How to Combat The Isolation Between Co-Workers During Forced Remote Work

Social Isolation: It’s Not Strictly Caused by Remote Work, But the Coronavirus Pandemic Has Certainly Increased It WithinWorkforces All Across the World. Here’s How to Combat It…

Social isolation is essentially the loss of feeling connected. It’s not strictly caused by remote work. Social isolation can strike at any time, even for those who are surrounded by colleagues, friends, and family members. But the coronavirus pandemic has certainly increased social isolation within workforces all across the world. How? Well, the lack of proximity and face-to-face interaction leaves many feeling disconnected and uninvolved. Multiple factors contribute to the sense of isolation, and for managers or supervisors, there are essential things to consider.

Before We Can Combat the Isolation Between Remote Workers, We Must Understand Where It Comes From…

First and foremost, remote work isn’t necessarily the cause. Remote work has the potential to lead to higher productivity, satisfaction, and happiness – if managed correctly. Researchers found, in a study of remote workers, that working from home led to a 13% performance increase wherein 50% were less likely to leave their job – reporting much higher job satisfaction compared to those working in an office. Despite this, almost half of those who experienced the benefits wanted to return to working in an office. Why? Because of social isolation.

Buffer’s “state of remote” study found that 19% believed loneliness was the biggest struggle associated with remote work. The truth is, although many people are more productive and satisfied with working remotely, social isolation seems rampant amongst those not working in the office. People can lack communication with others, feel unplugged or disconnected from the workplace, and eventually suffer in terms of mental health. For supervisors and managers, it’s crucial to know that this isn’t due to remote work. Instead, it’s completely preventable.

Social Isolation Can Be Eradicated, Even in a Remote Workplace, with a Bit of Awareness and Effort…

Most organizations were using proximity for social cues – meaning employees can feel connected to one another because they’re within the same building. But the truth is, proximity has no bearing on your ability to establish meaningful relationships with others. While it helps, it doesn’t necessarily ensure inclusivity. Because that proximity element has been removed and remote work is the current norm, many employees haven’t adjusted to the necessary element that makes up for proximity. It’s not about more meetings… it’s about meaningful interactions.

Many tools can assist with allowing for meaningful interactions between employees:

  • Microsoft Teams
  • Slack
  • Zoom
  • GoTo Meeting
  • And much more

If Meaningful and Impactful Conversations Are Created, Social Isolation Can Be Minimized…

Let’s take a look at the factors that play into isolation between co-workers during forced remote work:

Employee Performance

When an employee is trying to be efficient and measures their self-worth based on their ability to perform, but they’re kept in the dark through remote work, they’re unable to know whether or not they’re doing well. This can be dealt with through a simple “you’re doing a great job,” but it needs to be genuine. You can also establish performance feedback efforts between staff, colleagues, etc.

Employee Impact

When you’re kept in isolation, you lose the value of what the organization brings you and what you bring to the organization. Then, it becomes difficult to understand if you’re doing any meaningful work. We’ve mentioned the importance of praising and giving feedback on tasks, but the inability to see the impact or “fruits of the labor” is one of the other factors that create isolation. When assigning work, talk about why it’s a meaningful component of the overall picture.

Employee Development

We’re two months into forced remote work, and it’s long-term, so when you’re thinking about individual employee development, there’s a huge component that needs to be addressed. It’s vital to encourage your employees to ask for help. This creates a social exchange where they’re able to develop as they ask and receive. It’s more than saying “ask me if you need anything,” but instead, creating a culture that welcomes one-on-one personal development opportunities.

Employee Access to Resources

The last cause of isolation is access to resources or lack thereof. Far too often, access to resources is something we take for granted. While we may have accounted for access to resources in the office, we may not have considered long-term, company-wide access from home. If an employee needs access to corporate resources, it’s essential to take care of ensuring they have that so they don’t feel like an outsider within the organization. Provide what they need and create the necessary channels to share information.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that social isolation, while magnified by our current circumstances, isn’t unique to the workplace. As an organization, it’s vital to embrace an understanding of how this works. Employees can come into the office and feel isolated in the same way remote workers can.

Questions About Improving Remote Work Conditions to Eradicate Social Isolation? Reach Out to Us to Speak with One of Our Technology Professionals Now.

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