Rarely do pandemic-era reports show that workers and bosses are on the same page about anything, but at least one survey shows they can finally get along on an idea: people are looking for a meaningful connection at work. Without it, they are ready to quit.
Among those who work for remote and hybrid companies, workers say the main reason they would leave is to feel disconnected from the culture and its employees, according to a joint survey by Airspeed, an internal social platform, and Workplace Intelligence, the HR research company.
Meanwhile, C-suite leaders agree connecting employees is the biggest challenge they’ve faced during the pandemic, and 2 in 3 believe their employees would quit for a job at another company where they feel more connected.
“Everyone recognizes that feeling of disconnection is the #1 problem they face,” says Doug Camplejohn, Founder and CEO of Airspeed. But, he adds, “the answer does not come back to the office. The reality is that this problem has been around forever, and Covid has only made us all more aware and sensitive.”
Employee disengagement was bad before Covid
Employee dissatisfaction and disengagement have been on the rise for years, according to Gallup.
Disconnect makes workers feel lonely, isolated, coworkers don’t care about them, and they’re replaceable, according to the Airspeed/Workplace Intelligence report that surveyed 800 C-suite executives and 800 workers in March .
A majority view their work as solely transactional: 52% of workers said they only work there for pay.
When your only connection point as a remote or hybrid worker is back-to-back Zoom meetings, “there’s just no soul,” says Camplejohn. “You are more likely to rent to the highest bidder.” As he says: if you’re going to video chat with people you don’t feel connected to anyway, why not do it where someone will pay you more?
Admittedly, the silver lining of taking time off from work is having more time and energy for your personal life, as many have prioritized during the pandemic. But “it doesn’t have to be one or the other,” says Camplejohn. “It’s not just that the job has to be a paycheck. It can be something where I have the flexibility to balance and also do meaningful work.”
The social link as a business priority
Leaders must prioritize social connection within the work itself. Some 44% of workers say their manager doesn’t encourage socializing, 36% say it’s not part of their normal work day and workflow, and 33% say they don’t have the time to socialize.
When workplaces don’t encourage personal connection — such as recognizing milestones, having different departments to work together, even pairing peers for informal get-togethers — it can lead to lower productivity, says Camplejohn: ” If you don’t feel like you know the people you work with, communication just doesn’t happen as fast.”
Workers may also be more likely to quit even for small incentives: About 62% would take a similar job elsewhere for a $1,000 signing bonus, the survey found.
To find better solutions, leaders will need to recognize that they don’t fully understand what employees want and need, at least not without further investigation and open discussion. A vast majority of 9 in 10 executives say their company has in-depth knowledge of their workforce, but only 6 in 10 workers agree that their bosses understand what motivates them, or their personal characteristics, interests and values .
Disconnecting in the workplace is “a widely discussed topic at the highest levels of business. I don’t think people have cracked the code,” says Camplejohn. His team at Airspeed is still trying to figure that out as well. But, he adds, “the answer isn’t more Zoom happy hours.”
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