There’s no getting past the fact that working conditions have seen a sustained and dramatic shift since early 2020. While the workforce has mostly been resilient, it’s inevitable that the shift to the remote office is starting to take its toll on some. Research from desk-booking software Chargifi has found that since working from home became the norm, Millennials and Gen Z are feeling disproportionately isolated.
The research, which sought the views of 2,000 UK and US-based professionals, found that remote working is negatively impacting their ability to build and develop relationships at work and could be harming their career progress. Since the start of the pandemic, over two-thirds of workers aged 18 to 34 (67%) say they’ve found it harder to make friends and maintain relationships with colleagues. Almost three-quarters (71%) feel their work colleagues are more distant and 54% even say that prolonged remote working has caused them to drift apart from workmates.
The Consequences of Employee Loneliness
The repercussions of employee loneliness run deeper, too. A study by California State University and The University of Pennsylvania discovered that loneliness impacted performance, with unhappier employees scoring lower in performance reviews than their socialised counterparts. Additionally, one survey found that employees have a poorer retention rate, with over a quarter (26%) having left roles due to feeling lonely in the past.
The effect of employee loneliness is cumulative. Unhappiness translates into poor performance reviews which, in turn, make employees even more unhappy. This is detrimental to their well-being and your organisation, since you won’t be getting the best from your talent pool. Having employees locked into a cycle of unhappiness and poor work is, however, avoidable and can be remedied by a company culture of support and nurture.
Supporting the Remote Workforce
In an attempt to better understand what was causing employee loneliness and combat the issue, the UK Government Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport recently commissioned a “Campaign to End Loneliness”. Their research on the issues gathered feedback from some of the UK’s leading employers and their conclusions were published in a guide, ‘Employers and Loneliness’.
By looking at examples across the workforce, five themes were identified to help businesses address loneliness:
1. Culture and Infrastructure
It was discovered that the culture and infrastructure of some companies actively led to employees feeling isolated. To address this, you should identify what matters to employees and ensure that your corporate values align with those concerns. Embedding activities designed to offset loneliness into your well-being and welfare programmes is key.
2. Support From Management
Managers are vital for the role they play–a study by Gallup found that managers are responsible for at least a 70% variance in employee engagement scores across businesses. This means that your managers are on the frontline when identifying people who are experiencing loneliness and they will be the ones to implement any remedial actions. Managers will need support and guidance to help them identify the symptoms of loneliness and training in what steps they can take to address the issues.
3. People and Networks
In addition to addressing loneliness at an organisational level, some companies have created initiatives to allow their employees to come together remotely and support one another around different life events or concerns. Leveraging technology that already exists within the business such as an intranet and messaging channels allowed employees to feel more connected to others and helped to combat loneliness.
4. Work and Workplace Design
Communicating regularly with remote workers is vital. Setting aside a dedicated time in the day for one-to-one or team interaction, where employees are encouraged to not talk about work can help to overcome issues. To further foster a sense of community separate from work, social events, even ones held remotely, can help bolster a sense of inclusion for your workforce.
5. Wider Roles in the Community
Reaching out into the community and supporting initiatives that combat loneliness can help embed the value of key behaviours in your business. Having a company culture that focuses on promoting a healthy work-life balance is important since longer working days don’t result in an increase in productivity but do reduce the quality of life outside the workplace. The effect of long working hours is even more acute when loneliness is also an issue. Sponsoring charities that seek to end such isolation is a positive step in aligning your corporate values with best practices for employee mental health.
How to Measure Initiatives to Combat Workplace Loneliness
One of the challenges for HR teams is how to measure the effectiveness of initiatives designed to combat employee loneliness. Employee engagement surveys present an opportunity to gauge the well-being of your employees in real-time. Carrying out surveys regularly can help identify trends in your employees’ moods and give you the ability to make changes in your initiatives to better address the situation.
How Can Bridge Help?
If you’re looking for a way to better understand your employees and to improve workplace culture, Bridge is here to help. Implementing a survey tool in your company gives employees a voice in building culture, guides managers to better engage with their people and makes it easy to share insights and action plans with the leadership team.
Bridge’s Employee Engagement Surveys give employees a voice in building company culture while helping managers stay in sync with employee morale and overall engagement through meaningful insights and analytics.