Here’s How to Combat Social Isolation from Working Remotely
Shawn Murphy | May 27, 2020
Collaboration, Remote Work3 min read
Your leadership is always a differentiator. At different times, however, your leadership can magnify and dramatically make a difference. This is particularly true in a crisis. Right now, you’re leading teams remotely while also motivating and inspiring them to be productive and feel connected.
Feeling connected to a team is difficult right now. Preliminary results from our research on working remotely show that 41% of managers struggle with social isolation. Employees struggle more with it, however. 56% say it’s their top challenge when working from home.
Social Isolation Implications
Other research shows that prolonged social isolation increases the risk of depression and anxiety. It can also contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. What’s more, the health care costs associated with loneliness are over $6 billion.
Leaders have an opportunity to help mitigate the damaging effects of loneliness. Employees may be working from home and sheltering in place, but some practical and intentional leadership acts will help counter the effects of feeling lonely.
Being an Effective Remote Leader
I recently talked with Liz Wiseman, New York Times bestselling author of Multipliers and executive advisor. We discussed what managers could do to lead remote teams more effectively. She implores leaders to do this one thing: build connections.
What I liked about Liz’s question to build a connection is how focused it is on performance. The question requires employees to be vulnerable. When we are open to vulnerability, our relationships—personal and professional—become more meaningful. Liz’s question can be hard for some to answer. However, it holds employees accountable for doing great work. And when leaders show that they care by expecting top-notch performance no matter where employees are working, connectedness is possible. The two are not mutually exclusive.
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With that feeling of being part of a team comes some reassurances: I feel valued, wanted, and welcomed. These three outcomes can help offset the negative implications of loneliness.
No matter what your company’s strategy is or will be for a long-term work from home policy, organizations must train leaders on ways to build and maintain connectedness. COVID-19 may have forced companies to implement remote work policies. Now that many employees and companies are learning how this working arrangement isn’t as bad as initially thought, it’s here to stay. Yes, there are struggles, like social isolation. That said, there are struggles associated with any work arrangement. Leaders need to be equipped with the skills to maximize a geographically dispersed team. It is the future of work.
Check out what Liz has to say.
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Shawn is our Director of Organizational Behavior and Workplace Trends. His second book, Work Tribes is out now. Shawn's first book, The Optimistic Workplace is out now. Inc. has listed him twice as one of the top leadership speakers in America.
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