Updated: Dec 23, 2022
The aftermath of COVID-19 and stark changes in workplace policies have left employees today feeling more disconnected than ever. This chasm between a single employee, their colleagues, and their company stems from poor management and mismatched expectations.
And while most enterprises have maintained productivity throughout the pandemic, distanced work models have only enhanced the challenges of building meaningful relationships and networking. As a result, workplace disconnection is now a key driver of the Great Resignation - costing U.S. businesses up to $406 billion each year (1).
Therefore, for organizations seeking to reignite morale and reduce repercussions, prioritizing connectivity is a good place to start.
Why is Employee Disconnection Happening?
Disconnection happens when poor communication and management create an ‘us versus them’ situation. This can occur within teams, between departments, and among senior and junior staff.
As a result, people feel increasingly powerless and negative about work - naturally pushing them to the course of resignation. Let’s dive deeper and identify the drivers for workplace disconnection:
Lack of appreciation
A PwC survey found that 64% of people feel their contributions, ideas, and opinions don’t matter to management (2). Furthermore, when bosses are unnecessarily critical or steal credit for employees’ hard work, people are bound to disengage.
Lack of professional growth
When people feel stagnant on the job, or aren’t given opportunities for career growth, they’re likely to feel disconnected from their work. Global Talent Monitor’s report has even shown that the lack of future career development remains a key driver of employee attrition (3).
Lack of a clear purpose
Deloitte’s 2015 survey identified that employees in an organization with a “strong sense of purpose” experience higher levels of work satisfaction (4). So when a company lacks a clear goal or vision, employees will feel like cogs in a machine rather than value-contributing team members.
Lack of agency
Employees check out when forced to do tasks beyond their job scope or tasks that don't make sense to them. This lack of autonomy leaves employees feeling frustrated, de-motivated, and eventually disconnected.
Lack of resources
Nothing makes us feel more helpless than when we lack the tools, knowledge, or guidance to do our jobs. And there seems to be a jarring mismatch between what managers think their workers need versus what they actually need. Half of the executives in the aforementioned PwC survey believe their employees have the resources necessary to do their jobs - sadly, only 39% of workers agree (2).
Lack of distanced work facilitation
Remote and hybrid work models have separated us by thousands of miles, pushing pre-existing disengagement further down the rabbit hole. But facilitating distanced work goes beyond hosting more Zoom meetings. And when we don’t resolve this, employees particularly those in the early stages of their careers – will struggle even more. Studies have shown there is only a 1% chance that you would report being fulfilled if you lack meaningful work interactions (4).
Five Ways to Reconnect the Disconnected Workplace
Workplace disconnection isn’t something new - but it has been escalated by distanced work models. The good news is that there are things we can do to turn things around and get everyone feeling engaged again. Here are some best practices managers can implement to salvage broken bridges and close the metaphorical distance at work:
1) Streamline organizational communication
With everything going virtual, organizations need to leverage an omni-channel approach to involve people at all levels and get the messages through.
This entails one-way channels like company social media platforms, live broadcasts, and newsletters. Companies also need two-way platforms where people are given the chance to ask questions and share their thoughts. Make it known to employees that they can reach out to their managers for 1-1’s, share ideas on Slack, or voice their concerns through a forum.
2) Encourage open-door policies
Create opportunities for open conversations and safe discussions. Allow people to be honest and upfront without the fear of being dismissed or shutdown. And show that you’re listening to and validating their concerns.
At the same time, leaders need to be transparent and clear about the company’s direction and goals. Being truthful about both the good and bad gives employees certainty and psychological safety. Ultimately, you create an environment where people feel safe to share ideas, give feedback and cohesively plan for what’s ahead.
3) Buddy up
Promoting friendship at work is an effective antidote to workplace disengagement. A Gallup study shows that employees who have a close friend at work are 7x more engaged and have greater well-being (5).
Hence, it helps to introduce a buddy system, or a mentorship pair, by pairing new employees with more experienced ones. This ensures people get the support, guidance, and friendship they need to feel connected to their work and their colleagues.
4) Organize moments of reconnection
Recreating spontaneous moments of human connection in a hybrid or remote setting is challenging. And as we know, work friendships don’t just happen.
Therefore, leaders need to schedule regular sessions for people to get together and show appreciation. For instance, end-of-the-week signoffs are a great time for people to gather virtually, talk about their week, the challenges they faced, and celebrate their wins.
5) Offer resources for growth
When managers proactively offer training and advancement opportunities, employees will feel more connected to their overall career trajectory. This may look like reimbursing courses or rewarding people for improving certain skills.
And if you’re leading a remote team, ensure they have the right equipment and communication tools to keep them connected to the company and to each other.
We overcome workplace disconnection when people have clarity about where the business is going and have enough support to work towards it. So leaders, let’s better communicate, listen and engage, only then can we ditch the ‘us versus them’ mentality and bring our teams together. Ultimately, the strongest businesses are those where everyone - from the janitor to the founders, is connected to each other and the organization’s overarching goals.
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