Most of us are yet to define what the “the new normal” actually looks like. Some businesses have opted to stay remote others have called their teams back to their offices, and the majority seem to be sticking with a new, more flexible hybrid work model. While our teams are enjoying a better work-life balance, a reduction in commuting costs, and more control over their day, a rather alarming theme is on the rise, loneliness.

Latest Findings
Hybrid work has seen a massive change in the quality, frequency, and nature of interactions we have with our colleagues. Our relationships are less dynamic, and spontaneous communication has declined.

Leading research in neuroscience suggests that only in-person interactions trigger the physiological responses required for optimal human communication and trust-building. On the other hand, virtual interactions can lead to static and siloed collaboration networks, with employees beginning to feel disconnected from their organisation, and social and professional isolation.

Research by Silicon Reef shows that over a quarter of employees are taking action on their own, by now choosing to work outside of the office or home to ward off loneliness. Yet their report still shows that a staggering 84% still feel lonely or disconnected from their colleagues.

One of the study’s stand out finding is that nearly three-quarters of office workers are calling on their employers to do more to address the loneliness of their remote colleagues. They see it as a business leader’s responsibility to take positive action, and they believe this should include;

  • Opportunities for mental breaks and support, and
  • Social online interaction with employees (41%).

Over a third of the office workers holding those views have experienced loneliness when working flexibly. To put this into context, 27% of the UK population has contracted COVID at some point, so whilst we can never compare loneliness to COVID, these statistics highlight that loneliness is at epidemic levels.

How can we address it?
Loneliness is a multifaceted problem, one that we will not be able to solve overnight. We can’t solve this intractable and difficult problem overnight. This is why we, as employers and business leaders need to look for different solutions that address cultural issues, equipment and software challenges, management issues and more.

We aren’t a management consultancy, and whilst we believe our own workplace culture provides a safe workspace for our remote employees, we are by no means experts. What we are is digital transformation experts, and with our knowledge, we want to help you build an environment where technology plays a part in the solution of loneliness, not the problem.

Here are some minor adjustments that can make a big difference:

Gathering insights to understand how they spend their days and how this can be improved:
Microsoft Viva Insights allows employees to reflect on their day, add focus time and request one to ones. This reflection data is collated anonymously into a dashboard that can help inform managers of the team’s overall mood, are they feeling stressed, do they need support and so on.

This information allows them to make targeted recommendations about the efficient use of time to boost productivity and wellbeing. It can also help address the need for more mental breaks and support.

Offer Separate Communication Platforms
Using separate and distinct communication platforms, with one having a more social focus such as Yammer, and the other for more of a work-focus and professional communication such as Microsoft Teams. This can help boost organic social interaction for those that don’t get the opportunity to have water cooler talk anymore.

Utilise breakout rooms or other social initiatives
By creating initiatives such as “coffee roulette” or weekly drop-in sessions where people are randomly (or sometimes not so randomly) encouraged to engage with each other. It helps to create more opportunities for ad hoc communications with colleagues.

Schedule one-to-ones with colleagues
Creating a workplace buddy system to encourage colleagues to team up on tasks with virtual or face-to-face meetings. This not only drives human interaction and collaboration but also helps improve ways of sharing work and getting feedback.

Training and Courses
Microsoft Viva Learning is the perfect place to host your training videos and company charters to support employee development. Also hosting reverse mentoring sessions on Teams allows senior staff to learn through coaching from juniors. This adds a more human experience to learning and development.

These are steps that you can implement to address loneliness in your workplace, today. If you need support tackling the technical aspect of this multifaceted challenge, then our engineers can help.

They have carried out a wide range of projects to break down communication silos, build digital workspaces that work for both remote and in-house teams, streamline processes, create bespoke knowledge centres and so much. You can contact us here to find out how we can help, or sign up for our newsletter to get insights directly in your inbox.