How to Break Out of the Feeling of Isolation from Remote Work
It’s been almost two years since our society transitioned to a fully remote workforce and some are still operating that way while others have moved to a hybrid model. There have been some major shifts culturally to the workplace in that time, some better than others. More flexibility and less commuting are incredible upsides, but feelings of isolation and disconnection are often reported as the downsides.
Let’s take a deeper look at two areas that have greater consequences long-term if not addressed.
- Weaking interpersonal connections. It’s no surprise that working from home by yourself every day can feel lonely. Without colleagues sitting across from you, it’s easy to lose the social cohesion and sense of being on a team. You’re more likely to work in silos and connect with others less frequently. It’s also changed the nature of social capital — benefits you can get based on who you know. With no more water cooler chatter or coordinated lunch breaks, you’re probably not keeping up with your work acquaintances as often, or at all. You might be in meetings more often but that doesn’t translate to feeling connected. In fact, when studying anonymized collaboration trends across billions of Outlook emails and Microsoft Teams meetings, the trend was clear: shifting to remote work meant people’s networks took a major hit.
- Build communities around learning and collaboration. Collaborative learning is better for knowledge retention than the typical top-down education where one person teaches the learning materials. A bottom-up collaborative learning approach allows everyone a say in what to learn and how to learn it. Individuals can learn more through the shared social interactions with their peers. It can help deepen these relationships as well which could lead to more social capital that is critical for a thriving workplace. Flowing knowledge and information in addition to the birth of new ideas and energized thinking are just a few of the benefits here. Others are lower absences, less turnover, better organizational performance, improved ROI, and an enhanced culture of togetherness and innovation.
As the shift to a remote or hybrid work life becomes more permanent, there will be inevitable changes that need to be made. By opening the lines of communication, you’ll be better equipped to understand how everyone is responding to the transitions. With that knowledge, you can create a strong work community that can withstand whatever new obstacles are thrown your way.
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Written by Rachel Strysik