Much has already been said in literature and research in equal measure about how the health and wellbeing of an individual can be dragged down by loneliness. Human beings are social animals, so take away the “social” and that literally leaves “animals”!
But what of the effect of loneliness at the workplace? Is there an effect? The answer: a resounding “Yes”! COVID-19 is the pandemic these days, but for a while, loneliness has been an epidemic silently expanding its tentacles. And with work from home taking away what has been the traditional workplace and its associated compulsory interactions with other human beings (read: colleagues), the problem is being exacerbated.
Numbers speak… and they speak loud! Gallup in 2019 reported that
There is a saying that suggests people quit their bosses, not their jobs. Its accuracy is a matter of debate, but what is true is that 51% of employees stay with their employers for longer than they would because of their colleagues. Also, 62% of them would like to get to know their colleagues better than they presently do.
It is abundantly clear that close personal connections at the office are the base for meaningful experiences for employees. Employers must take cognizance of the need to facilitate employee interactions that go beyond the superficial.
This is part of broader need employees have for emotional support from their organizations. A massive majority – 90% – of employees feel their performance goes up when their emotional wellness is supported by their employer. An even bigger proportion of managers, at a huge 94%, believe the emotional wellness of their employees is no less important than how well they do their jobs. Emotional wellness leads to a big step up in the success achieved by businesses, due in no small part to their employees achieving their potential at work.
Why is poor emotional wellness a worry?
Because it could well be a sign of burnout, coming from low recognition and satisfaction at work as well as high workload and stress. The mental and physical health of an employee suffers as a result, bringing anger, anxiety, and depression in their wake. With 55% of US employees falling to burnout (as per the Next Generation Workplace study in 2019 from performance management solution 15Five), there is no denying that workplaces need to provide better mental health support.
Strong workplace relationships are important to alleviate these, with improved happiness and wellbeing coming from environments that allow colleagues to conveniently connect. Just some quick public recognition of an achievement or a personal note of feedback can go a long way!
What do employees want?
Better synergy between work and life, for one. Under 1% are happy with their jobs, and almost 80% have work on their minds even beyond exiting the workplace premises – or in the case of remote work, logging out. A contributor is the lack of support from managers, of whom only 41% use a one-on-one meeting to enquire after emotional wellness. Managers checking in on their employees at least once every week earn confidence in their abilities from nearly three-quarters of their employees.
Good communication clearly is a given if we are to get to a state of wellness. All levels of the workforce should be able and empowered to share constructive feedback with each other. This is a stepping stone to becoming comfortable with even those you do not work with regularly. If an employee is encouraged to share a story of a colleague going above and beyond the call of duty or doing more than what the role in the team would require, others take notice and might follow suit.
Organizational network analysis (ONA) is a great tool here. A data-driven study of connections across the workforce basis work and other relationships, it gives employers a deeper understanding of the relations between people. It could also guide leaders on their facilitation of deeper employee connections and making them better.
Diversity efforts stand to gain from improved workplace connections. With companies looking to broaden the ethnic backgrounds from where they hire their employees, it becomes important for these employees to relate well with the firm once they are a part of it.
Managers must follow suit, doing their best to improve the wellness of their employees. Regular one-on-one meetings are a great way to promote two-way communication, which could give an insight into the state of wellness and what to do to promote it. A proper agenda with specific action items ensures the productivity of the endeavor.
When all this comes together, the social culture becomes one of great positivity, letting employees and their employers thrive! The structure of the organization or the composition of its workforce may differ, but positive connections between employees are essential if the company is to succeed.