Remember, isolation is bad for business

Remember, isolation isn’t just bad for your employees; it’s bad for business. Employee isolation causes lower motivation, lower performance, and lower productivity. Have we moved to an “always-on” culture? 

With the realisation that remote working will change the landscape of office-based work forever, leaders now have to think longer-term about how they can help their teams thrive in a remote arrangement.

It’s also important to remember that it also presents some exciting opportunities for flexibility and freedom in the way we work.

Interestingly, the leading cause of stress for workers is not due to personal or health concerns, but more a result of changes in ways of working. In a recent survey, 55% were experiencing stress, mainly due to their new working conditions. Also, the combined pressures of working with technology can blur boundaries between home and work, time management issues, operating in an ‘always-on’ culture, and worry about the future contributed to workers feeling stressed.

As workers were removed from their offices, they were disconnected from the constant stream of social interactions that influenced their well-being and sense of belonging at work. While working from home can bring a sense of freedom and opportunity, it can also feel lonely and isolating it’s a delicate balance!

An individual’s well-being is deeply influenced by their opportunity to engage positively with other people. Remember, employee isolation isn’t just bad for your employees; it’s bad for business. Employees who feel isolated and disconnected at work have lower motivation, lower performance, and lower productivity.

So, what can we do as business leaders to foster “connectedness” among staff and address some of these overarching concerns felt by workers?

These are some simple and practical steps leaders can take to promote a thriving workplace culture for remote teams and staff facing significant changes to their ways of working.

1. Communicate regularly

 So much communication is non-verbal, especially in a remote working environment. It’s, therefore, essential to set up periodic virtual face-to-face meetings to help everyone connect and stay on the same page.

However, many managers and leaders have gone over the top in trying to compensate for the absence of connection by scheduling back-to-back Zoom meetings and constant check-ins – leaving workers feeling hypervigilant and fatigued.

Instead, encourage a healthy mix of face-to-face calls and other platforms for communication. Cloud-based platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams are great for facilitating fuss-free collaboration and communication with co-workers throughout the day.

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2. Promote empathy

 Teams are made up of people who need to be able to understand one another and feed off each other to work together effectively. Therefore, it’s important not to underestimate the ability of staff to directly influence the level of positivity and optimism in the workplace.

Leaders will need to practice empathy as their staff endures increasing uncertainty and more changes to ways of working. Actively facilitate ways for your team to connect with you to express their concerns or feelings. Showing personal warmth can help to build the trust of your team.

3. Give clarity of purpose

 Your staff are already feeling the pressure of uncertainty when it comes to their future work and their workplace setting, so re-establishing a sense of purpose by giving clarity to what that might look like is vital for boosting employee morale and engagement across all levels of the organisation.

Overall, the purpose is a powerful driving force of daily behaviour and collaboration amongst staff members. For this reason, make it clear to your team what their shared goal is, and how they can work together to achieve it.

4. Practice resilience

 Connection and resilience go hand in hand, as having a strong support network is imperative for improving overall well-being and positive mental health. This is even more important in the absence of physical presence.

There are several ways to build resilience and boost mental well-being including exercising regularly, eating a healthy and well-balanced diet, getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night, taking the time to detox from technology in the evening, and making time for hobbies outside of work.

5. Build leadership trust

 There can be a massive disconnect in how much staff felt trust levels had dropped compared with leaders’ perceptions of this. One-third of workers reported lower trust levels compared with just 16 per cent of bosses who thought the same.

Leaders should aim to build trust with their employees by promoting a sense of shared purpose, connection and openness rather than setting tasks and excessive meetings that can cause fatigue and a sense of micromanagement and isolation. Instead, leaders should demonstrate care for their staff by showing compassion, integrity, and honesty.

While remote working has undoubtedly presented many challenges and employee isolation, it also offers some exciting opportunities for flexibility and freedom in the way we work, as remote working becomes more permanent.

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