The pandemic has exacerbated feelings of loneliness among U.K. workers with 44 per cent admitting to often feeling lonely.
And almost a third confess that they feel like an outsider and disconnected from their leaders. These are the findings from O.C. Tanner’s 2022 Global Culture Report which analysed the perspectives of over 38,000 employees, leaders, HR practitioners and executives from 21 countries around the world, including over 2,500 from the U.K.
Compared to 12 months’ ago, 62 per cent of U.K. workers admit to engaging in far fewer social activities with family and friends, even at a distance, with one in three seeing themselves as loners and more than one in four feeling disconnected from their team.
“The research suggests that people are finding it harder to create and maintain connections”, says Robert Ordever, Managing Director of workplace culture expert, O.C. Tanner Europe. “Workers experiencing periods of loneliness is nothing new, however lockdowns and remote working have made matters worse, intensifying feelings of isolation.”
O.C. Tanner recommends that leaders must become facilitators of connection to help employees to feel closer to the organisation, its leaders and co-workers. It states that leaders simply can’t assume that employees will find ways to build social connections on their own. Instead, they must create opportunities for workers to feel connected both at home and in the office. With the research finding that since the outbreak of COVID, U.K. organisations have only been 28 per cent effective at increasing social connections between employees, leaders must be smarter at bringing people together.
Ordever says, “Facilitating networking and social interactions must become a priority, with leaders building closer relationships with their employees. They must also encourage employees to collaborate and get together socially, both in-person and remotely.”
Staff recognition is another important tool for building connections, with the Report highlighting that by giving appreciation and making employees feel valued, this helps to connect them to organisational purpose, accomplishment and one another.
“Employee connection must be nurtured over time, ensuring every individual feels an important part of the bigger picture”, says Ordever. “They need to feel that they belong, are appreciated for everything they do and are working towards a common goal.”
And the benefits of employees feeling connected, isn’t just a way to reduce loneliness, it also delivers organisational benefits. Employees with strong social connections have less burnout and are more likely to produce great work. Plus, when employees feel connected, there’s 12 times’ the chance of an organisation thriving.