to develop friendships.
- As a leader, model what it looks like to be a friend. Be active in the team chat with jokes and banter. Invite people out to after-work activities. Plan something special for birthdays.
- When hiring, assess prospects to see if they would mesh with the team culture. Find out if they enjoy hanging out with colleagues at lunch or want to participate in team events.
2. Getting to Know You Questions
- Implement recurring icebreakers in team meetings.
- At the beginning of the week, ask your team to share what they did during the weekend.
- End the week by asking what weekend plans are on the agenda.
- Introduce a 'weekly question' to get to know your team on a more profound or amusing level. The sky's the limit when it comes to what to ask. By asking something fun–like 'What's your spirit animal, and why?'–you are taking small steps towards knowing each other better, building connections, and developing trust, while sharing a laugh.
3. Create a Safe Space for Honest Feelings
- Nothing is more isolating than having your thoughts disregarded or feeling like you need to keep things to yourself. To help validate your employees' feelings, make it comfortable for them to share the negatives.
- Create a safe space or safe person for employees to turn to when they need to talk. While some may feel comfortable sharing challenges or concerns in a group setting, others may want to turn to individuals discreetly. Let the team know who is available for one-on-one chats and coach supervisors on how to support colleagues and communicate with empathy.
4. Commit to Inclusion with ERGs
- An effective way to foster inclusion on your team is by creating Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).
- ERGs are volunteer-led groups of employees who share a similarity to connect over, like parents, LGBTQ+, POC, and people with disabilities. ERGs create a space to connect, network, and lean on each other for support.
- Empower ERGs by providing them with resources, like funds to run events, procedures to help them establish themselves as a group, and offering additional assistance as required.
5. Make the Most of Video Calls
- For the many remote employees, the only time they see the rest of the team is on video calls!
- Have a camera-on policy to amp up the connection. (However, there's no need to make a big deal of this policy if someone is unwell or in transit).
- Add a dash of fun to team calls, like asking 'Getting to Know You' questions or through virtual events.
- Workplace recognition is scant. One study showed that 63% of employees don't think they are given positive recognition in the workplace from superiors. And according to Forbes, 75% of remote workers said their mental health would improve if they felt more appreciation.
- You can show gratitude to staff in various ways! Keep it simple with an ongoing 'Team Recognition' chat space for employees and management to give kudos for exemplary work. Or make time at the end-of-week team meeting for shout-outs.
It is essential to take care of your employees and remove the isolation that's creeping into their days. Try incorporating these morale-boosting tips and watch connections grow on your team!