Our Need for Connectivity: Taking a Step in the Right Direction

May 6, 2024 9:32 am Published by

Take a step back from what “needs to get done” for a moment and reflect:      

What is a core aspect of human life that permeates our life experience

and which isn’t going well for many adults today?

One answer is – living life with others. From the moment of our birth and until we die – we are connected to others.

The same is true for our work lives – we work in the context of relationships which includes some combination of an employer, supervisor, customers or clients, colleagues, suppliers, and the general milieu of daily life (dealing with others while driving to work, or where you eat lunch). And while the degree and intensity of interaction with others varies from individual to individual, we are all connected with others to some degree. But our connectivity is diminishing.

Our Need for Connection

Interacting with others is not the same as being connected to them. Neither does communicating with nor relating to those around us necessarily build connection. Brené Brown defines connection as “the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment.”

The results of our lack of relational connection are becoming clearer every day:

record breaking levels of loneliness, depression, anxiety, unhappiness, not feeling valued, senseless violence, and growing chasms between groups of people.

One Key Contributing Component to Our Lack of Connection

Our decreasing connectedness with others can be linked to many factors (dissolution of the nuclear and extended family and distance created by communicating through social media – to name two), but no one can reasonably argue against the role that working remotely has played as a central component. I’m not arguing for going back to the “good old days,” whenever they might have been. Rather, we need to implement tools and processes to counteract the dynamics that result from millions of people working remotely or in a hybrid situation, which has led us to create a new Virtual Appreciation at Work Training Kit.

In research we conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, we found key components related to those who were coping adequately with the stress they were experiencing (in contrast to those who were struggling significantly with anxiety and depression). First, they and their colleagues were proactively reaching out to one another to keep in touch. Even though they didn’t see each other as frequently, they took the initiative to contact one another. Secondly, the key interactions were between peers and colleagues, not with supervisors. And finally, they communicated about their personal lives. They didn’t just talk about work, but they inquired and shared about their family, what they did in their free time, and generally how they were doing. This sharing at a personal level created connection among team members and helped them survive the stressful circumstances in their lives. (Similarly, the military has found that social connection among team members is a core component to resiliency – the ability to “bounce back” from traumatic experiences.)

Connection: What It Looks Like

Feeling connected to someone is a personal, subjective experience. It is feeling seen, having your point of view being heard, a sense that “they get me” when talking to a coworker. Creating connection requires communication but just talking together isn’t sufficient – being accepted and valued for who you are is also a component.

As a result, connection with others does not occur through transfer of information. Therefore, it is important to note that information-based training won’t create connection between colleagues even if the content is about relating to one another.

Appreciation, Connection, and Remote Employees

Gallup found that 42% of the 160 million workers in the U.S. are remote or “hybrid capable” – meaning their job responsibilities are such that they could possibly work remotely. Currently, of those who work offsite, 27% work exclusively remotely, 52% have a hybrid work schedule, and 21% work onsite. That means over 53 million employees don’t work primarily onsite – which leads to a lot of disconnectedness.

Prior research by the Boston Consulting Group found that “feeling appreciated at work” was the #1 factor associated with job satisfaction. And our work with hundreds of thousands of employees has found that feeling truly appreciated is highly connected to “who you are” versus “what you do.” Employees are not just production units, they are people and desire to be noticed and valued beyond what they produce (which is the primary focus of employee recognition programs). As a result, our Appreciation at Work training focuses on teaching team members how to get to know one another as people not just coworkers.

Tools to Build Connection with Remote and Hybrid Employees

Showing appreciation to one’s colleagues who work remotely looks different than communicating appreciation in face-to-face relationships. As a result, we created the Remote / Long Distance version of the Expanded Motivating By Appreciation Inventory– where we identify actions in each of the appreciation languages that can be used in long distance relationships. Taken by thousands of employees, this assessment along with a team’s group summary report has become a foundational resource for organizations to help create connection among team members.

Additionally, we are now releasing the new Virtual Appreciation at Work Training Kitwhich provides the structure and resources to lead remote employees and virtual teams through the process of learning how to communicate authentic appreciation to one another. In fact, we have created two versions: one to be used in a single training session (e.g. half day) and one version to be done over a series of multiple sessions (e.g. once a week).

We know that connection with others is important – for us individually, for our organizations, and for our society – so start today by taking a step in the right direction. We are confident our tools can help.

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Published by
May 6, 2024 9:32 am

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