The Complete Toolkit to Lead Remote Workers

Use these tactics and tools to keep your remote team unified, productive, and engaged.

Ubiquitous connectivity, mobile technology, shifting generational expectations, and life events (such as the COVID-19 outbreak) have all swiftly contributed to the growing number of people working from home.

Leading a remote workforce requires a different set of tools to sustain relationships and maintain productivity across a team.

Below are tactics and tools for leaders to boost engagement, create unity, and extend company culture among a remote workforce.

5 Ways Leaders Can Extend Company Culture to Remote Workers 

1. Establish a Digital Water Cooler

On a remote team, watercooler talk (random and non-work-related conversation)is nonexistent. However, there are ways to cultivate the healthy aspects of water-cooler talk with a remote team.

Slack or Basecamp are chat services that are ideal for creating "channels" where watercooler talk can happen. Labeling channels such as “LOL” or “watercooler” can create a virtual place where the team can connect and build rapport with one another.

2. Openly Knowledge Share

Leaders should consider sharing industry news, company updates, financial status, etc. via a reoccurring virtual town hall meeting. 

In addition, encouraging remote employees to share their work or non-work related knowledge is also a great way to cultivate culture. SnagIt or Screencast lets users share videos and images, and has mark up tools like blur, spotlight, magnify, and stamps that make it easy to share and teach others. Zoom or Skype are video conferencing services that also enable users to meet virtual and knowledge share.

3. Provide Recognition Digitally

High fives and pat on the backs aren’t possible when remote working. Leaders must consider new ways to recognize their team digitally. 

15Five is a continuous performance management solution that helps leaders extend digital recognition, feedback, and coaching to their remote workforce. In addition, Tango Card makes it easy to send digital rewards (e-gift cards) to your team.

Read this to understand how emojis (and other visuals) can help clarify the emotional intent of our communications. This becomes increasingly important when remote working because we are less reliant on facial expressions.

4. Send Company Swag

It’s easy for remote workers to feel disconnected from the company brand.

Sending company swag (mugs, t-shirts, phone chargers, etc.) to your remote team can help to keep them connected to the company brand. Also, since remote workers are likely working alongside family members and/or roommates, send additional swag to include them. 

5. Meet In Person (Eventually)

As powerful and enabling as technology is, it can’t replace the human-to-human connection. The secret to cultivating and sustaining culture among a remote workforce, is in-person meet-ups. In-person meetings create opportunities for employees to bond, build trust, relationship build, and have fun. All core to building enduring team culture.

For example, the 900+ remote employee company, Automattic, gets the entire company together every year for a “grand meet-up” in a beautiful location.

Once you establish a healthy culture among your remote team, turn your attention to the below tactics for leading your remote workforce effectively.

6 Tactics for Effectively Leading a Remote Workforce

1. Set Clear Expectations

Remote work is usually less structured than non-remote work, therefore clear expectations are critical. Clearly outline the expectations and then offer the necessary autonomy and trust for the team to execute.

  • Mission and vision
  • Yearly, monthly, and weekly goals
  • Hours of operation
  • Available resources and tools
  • Preferred communication methods, channels, and timing
  • Contact into and guidelines for support
  • Project and/or task ownership
  • Team availability (when, where, and how to be reached)

2. Connect Consistently

A lack of consistent connection, can leave remote workers feeling isolated and disconnected from the organization's goals and mission.

  • Schedule routine virtual meetings. 
  • Designate a specific time (daily, weekly or monthly) where the entire team is online at the same time allowing for quick collaboration or help if needed.
  • Consider an "open status policy” (similar to an “open door policy”) where your online status (busy, away, available, etc.) is accurate so that remote workers know when they can connect with you. 

3. Choose the Right Channel

Today’s workers have gotten fairly good at blending digital and non-digital communications in non-remote working environments. However, in a fully remote working environment, all communications are digital and a new set of rules, know-how, and abilities are needed.

When communicating with remote workers, ensure your intended message aligns with the appropriate channel. Here is a quick overview on how to use today's primary communication channels.

  • Phone: long, detailed, difficult, and/or emotional conversations
  • Email: objective and brief information.
  • Chat: informal messages, general announcements, news, quick team collaborating, and socializing.
  • Video (Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, etc.): focused, long, feedback-rich, emotional or difficult conversations.

4. Communicate Transparently

When communicating with a remote team, transparency is paramount. A remote team is able to be more productive and autonomous when they are well informed.

To allow a remote team to function smoothly as a single unit, make information transparent from the sense of being easily accessible and readily available by using file-sharing services like Google Docs, Dropbox, etc.

5. Track Proactively

The ability to track and measure progress is empowering to any worker, and it’s no different for remote workers. However, the tools used to track progress for remote teams can be different. Consider time tracking, task management, and/or activity tracking tools to review what the team and individuals are accomplishing.

  • Monday.com is a work operating system that powers teams to run processes, workflows, and projects in once digital workspace.
  • Trello helps to organize and prioritize projects and track progress.
  • IDoneThis helps remote workers aggregate their daily activity into a single report.

6. Monitor Well-Being

Setting boundaries between personal and work can be challenging for remote workers. The new independence of a remote worker leading to laziness and low performance can be very top of mind for managers.

"The greater danger is for [remote] employees to overwork themselves and burn out. It's the manager's responsibility to guard against this outcome," says David Hansson, New York Times Bestselling author of Remote: Office Not Required, says,

Help employees take the appropriate time for themselves and maintain work-life balance by utilizing tools like OfficeVibeCultureAmp, and TINYpulse which can effectively monitor employee morale and engagement.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ryan Jenkins is an internationally-recognized keynote speaker and author on the topics of leadership, generational differences, and the future of work. He is the co-founder of SyncLX, which creates lasting learning experiences for companies' #1 asset, their people.

Would you like insights like these shared at your organization? Sync Learning Experiences helps companies big and small deliver training via LMS courses, live workshops (in-person and virtual), and custom L&D solutions. Click here to get in touch with our team.

50 Percent of Emails and Texts are Misunderstood. Here’s How to Change That.

Here are four reasons to use more emojis at work.

We aren’t communicating as well as we think.

Ninety percent of the time people think their emails and texts are understood by recipients, but actually the messages are understood only 50 percent of the time, according to Nick Morgan, author of Can You Hear Me? How to Connect with People in a Virtual World.

For example, according to Morgan, recipients of a two-word email or text such as "nice job" or "great work” interpret the message as sarcastic 60 percent of the time.

Why do people misinterpret so frequently?

Humans have a tendency to assume the worst when the intent of communication isn’t clear. The negative bias that once alerted the brain of cavemen and cavewomen of potential dangers, like bears or alligators, is still very active in the minds of today’s modern workers. 

How do we overcome negative biases hijacking the intended meanings of our communications and ensure our messages aren’t misunderstood 50 percent of the time?

Use emojis.

4 Reasons to Use More Emojis at Work

1. Emoji acceptance is growing.

An early indicator of how culturally-ingrained emojis had become was in 2015 when the Oxford Dictionaries' “Word of the Year” wasn’t a word but actually the emoji, 😂.

Sixty-one percent of emoji users use emojis at work. Twenty-six million custom emojis have been created in Slack since the “Add Custom Emoji” feature was introduced and “emoji use is basically universal” for the 13 million daily active users of Microsoft's unified communication and collaboration platform, Teams.

2. Emojis help clarify emotional intent.

Research indicates that the same part of the brain that processes human faces also processes emojis. When an emoji conveys a human emotion, it can be transferred in a text. Therefore, emojis help communicators manage the emotional tone of digital messages. And emojis help recipients interpret the tone of digital messages.

For example, an “Ok” text from someone can be interpreted as acceptance, apathy, submissive, passive aggressive, or others. But an "Ok 😃” text is easily interpreted as positive acceptance. Adding an emoji removes the emotional ambiguity. Emojis can also create more efficiency by quickly conveying the intent and context that would otherwise be missing in a message.

Unsure what emoji to use for a certain emotion? Use Emojipedia to search emojis by emotions or other categories. 

3. Emojis enhance relationships.

The proper use of emojis help people form relationships and understand one another, according to a recent review of 50 studies on the use and impacts of emojis in communication.

More specifically, when emojis are used at work, the majority of emoji users feel they positively impact likability (78 percent) and credibility (63 percent), and make positive news more sincere (74 percent). And 81 percent of emoji users believe that people who use emojis are friendlier and more approachable. 

In addition, 94 percent of emoji users said the “ability to communicate across language barriers” was the greatest benefit of using emojis.

4. Emojis can close the generational gap.

While using emojis at work is becoming more commonplace, many of the mixed views of emojis can be explained largely by age. In general, the emerging generations (Millennials and Gen Z) place more value on using emojis while established generations (Gen X and Baby Boomers) tend to view emojis as unprofessional and counterproductive.

Professionals over 45 years-old, are more likely to say that emoji use at work is inappropriate versus appropriate. In addition...

  • Only 15 percent think emojis improve workplace communication
  • 29 percent say it makes colleagues look unprofessional; the number jumps to 36 percent when upper management uses them
  • 22 percent say it makes colleagues come across as either annoying, less genuine, or less competent

Conversely, young professionals overwhelming view emojis as appropriate for work. In fact, only 17 percent of young adults consider emoji use unprofessional.

Using emojis with Gen Z is a low risk, high return way to connect with and influence the next-generation workforce.

Here are a few reasons emojis might be the answer to closing the generational gap when communicating with Gen Z.

  1. Emojis are native to them.
  1. Emojis are “work-appropriate” to them.
  1. Emojis elicit truer emotion.
    • 58 percent of Gen Z feel emojis best express their emotions, compared to 48 percent of Millennials, 34 percent of Gen X and 37 percent of Boomers. And 83 percent of Gen Zare more comfortable expressing their emotions through emojis than a phone call, compared to 71 percent of Millennials, 61 percent of Gen X and 53 percent of Baby Boomers.
  1. Emojis improve perceptions.
    • When a colleague uses emojis in their communications with Gen Z, Gen Z finds them to be more fun (50 percent), more approachable (43 percent), and kinder (35 percent).
  1. Emojis can show support.
  1. Emojis allow expression.

Beyond emojis, sending GIFs to Gen Z can provide similar benefits as highlighted above. However, there can be greater risk of misinterpretation with GIFs as certain cultural references depicted in the GIF may not extend across generations. When using a GIF be sure the Gen Z recipient will get the intent behind the reference.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ryan Jenkins is an internationally-recognized keynote speaker and author on the topics of leadership, generational differences, and the future of work. He is the co-founder of SyncLX, which creates lasting learning experiences for companies' #1 asset, their people.

Would you like insights like these shared at your organization? Sync Learning Experiences helps companies big and small deliver training via LMS courses, live workshops (in-person and virtual), and custom L&D solutions. Click here to get in touch with our team.

Straight to Work: 6 Reasons Generation Z Will Skip College

Parenting, costs, and the gig economy are some of the factors impacting Generation Z’s
decision to attend college.

Will Generation Z finally disrupt the traditional path from college to career?

Larry Summers, the economist who served for five years as president of Harvard University, had this to say about the stagnation of education:

Not enough people are innovating enough in higher education. General Electric looks nothing like it looked in 1975. Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or Stanford look a lot like they looked in 1975. They’re about the same size to within a factor of two; they’re about the same number of buildings; they operate on about the same calendar; they have many of the same people, or some number of the same people in significant positions.

The main thing to say is that, for something that’s all about ideas and for something that’s all about young people, the pace of innovation in higher education is stunningly slow. We’re still on a system where the break is in the summer. The reason we’re on that system is that when everybody went to pick the plants, that was the natural way to organize school, and it’s still going that way.

The relevance of higher education has been debated for years, but the emergence of Generation Z at a time when information is readily available 24/7 at the swipe of a finger makes the debate red hot.

Education might be changing, but it’s not changing fast enough to remain relevant and desired by Generation Z.

6 Reasons Generation Z Will Skip College

1. Escalating Costs

Generation Z has had a front row seat to watch Millennials start their careers with their shoe laces tied because of student debt. 

Since 1978, the cost of four-year public education increased 151.1 percent while the median family income only increased 20.2 percent. Since 2004, there has been a 74 percent increase in average student debt.

In the U.S., over 17 million student loan borrowers are under the age of 30 and have a total of $376.3 billion in debt according to the Federal Reserve. For a borrower in their 20s, the average monthly student loan payment is $351, and the median monthly payment is $203. The average student loan debt balance for Americans in their 20s is about $22,135.

Only 27 percent of young college graduates with student loans say they are living comfortably, compared with 45 percent of college graduates of a similar age without outstanding loans.

Considering these staggering numbers, it’s no surprise that 67 percent of Generation Z indicate their top concern is being able to afford college and one in five Generation Z say debt should be avoided at all costs. Thus they will be exploring education alternatives.

2.Increasing Education Alternatives

Seventy-five percent of Generation Z say there are other ways of getting a good education than going to college. 
(Read this for a list of compelling education alternatives.)

3.Lengthening Life and Innovative Times

The global life expectancy of humans has extended from 31 in 1900 to 71 in 2015. As medicine and technology continue to advance, humans will live longer. In fact, the first person to live to 150 has likely already been born.

And Dell Technologies predicts that 85 percent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet. How can the slow-evolving institutions that Summers refers to effectively prepare Generation Z?

The question Generation Z is left asking is: How will a four-year degree sustain me for my 100+ year career in a high-flux world? Generation Z will have to be committed to continuous learning and will look to their future employers to deliver the just-in-time learning they need and crave.

4. Educating is Going Corporate 

Generation Z is seriously considering forgoing a traditional college education to go work for a company that provides college-like training. And companies are preparing to pivot.

Jenn Prevoznik, the Global Head of Early Talent Acquisition at SAP, recently shared in an interview I had with her, that she is "all for" Generation Z skipping college to come work for SAP because what really matters are their skills not necessarily their degree. In Germany and Bangalore, SAP brings university education to their employees. On the weekends, professors come to SAP buildings and teach full-time employees. (Read this to learn how SAP plans to recruit 7,000 Generation Z employees.)

"On college campuses, something unusual is happening: [Generation Z] students are asking corporate recruiters whether companies will help them get new skills as jobs shift," says James Manyika, Chairman and Director of the McKinsey Global Institute. With Generation Z in mind, companies like AT&T and Walmart are making job retraining a high priority. (Read this to learn how to effectively train Millennials in the workplace.)


5. Shifting Priorities for Parents

Baby Boomers viewed education as a dream, Generation X as a differentiator, Millennials as a cultural norm, and Generation Z as for law and medical students only. Because Baby Boomers held education in such a high regard, they instilled the belief and need to attend college into their Millennial children. 


Many argue that the only reason college remains relevant today is due to societal and peer pressure. In the minds of many Baby Boomers and Generation X parents, you failed as a parent if your child didn’t go to college. 


The priority is different for Millennial parents. Only 39 percent of Millennials believe a college degree “lead[s] to a good job and higher lifetime earnings.” 

Millennials faith in college degrees seems to be wavering and it will come through in their parenting. I’m experiencing it myself as a Millennial parent of two kids under three years-old. I have zero expectation for them to go to college. I am still saving for “education” but that could be spent in a multitude of ways. In talking with many of my Millennial peers, I am not alone in this thinking and planning.

6.Growing Gig Economy

Sixty-one percent of Generation Z who are still in high school and 43 percent of Generation Z who are in college say they would rather be entrepreneurs than employees when they graduate. According to Intuit's CEO, Brad Smith, "The gig economy...is now estimated to be about 34 percent of the workforce and expected to be 43 percent by the year 2020." 

Growing up in a gig economy has altered how Generation Z views employment and the education required to begin working.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ryan Jenkins is an internationally-recognized keynote speaker and author on the topics of leadership, generational differences, and the future of work. He is the co-founder of SyncLX, which creates lasting learning experiences for companies' #1 asset, their people.

Would you like insights like these shared at your organization? Sync Learning Experiences helps companies big and small deliver training via LMS courses, live workshops (in-person and virtual), and custom L&D solutions. Click here to get in touch with our team.

How to Hire the Most-Qualified Person in the Future

This is how employers will avoid the high costs of hiring the wrong person
and job seekers can avoid being overlooked.

Eighty-five percent of job seekers lie on their resume and during the hiring process. Forty-six percent of hires fail in their first 18 months costing companies $10,000 per entry-level workers and $40,000 per managers. And on top of that, 30 percent of job seekers' references are fake.

Hiring is highly flawed. What’s the fix?

Blockchain.

Job seekers are being dishonest about their skills, education, experience, and even their references. Blockchain, a time-stamped series of modification-resistant records of data, will be able to verify all of these aspects and will ensure the most capable person gets the job.

Today’s smart job seekers have already built robust online personal brands that highlight and showcase their competencies. Blockchain will provide order and trackable metrics that bring greater validity to job seekers' online profiles. 

Ultimately, the transparency and verification enabled by blockchain will help employers and recruiters know which job seekers to take seriously and will allow talented job seekers to stand out.

Much like how banks rely on a loan seeker’s credit score to make an informed decision about lending, employers will rely on a job seeker’s competency score to make an informed decision about hiring. 

Using blockchain, employers will hire the most suited talent and workers will be placed in positions that best suit their skills. A win win.

How will blockchain be used to verify skills?

Arran Stewart, Founder and CVO of Job.com, recently answered this question in my interview with him. He stated, “Job seekers will be invited to upload their resume—to an ecosystem like www.job.com—and invite people they know to verify their skills.” The verifier completes the task and the job seeker receives a score. 

Then if the job seeker gets hired based on the verified skills, the employer will feed this information back into the ecosystem further elevating the score of the verified skills of the individual.

Just like how timely loan payments impact peoples' credit score, demonstrating skills will impact workers’ competency score.

The verified skill scores will be securely attached to the individual's resume and provided on the blockchain. This provides the individual and future employers an encrypted ledger of the verified skills, education, experiences, and references that an individual possesses.

Stewart is labeling this project as “Equifax for Resumes” where everyone in the labor market is given a "Trustocracy and Meritocracy (TM) score.” TM and blockchain will bring more trust, transparency, and efficiency to hiring.  

"The process of putting trust and transparency behind a user has so many further positive implications in recruitment and outside of it. This score could be used to rationalize every negative and positive comment ever made about a company on Glassdoor, or go one step further, bring context to the 1 or 5-star rating someone has made in other forums,” says Stewart.

In the near future, employers will use blockchain to avoid the high costs of hiring the wrong person. And solely relying on a job seeker's resume or references will soon be old-fashion and ill-advised.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ryan Jenkins is an internationally-recognized keynote speaker and author on the topics of leadership, generational differences, and the future of work. He is the co-founder of SyncLX, which creates lasting learning experiences for companies' #1 asset, their people.

Would you like insights like these shared at your organization? Sync Learning Experiences helps companies big and small deliver training via LMS courses, live workshops (in-person and virtual), and custom L&D solutions. Click here to get in touch with our team.

How to Extend Company Culture to a Remote Workforce

Here are five effective ways to create unity, boost engagement, and extend company culture to remote workers.

The number of people who say they’ve quit a job due to lack of flexibility has nearly doubled from 17 percent in 2014 to 32 percent in 2017.

Thirty-four percent of Millennials have left a job because it did not have work flexibility. And 45 percent of Millennials intend to leave companies within two years that have inflexible work environments.

Remote working is a strong talent retention tool in an untethered world. But extending company culture and instilling unity in a remote workforce can be challenging.

5 Ways Remote Workers Can Positively Experience Company Culture

1. Meet Face-to-Face

KISSmetrics holds an annual summit for it’s remote workers, Buffer's remote employees get together for retreats every five months, and Automattic gets their entire company (400 remote employees) together every year for a “grand meet-up” in a beautiful location.

These companies have discovered a secret to cultivating culture among remote workers…face-to-face meet-ups. The face-to-face meetings create opportunities for employees to bond, build trust, relationship build, and have fun. All core to building enduring company culture.

Use the money you save on office space and prioritize face-to-face meet-ups because putting a face to the name at the end of an email or a personality behind the Slack/Skype profile goes a long way.

Face-to-face meet-ups are a great way to jump-start company culture among remote workers. But to maintain that culture the rest of year takes some intention planning.

2.Create a Digital Watercooler

Watercooler talk (random and non-work-related conversation) is nonexistent with a remote team. However, there are ways to cultivate the healthy aspects of watercooler talk (spreading of ideas, team camaraderie and bonding, fun--non-gossipy--chatter, etc.) with a remote team.

Chat services like Slack, Stride, or Basecamp are ideal for creating “channels” where watercooler talk can happen. Create a fun channel—essential a chat room focused on a specific topic—such as #random, #laugh-out-loud, #Netflix-binge-watchers, or #watercooler to create a place where the team can let off steam while bonding and building rapport with one another.

3. Knowledge Share

Encouraging remote employees to share their knowledge is a great way to cultivate culture. Knowledge sharing sessions could be work related or not…the more personal or abstract the knowledge the more fun.

Leaders should also consider hosting a reoccurring town hall meeting where the status of the company, pending and upcoming decisions, recent changes, financial updates, and so forth are discussed. Some organizations have had success cultivating company culture remotely by hosting monthly “no question is off limits” Q&As where remote workers can ask anything and get honest, transparent answers.

4. Send Recognition

Consider using gifs (short looping videos from giphy.com for example) when using a chat service like Slack to celebrate wins and convey greater emotion and excitement among your remote Millennial workers. If a picture is worth a 1,000 words, then a gif must be worth 2,000 words. It’s powerful, productive, and great for cultivating culture remotely.

Tango Card is a Slack integration that allows employees to send e-gift cards (such as Amazon Gift Cards) to teammates directly in Slack. Per-reward maximums and other parameters can be set to ensure the tools isn’t abused. Overall it’s a sleek and innovative way to boost morale and cultivate culture with your remote workers.

5. Share Company Swag

Because remote workers aren’t entering a building where the lobby and hallways are decked out with company logos and motivational company tag lines, it’s easier for remote workers to feel disconnected from the company brand.

Sending company swag (t-shirts, phone cases, coffee cups, etc.) to your remote team can help to keep them connected to the company brand. Consider sending the swag to the remote worker’s entire family since they are essentially sharing the same “office” at times.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ryan Jenkins is an internationally-recognized keynote speaker and author on the topics of leadership, generational differences, and the future of work. He is the co-founder of SyncLX, which creates lasting learning experiences for companies' #1 asset, their people.

Would you like insights like these shared at your organization? Sync Learning Experiences helps companies big and small deliver training via LMS courses, live workshops (in-person and virtual), and custom L&D solutions. Click here to get in touch with our team.

How to Lessen Loneliness and Boost Belonging at Work

Organizational leaders play a critical role in the fight against loneliness.
Here are seven ways to decrease loneliness and increase belonging, engagement, and performance at work.

People are lonelier than ever before.

In fact, 61 percent of American adults report they are lonely and among Generation Z workers aged 18-22, 73 percent report sometimes or always feeling alone. Additionally, since the outbreak of the pandemic, 75 percent of people say they feel more socially isolated.

Loneliness is not only negatively impacting people’s health but also employee engagement, productivity, and loyalty as I highlighted in my recent article, Why Most Employees Are Lonely and Underperforming.

Work is a major source of loneliness. Remote working, switching to a new team, eating lunch while answering emails, or having no one to talk to on an off day can all contribute to people feeling lonely.

When workers feel lonely, they are less committed and less approachable which makes it less likely that others will reach out to help which compounds the problem. The opportunity to lessen loneliness and boost belonging lies in the hands of organization leaders.

Why Leaders Are Best Suited to Extinguish Loneliness

Perhaps the two things people want most in life are meaningful relationships and meaningful work. Organizational leaders play a unique role in that they can deliver both of those items.

For tackling loneliness, work is very fertile ground for creating connections among people.

The growing concern of mental health and loneliness presents an opportunity for organizations and leaders to improve the well-being and health of it’s employees and thus boosting belonging, engagement, and performance.

How Leaders Can Lessen Loneliness and Boost Belonging at Work 

1.Prioritize Meals

Employees who say they have colleagues they like eating lunch with are less lonely. When people choose to eat a meal together, their body receives signals to calm down because human biology knows we would have never eaten a meal with a person from a threatening tribe. Meals lower our guard and open us up for deep connection.

For example, the personal grooming company, Dollar Shave Club, utilizes an algorithm within their communication platform, Slack, to pair a person with someone they don’t know to share lunch together. The company even pays the bill for these so called, “Power Lunches."

2. Socialize Smarter

Create connections beyond traditional socializing. While socializing outside of work (happy hours, company partiers, etc.) can reduce loneliness, group conversations tend to stay shallow and people tend to talk about what they have in common which is work. One-on-one conversation or doing an activity together is more likely to create deeper connections. 

For example, some UK companies have created connection spaces, such as a “Chatty Table or Friendly Bench,” where the expectation is for people to connect when present in those spaces. Other organizations have created micro-communities where people connect based on similar interests, such as running before work or salsa dancing. Recently, my company helped The Home Depot create an onboarding scavenger hunt where new hires were not only oriented to the work and workspace but also to the people inside the organization.

3. Prompt Personal Sharing

When people feel they do not need to hide their true selves at work, they are less lonely.

One of the primary hallmarks of a high-performing team is psychological safety, the belief that you won’t be punished when you make a mistake. Create opportunities for individuals to share aspects of their personal lives with the goal of seeing the human behind the job. Ways to prompt personal sharing might be to have a bring your kids or parents to work day, provide a virtual tour of your home office, or carve out five minutes each meeting to have someone share a personal anecdote.

For example, Vivek Murthy, the former U.S. Surgeon General, created the “Inside Scoop” exercise where his team devoted five minutes once a week during their all-hands meeting where one person would share pictures of anything they wanted as long as it wasn’t related to their current job. One researcher on Murthy’s team was perceived as very detailed oriented and “nerdy” by her colleagues but that changed once they saw the pictures of her marathon training and heard about how she qualified for the U.S. olympic team. She saw herself as an athlete, not just a researcher, and now her colleagues saw that too. 

4. Promote Work-Life Balance

Employees are less lonely among employers that promote good work-life balance and when they can “leave work at work.”

Work-life balance should be pursued and consistently reevaluated by any organization. Enabling telecommuting, prioritizing volunteering, supporting vacation, offering childcare, and extending parental leave are all examples of how organizations can help employees strike better work-life balance. Read this for more work-life balance ideas.

For example, Facebook and IKEA recently began offering new parents (mothers and fathers) four months of paid baby leave. And JPMorgan Chase recently joined other Wall Street banks in telling its employees to take weekends off in order to improve their work-life balance.

5. Create a Communication Agreement

When employees feel that technology helps them make meaningful connections with coworkers and when technology is not perceived as a replacement for in-person interactions, employees are less lonely.

Ubiquitous connectivity has eroded many boundaries we once had between work and life. Communication can be impersonal and incessant if appropriate boundaries aren’t established.

Establish a communication agreement among the team that enables more meaningful connections and ensures every person is heard. Items a communication agreement can highlight are response time expectations, how face-to-face interactions are to be prioritized, preferred communication channels, appropriate technology for the type of information, “do not disturb” timeframes (vacation, evenings, deep work, etc.), channels for urgent communications only, participation expectations during meetings, etc.

6. Model Rapport Building

Leaders should model what effective rapport-building looks and feels like. Here’s how to build a rapid, high-quality connection.

  • Look for uncommon commonalities. Similarities that you share that are rare.
  • Ask open ended questions. Display real curiosity for the other person. (Don’t put on the spot or cross any lines.)
    • What is the most meaningful thing that happened to you this week?
    • What are you reading, watching or making that is bringing you joy?
  • Self-disclosure. Share something about yourself.

Consider creating environments where two people can explore the above with each other. At times, a formal exercise can give the necessary permission to ask deeper questions of a group or team and the mutuality is built in.

7. Help Them Help Others

Helping others helps people feel less lonely. Adam Grant, organizational psychologist and New York Times bestselling author, recently shared on his podcast that he was feeling alone one month, so he began sending emails to people telling them why he appreciated them. As a result, he felt less lonely. 

Additionally, relationships don’t have to be lasting to be meaningful. A brief forty-second positive interaction has significant impact on both people and can alleviate loneliness as long as the moment leaves an individual feeling seen. For example, offering a pen to someone who might be trying to fill out a form can make someone feel seen and less stressed.

Leaders should encourage their team to proactively look for ways to help someone else. As demonstrated by Grant, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to move from lonely to connected. 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ryan Jenkins is an internationally-recognized keynote speaker and author on the topics of leadership, generational differences, and the future of work. He is the co-founder of SyncLX, which creates lasting learning experiences for companies' #1 asset, their people.

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