Nearly two years into the pandemic, reality is starting to set in when it comes to working remotely: it’s not easy to stay connected to coworkers when you don’t actually see them in person. Without the socialization that used to take place at the office, people are reporting increased feelings of loneliness, especially younger generations who may have never set foot in the office. This lack of meaningful connections with coworkers is beginning to negatively impact our mental health and overall well-being. What can employers do? Check out these ideas for leveraging your well-being program to create the connections many are missing.
Feelings of social isolation and loneliness are on the rise—especially among younger workers.
Working from home has its pros and cons. Perhaps the biggest pro is the increased flexibility. A huge con is that the informal office interactions that gave us moments of levity in our workday are now gone. And while we may connect with coworkers over Zoom meetings, they often don’t lend themselves to casual catch-ups. We’re also missing those “weak ties” we used to have, like seeing a familiar face on the subway or chatting with our favorite barista.
And so it’s no surprise that we’re all feeling a bit lonelier and more isolated these days. Research from the Making Caring Common project at Harvard University found that 36% of respondents felt lonely “frequently” or “almost all the time or all the time,” compared with 25% two months before the pandemic. The research also showed that younger people are especially struggling—61% of those aged 18 to 25 reported high levels of loneliness.
Lonely workers can affect an organization’s bottom line.
Feeling lonely is more than just a personal problem. Studies on loneliness have shown how it can impact the workforce and the business. According to a 2020 study by Cigna, people who don’t have good connections at work are:
- 10 times lonelier than people who report having good relationships with their coworkers.
- 2 times more likely to miss work due to illness.
- 5 times more likely to miss work due to stress.
- 2 times more likely to consider quitting their job.
Not to mention, over time, social isolation has been linked to poor health and increased morbidity, which costs the organization more through increased use of healthcare benefits.
What can we do about it? Creating meaningful connections at work can help.
It’s clear that employers need to be more intentional in creating meaningful connections. Many employers are already doing so by hosting trivia nights, group exercise classes, talent shows, and community service activities. Some have facilitated water cooler “chats” in Slack or Teams, virtual lunch “dates,” book clubs, cooking demonstrations, and more to keep virtual workers connected.
At WebMD Health Services, we know how critical meaningful connections can be—not just for company cultures to succeed, but for people to find value, support, and camaraderie in their workday. That’s why we’re proud to announce some new solutions—and some existing offerings—that we’ve developed to keep these meaningful connections going, even in a remote-first world. Here are a few examples of how these well-being solutions can bring coworkers together in meaningful ways.
Community is a new social media element within WebMD ONE that we rolled out this month. It helps employees connect with others in their organization who are interested in the same dimensions of well-being. They can join groups and post questions, share their stories, and encourage others to keep working on their well-being.
Group Coaching by WebMD is another brand new offering we developed to support meaningful connections between WebMD participants. This solution offers an open, cameras-on discussion with like-minded people. Trained and certified WebMD Health Coaches facilitate interactions on topics like stress, nutrition, sleep habits, and more. By the end of the class, participants will have learned something new and made connections with people who are on a similar well-being journey.
We’re excited about this solution. Other WebMD offerings typically only support employees from one organization, but we designed this one to bring people together from all represented organizations. This way, participants have a bigger opportunity to meet people with similar interests and feel comfortable opening up about their personal challenges and achievements.
Stay Connected—a Daily Habits Plan.
We created the Stay Connected Plan in our Daily Habits last year, but it has proven to be an important mainstay for participants. This Plan helps raise awareness of the importance of social connections in our daily lives through small, everyday actions. For example, participants receive prompts reminding them of the steps they can take to feel more socially connected, such as “Did you make time to speak with a friend, coworker, or family member today?”
By providing small reminders and tips for staying connected, we encourage people to continue creating habits that keep them in touch with those they care about, even if they aren’t seeing them in person anymore.
Looking for more solutions to support meaningful connections? Ask us about:
- Company-wide wellness challenges to provide interactive, fun ways to connect and compete
- Dedicated Well-Being Services staff to implement tailored programs with a focus on connections
- Health Coaching to build meaningful one-on-one connections with certified professionals
- Mental health podcasts featuring relatable topics to reflect and feel less alone
Strong social connections at work lead to happier and more fulfilled employees, greater productivity, and higher engagement and retention. In today’s turbulent job market, where an organization’s culture can be the deciding factor to stay or leave, it’s probably never been more critical to ensure that workers feel connected. For help creating meaningful connections at your organization, visit our website or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.