It’s a myth to think that we don’t need a social aspect to our working lives.
Nothing is more important to us than feeling a connection. People must feel connected to one another in order to feel included and valued. In terms of mental health, nothing is more important in the workplace than preventing people from feeling isolated.
If we want our people to feel fulfilled and engaged, then we must make sure they feel a strong sense of connection to their workplace community and develop a truly supportive culture.
The issue is this: there are real and solid barriers in our working world that prevent that deep sense of connection. Barriers that impact our collaboration, our health and wellbeing, and our capabilities.
It’s time to use technology to break those barriers that lead to isolation. We need to break down the walls that are developing around us all the time, and start to make better use of the resources available to us to bring people together – rather than keep them apart.
Technology provides us with opportunities to connect whenever and wherever we want. It also binds us to that same sense of connection. It makes distance no object. And it makes distant people feel even further away.
The double-edged sword that is mobile connection has the serious potential to disconnect team members who are not co-located. It’s easy to think of these people as “covered” – they have the online resources to do their job; they can be reached using the same messaging tools as anyone else.
The key in connecting across the technological barrier is to make sure that communication is truly two-way: that virtual workers are given the opportunity to express themselves in a way that suits them, and are brought into the virtual team environment without feeling like they are less valued.
Does your organisation structure present a barrier to connection? If your company has been evolving over the last few years (and who hasn’t?) then has the lack of stability created an invisible barrier? Transformation, acquisition, spin-offs – all opportunities for people to feel alienated from the core of the business.
The responsibility for breaking down organisational barriers sits with your leaders. Not just the executive team – every single leader across the organisation must feel a deep sense of duty to bring people along on the journey.
A culture of transparent and honest communication; a clear set of values and goals from which all operations extend; and a communication approach that disseminates as well as it unites. All of these strategic elements must be in place to overcome the barriers that have been built over years of change and uncertainty.
Mental health can be seriously impacted by feeling of isolation. People that don’t have a meaningful connection with their colleagues, with the work that they are doing, and with their leaders can feel any number of negative emotions. They begin to lose the confidence to reach out and make a connection; they feel like their voice isn’t heard and that what they have to say is not important; they feel that no-one cares or shows any interest in their wellbeing.
Workplace stress is so much more than simply working too many hours or feeling overwhelmed by workload. Wellness in the workplace is about inclusion: about focusing on the emotional, as well as the operational.
Listen to your people to truly connect across barriers
It’s very difficult to express over the course of this blog exactly how many potential barriers to connection exist across organisations. It is hard to explain exactly how isolated people can become in any organisation when they don’t feel included, listened to or valued.
The best way to understand it for yourself is to ask the questions to your people. How do you feel? Do your leaders represent your values and ambitions? Do you have a closeness with your colleagues that enables you to feel supported? Where do you go for help?
Get to the heart of what is making the individuals in your business feel disengaged. Delve into where your structure, technology or occupational health weaknesses are creating health and wellness issues. Only then can you create a culture of empowered, productive, fulfilled individuals who deliver as a collaborative team.
If you're ready to enhance culture through technology and transform your engagement strategy, find out how we can help with our employee engagement app www.engage4.com.