If you’ve experienced the stress and isolation of working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic only to get back into the office and still feel disconnected, you may not feel like you need anecdotes and insights about how others feel lonely.
But there is great value in reminding you that you are not the only one who has had to learn how to build social connections in a new way, and in bad times. And if you’re a manager, you should care about whether or not your team feels lonely — just because collaboration, engagement, productivity, and employee loyalty take a hit with them.
Authors Stephen Van Cohen and Ryan Jenkins report that 72% of workers worldwide feel lonely at least once a month, while 94% of leaders believe their employees are getting lonely while they work remotely. The problem is not to be far away, linkable He quickly points out: “Remote workers who feel connected to their work and team will experience less loneliness than someone who works in an office surrounded by people but lacks good communication.” Going online also doesn’t mean being online: it’s about being “ready and ready to go.”
Loneliness in the workplace is the feeling that you do not have a good connection with your colleagues, your leaders, the organization you work for, or the work you do, rather than whether there are other people in the same room. Solitude can be welcome solitude or unwanted loneliness, depending on whether you feel you have the trust, closeness, and affection you need.
Generalizations blaming ATMs, Siri, Netflix, supermarket self-checkouts and YouTube educational videos for depriving us of social connections don’t seem particularly helpful. Nor does a phrase like “the sinister role of technology in eroding human connection” to describe “looking at your phone instead of paying attention to the TV show you’re watching with your wife.” However, the authors sometimes recall this and note that the unit in the work has a long history.
Similarly, pointing out the disconnect between Generation Z workers who want frequent feedback and face-to-face conversations with their managers, and managers who have been told that Generation Z wants to do everything in instant messaging, can actually help managers with a lonely team.
Belonging requires psychological security, as well as feeling that what you do matters. One short but very important section in linkable It refers to the difference between feeling lonely because you are in a new city with a different culture and you haven’t made connections and what the authors call a “differential” loneliness, where you don’t have the same opportunities, respect, or experiences as colleagues, and “intentional” loneliness resulting from discrimination, harassment, or intentional exclusion. Oddly enough, they also seem to always see social connections at work as a good thing, with no mention of how to deal with unwanted tactics or outright creep.
linkable It is a strange combination of useful insight and pop psychology. The authors note that “preoccupation, distraction, hostility, immaturity, ignorance, competence, fear, selfishness, and telecommuting can all contribute to the distance between people,” and go on to suggest that “a lot of time to communicate through a screen… It cannot replace the link-building and affiliation-building effects of personal exposure.” This seems completely out of tune with him The clear message from the staff They expect mixed flex work to be part of their future—and even recommendations from the book itself, such as “add an emoji to your next post” or “look at the photos on your phone from a month or a year ago until you find one with a friend and send it to them.”
The second half of the book provides advice for leaders on how to notice and change the things that isolate the people on their teams. Given the lack of training many managers receive in actual management, the section on how to recognize the unit, and techniques that help people form and maintain relationships are valuable.
Seeing this called a “four-step unit-less framework” reminds you that the authors run a company that works with organizations like Salesforce and Coca-Cola to provide “worker health” consulting. But if you can ignore unacceptable bias against technology (or understand it as a poorly worded critique of how technology is misused), you’ll find a range of ways to help employees and colleagues feel more connected — in the office or remotely.
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