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Are Employees Really Connecting?

The rise of remote work has led to a significant loss of workplace social connections, negatively impacting employees, according to a new report from the Conference Board of Canada. The report highlights concerns from employers about increased workplace isolation as flexible work arrangements become more common.

Leah Ringwald, associate director of human capital at the Conference Board of Canada, explains that remote work limits opportunities for employees to connect as they did in traditional office settings. This shift has made it challenging for employers to restore these social bonds. The study, based on surveys conducted between 2022 and 2023, reveals that many organizations rely on basic practices to foster social connections, such as regular check-ins and in-person social events.

For hybrid work setups, 84% of respondents use overlapping in-person workdays to ensure that employees can meet occasionally. However, challenges remain. Ringwald notes that a culture of back-to-back virtual meetings can hinder social interactions among employees. Busy schedules, heavy workloads, and excessive meetings are identified as significant barriers to building social connections.

The report indicates that employees who feel lonely are more likely to experience job dissatisfaction, burnout, mental health issues, and lower productivity. Workplace isolation can lead to increased absenteeism, presenteeism (working while unwell), and higher employee turnover.

Ringwald emphasizes that different employees have varied needs for social connections and belonging. Loneliness often results from a mismatch between these needs and what employees receive from their work environment. Many Canadian employers struggle to gauge the appropriate level of effort needed to foster social connections effectively.

Although initiatives like check-ins and social events can help, the report shows that many organizations lack proper metrics to evaluate the success of these efforts. More than half of the surveyed organizations do not track mental health indicators related to social connection initiatives, and many rely on existing surveys or exit interviews that may not provide a complete picture.

The report suggests that collaborating with employees to design social connection initiatives and promoting work-life balance can help mitigate isolation. Ensuring employees have time for meaningful personal relationships outside of work is essential for maintaining an optimal work-life balance.

Read more at SooToday


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