The crisis of connection in the workplace


For years before 2020, the most contentious employee issue I heard in all my workshops was flexibility. Next gen workers wanted more time working from home, then everyone started asking. When managers pushed back, they typically encountered a “Why? Don’t you trust me?” attitude.

Truth is, companies resisted due to 2 overriding concerns: people would not work as hard and collaborative culture would fall apart. Then Covid hit and we all successfully made the conversion, despite the chorus of Wall Street CEOs pining for 60 hours a week chained at your desk.

But importantly, both concerns proved to be well-founded. First, after rising during Year 1 of the pandemic, productivity has sunk to its lowest level in years causing much consternation without any obvious solutions.

The impact on culture is harder to quantify, but equally disturbing if you know where to look. In April’21, over 4MM workers quit their jobs for the first time ever, and the rate stayed there 7 of the next 8 months. This is a crisis of connection.

Beyond money and opportunity, the main reason people stay is the feeling that they are an important part of something bigger than themselves. Zoom calls are great for sharing info, not so much for feeling connected to other people. As leaders and managers, one of your most prized skills going forward will be to fill this void. You need to actively, thoughtfully work to create a bond among your hybrid workforce. No matter where they are located, team members need to feel known, heard and valued without the convenience of randomly running into people in the next cube or outside your office. Now it’s on you.

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