With millions of employers working remotely and telecommunicating due to the COVID-19, many have felt isolated at one point in time. As a ripple effect, social isolation has affected employee health and wellbeing, especially having a chronic effect on mental health.
Although single-person households are probably the second common type of living lifestyle in the US, mental health experts suggest that it could raise depression rates, loneliness, poor quality of life, and overall health problems.
Studies show that 1 in every 5 Americans feels lonely. Although the millennials make up a majority of the current working group, 3 in 10 millennials often feel lonely, and 66% of them find it hard to make friends and socialize.
As a ripple effect, the social isolation aspect has impacted the other health and wellbeing aspects of the affected individuals, like –
- 53% – dissatisfied with their personal finances
- 44% – unhappy with their jobs
- 33% – Housing issues
According to a Buffer study, 19% of employees agreed that remote working has increased their struggle with loneliness. A Gallup study showed that women who are more social and have friends at work are more likely to be engaged (63%), compared to the 29% of disengaged women who are not very social at work.
As the pandemic continues to threaten mental health and employee productivity, employers must come up with employee engagement strategies that help in reducing their social isolation issues and establish a healthy workplace culture, even it is a virtual workplace.
In addition to providing the needed tools and resources to improve employee mental health, employers must also implement other effective engagement strategies and communicate about them to the employees.
Ensure Proper Employee Communication
Communication is one of the key factors that impact social isolation, employee productivity, and overall workplace culture. Studies have shown that employee communication is vital for workplace wellness, and employee wellbeing. This becomes especially important when your employees are working remotely. Keeping in touch with employees is a great way to ensure proper communication throughout the workday. Although remote working has increased virtual calls and video conferences, it impacts employees in many ways, and does become exhausting at one point in time. Employers must look into other options like emails, internal messengers, chat channels, or personal calls during working hours, to ensure the message gets conveyed to the right person on time.
Encourage Team Building Activities
Building strong teams lead to better communication and collaboration to get the tasks done on time. With proper collaboration in a strong team, the team members are less likely to feel isolated or lonely. Employers can encourage team interactions regularly, hold virtual coffee breaks or team lunches, and other team-building strategies to make sure the entire team is engaged and active. So, in addition to preventing employee isolation, team building can also motivate employees to do better, boost employee engagement, and productivity.
With most employees working remotely, it is highly possible for them to feel disconnected from the workplace or engage less, resulting in their underperformance and lack of interest in the job. To combat such issues, employers must promote significant employee experience by appreciating and acknowledging their efforts. When the smallest successes are acknowledged and celebrated, it encourages the workforce to do even better. Offering rewards, incentives, certificates, or just sending out an email congratulating them for their performance or achievement, can help in fostering a healthy workplace culture.
Implement Employee Wellness Programs
Employee wellness programs have been proven to improve employee engagement, productivity, and holistic wellbeing. By implementing the right wellness program modules like social wellness programs, wellness challenges, employers can make sure that employees are engaged well at work and with their teammates. Encourage employees to share their daily wellness challenges progress, share healthy recipes, suggest tips, and discuss their life stories and experiences. With these practices becoming a regular of their everyday life, employees tend to connect more mutually, and also build stronger friendships, reducing their loneliness. Also, employers can add social wellbeing coaching, mental stress relief tips, or other suitable educational resources to the wellness program, allowing employees to improve their emotional wellbeing that could be affected due to the isolation.
Healthy social relationships at the workplace are crucial to establish a healthy and positive workplace. Encouraging social interactions and communicating appropriately can help mitigate the risk of social isolation and loneliness. Managers and team leads must be trained to identify and address mental health issues, engagement concerns, and isolation fears.
In short, identifying the risk factors and addressing them with the right strategies and modules can help employers combat employee isolation and loneliness, while building a healthy and engaging workplace.