What’s the workplace trend that media outlets from Harvard Business Review to Huffington Post to the Guardian are writing about? Sadly, it’s not foosball tables or flex time—it’s loneliness. Studies show that a large (and growing) percentage of adults feel isolated on the job, regardless of whether they occupy a cubicle or the corner office. And since work is where we spend most of our time, that’s a worrisome trend.
The Ripple Effect
Loneliness feels lousy—everyone knows that. What’s surprising is the danger it poses to health and longevity: as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, claims a source cited by the Harvard Business Review. More than obesity. And that damage seeps into the workplace as a whole. No wonder more and more companies are recognizing that strengthening personal relationships among their staff is an essential goal, right up there with increasing productivity and meeting sales quotas.
Activities That Build Connections
Fortunately, there are all kinds of steps employers can take to foster stronger bonds. Workplace rituals, such as birthday celebrations and new-hire welcome breakfasts, are a small but important way to nurture interpersonal relationships. Many businesses also encourage like-minded coworkers to form book groups, schedule regular happy hours, or team up for charity fun runs, giving team members numerous ways to connect as individuals, outside the constraints of their office roles.
Learning that your coworker is an accomplished juggler and speaks fluent French may not seem relevant to the quality of your work together. But it’s just that sort of shared discovery—hey, me too!—that sparks conversations, deepens relationships, and leads to a sense of connectedness that benefits everyone on the org chart, and ultimately the organization itself.
Come Together…Right Now
Choosing the right team building outing for your whole crew matters, as well. Opt for something fun and challenging—but not too stressful—that rewards teamwork while allowing individual talent and smarts to shine. Something like a team scavenger hunt or a trivia quiz helps team members get to know each other better. Here’s a great example.
To make your employees feel known, connected, and appreciated, uncover those hidden abilities and experiences. Spark those conversations. It could mean the difference between a team that just clocks in, and one that really clicks.