It is estimated that an average person spends roughly around 90,000 hours at work in a lifetime. This means that we spend more than half of our waking hours at our jobs. Since so much of our time is dedicated to our work, how we are treated at our workplace has a direct impact on our personal lives. Workplace stress and anxiety can seep into a person’s life, ruining their personal relationships and declining their physical and mental health. One of the leading causes of workplace stress is being isolated at work. Workplace isolation doesn’t necessarily mean that a person is pushed in a corner and secluded from others. Sometimes it’s not even obvious; you may not even notice that workplace isolation is an issue amongst your employees. However, workplace isolation is a very serious issue and unfortunately it is quite common. In a startling survey by EY belonging barometer, 40% of employees felt isolated at work.
What is workplace isolation and what causes it?
Workplace isolation refers to employees feeling secluded and separated from either their colleagues, from their managers or the entire organization as a whole. Someone who feels isolated at work might feel that they don’t belong where they work or they may even feel that they are unfit for their job. Moreover, they may also feel that they are being treated unfairly and are disliked or even despised. This isolation can be real or perceived, meaning that an employee might actually be pushed aside and treated unfairly or certain practices at their workplace are making them feel way. Whatever the case, workplace isolation is extremely detrimental to both the employees and the organization for which they work.
According to Steve Miranda, from Cornwell University when employees feel isolated they put minimum effort into their work and are more likely to be disengaged and unhappy. She further explained how isolation at workplace not only affects the productivity of the employees but ultimately affects the performance of the company. It is quite natural for employees who feel isolated at work to be completely disengaged and even hate their job. It is also considered as one of the main reasons why an employee might resign from his job.
There are many reasons why employees might feel isolated. It may be because of their colleagues or because of their workplace policies. It is important to understand that workplace isolation can still occur even if you think that you give your employees the best. It may occur despite a high salary, numerous benefits and even frequent appreciation. Workplace isolation is more about the culture of your workplace- how your employees interact with each other and how equitable your policies are. In a nutshell, here are a few common reasons of workplace isolation:
- Lack of effective communication
- Compartmentalization within workforce/silos
- Harassment, racism and workplace bullying
- Lack of diversity
- Unfair treatment of employees
- Favoritism and nepotism
- Toxic workplace culture
How to deal with workplace isolation:
Workplace isolation may be extremely detrimental but it’s not something that cannot be resolved. If you think that your one of your employees or a lot of them is suffering from isolation here are a few ways to tackle it:
Breaking down communication barriers:
Miscommunication and lack thereof is one the biggest reasons that causes drift between the employees. Most of it comes from inefficient channels of communication or absence of proper forums where employees can connect with other. It is extremely important to have a platform that has smooth channels for communication and where employees can connect with each other seamlessly. With a collaboration and communication software program like Workspee, you provide your employees a medium where they can easily communicate and collaborate with each other. They get a channel through which they can resolve their issues and even develop friendships. So, the first step in ensuring that your employees don’t feel secluded is to provide them an effective channel for communication.
Give your employees a voice:
Any problem that your employees are facing cannot be resolved if you don’t know about it in the first place. Feeling cornered and isolated is something that most employees will not share unless they feel comfortable in doing so. It is imperative that your employees are given a voice to share their concerns. When employees are empowered and given a voice, they can share problems without any hesitation.
Listen and act:
Most of the times, employers provide means for employees to share their issues only to put it aside and ignore it. Unless you actually listen and resolve those issues, it is useless to ask for your employees’ opinions. Let’s say that you have some employees who feel that they are being isolated by their co-workers. They come to you and share their problem, but you just give it a listen and then brush it aside. Imagine how those employees would feel after that. A part if taking feedback from employees is acting on it. If your employees believe that you will resolve their issues, they will come to you again and again with their problems.
Focus on collaboration:
One of the most amazing benefits of collaboration is that promotes healthy relationships between the employees. Frequent collaboration allows employees mingle and understand each other better. It improves their level of communication and makes them comfortable with each other. Collaboration is also great for introvert employees as it gives them a chance to get out of their shell.
Go for diversity:
In today’s world, it is extremely important to have a diverse workforce. Most employees who feel lonely or isolated are the ones who are in the minority. For example, in a workplace where there is male dominance and very few women are working, it is natural for those women to feel isolated. Similarly people with a different ethnicity as their colleagues tend be more separated and cornered. When you hire people of different gender, race and class you have a team of employees who respect each other regardless of their background.
Workplace isolation is something that is usually not given much attention to by the employers. Unfortunately it is quite a persistent problem with very grave consequences. However, on a positive note, it is an issue that can be resolved with effective strategies.