To truly solve loneliness requires the engagement of institutions where people spend the bulk of their time: families, schools, social organizations, and the workplace. Companies in particular have the power to drive change at a societal level not only by strengthening connections among employees, partners, and clients but also by serving as an innovation hub that can inspire other organizations to address loneliness.

—Vivek Murthy 19th US Surgeon General


Do you have meaningful connections with your co-workers? And, if you were to ask other employees the same question, what do you think their answer might be? 

Whether working side by side in an office or remotely scattered across the globe, social connectedness in the workplace should not be ignored. Empirical data have shown that those who feel lonely at work are more likely to feel a lack of belonging, and this has been linked to burnout and a lower quality of work and commitment to the organization (i.e., higher turnover). Conversely, strong, meaningful connections have been linked to higher quality work, higher self-reported levels of well-being, increased engagement, and decreased workplace injuries; that is, employees who are engaged, productive and happy.

What is social connectedness?

Social connectedness is more than “getting along” with colleagues. In fact, it refers to our innate need for community and connection. Simply defined, social connectedness is an individual’s experience of feeling close to others. It is not about the quantity of connections, but the quality thereof. In the workplace, this may be experienced as supportive interactions, a sense of belonging, and effective teamwork.

Why does social connectedness matter?

Having quality relationships is highly protective of health—as protective as exercise or quitting smoking. One of the most notable effects is employee resilience to workplace stress. Social connectedness promotes both mental and emotional well-being. This is particularly impactful when billions of dollars are lost annually due to decreased productivity and absenteeism due to workplace stress.

This means that positive, quality relationships at work are also good for the bottom line. Research shows that social connectedness at work is linked to:

  1. Increased productivity. Social connections enhance creativity and collaboration leading to higher levels of innovation and greater problem-solving skills by improving how employees work together to get the job done. 
  2. Increased job satisfaction. Employees who feel valued also feel a sense of belonging and purpose, and are more likely to enjoy their work and remain engaged. This can have a positive impact on employee retention.
  3. Improved health outcomes. Social support and connectedness can help people maintain a healthy body mass index, control blood sugar, decrease mortality risk, decrease depressive symptoms, and improve overall mental health and well-being. 

Ultimately, employees with strong social connections are happier and healthier, less likely to call in sick, incur high medical insurance costs, or quit, and are more innovative, motivated and productive. It’s a win-win all around. 

Social connectedness for remote and hybrid workplaces.

Like many elements of well-being, social connectedness is subjective and there is no single quick fix: a one-size-fits-all approach is likely to fail. However, there are some key ingredients:

    1. Increased opportunities for socialization in wellness activities. For a digital workplace, this may include leveraging a digital space for social groups, such as sports and special interests, to be created and supported. We have found that technology can be a powerful tool to bring people together around common interests. These groups can then act as peer-to-peer support channels, and drive participation in other initiatives, such as monthly team-building events and challenges that connect departments and individuals. 
    2. Strategize. This may seem counterintuitive, however, given the evidence of workplace conflict and bullying (negative social interactions), concerted efforts that foster high-quality interactions in order to build high-quality relationships may be warranted. This includes initiatives focused on open communication and connection, and increasing trust, collaboration, positivity, and recognition. Team-building, positive messaging, individualized authentic recognition, and celebrations are opportunities to create meaningful connections that support these outcomes. 
    3. Leverage wellness initiatives to foster meaningful relationships outside of work as within. Not only does this promote a healthy work-life balance, it also supports a diversity of relationships that ultimately support the mental, emotional and physical health and well-being of employees. With longer work days associated with reduced productivity, maintaining work-life balance is good for relationships and business.
    4. Inclusive remote work policies. Creating inclusive remote work policies ensures that all employees, regardless of their location, have equal access to opportunities and resources. This includes considerations for time zone differences, flexible work hours, and the use of inclusive language in communication to make all team members feel valued and included.

    Whether your employees are collaborating in a physical office space or working remotely, the benefits of social connectedness are undeniable. Employees who are happier, healthier and more engaged help your company thrive. When we embrace the value of social connections and implement targeted initiatives, we build a future-ready workforce that thrives on the collective strength of its connected employees.

    We can assist you in improving the health and performance of your workforce with our solutions designed to cultivate a culture of inclusion and belonging.

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