Hybrid and virtual working can cause feelings of isolation which carry can costs for both employees and businesses.
So what are the signs to look out for?
Look at the face on the screen. Can you tell the difference between a happy face and a faux happy face? Watch out for forced smiles and especially a ‘resting face’ that is not so happy. It’s the resting face that tells you where someone is. The downward curves on the mouth, the furrowed brow, the sad eyes. Don’t be fooled by the smiles. Like the clowns in the circus these may just be for show.
Observe levels of coordination and team working. If you see issues here, a root cause may be some people are not collaborating enough with others. Is there a pattern? Are some people being kept out of the loops? If so, and especially if they are more introverted, they may well be feeling isolated but nobody knows it.
Are you sensing frustration, anger or stress? Isolation can show up differently depending on our personality. For some of us we go quiet, insular and sad. For others we get angry, hostile and critical. Don’t assume your employees are all like you. They may be frustrated but feeling isolated.
Don’t make a habit of cancelling one-to-one meetings. When one-to-one meetings are frequently being cancelled or cut short, it’s a sure sign that relationships are being prioritised behind doing more ‘urgent stuff’. Without regular touch points with managers, employees will inevitably feel more isolated. Regular cancelled one to ones are a red flag to watch out for.
As well as watching out for the faux happy face, watch out for the proverbial brave face, specifically the brave words ‘I’m fine’ or ‘I’m just a bit tired today, but everything is okay’. Don’t walk past these in the virtual team. Dig deeper with ‘how are you really feeling?’ Watch out for avoidance too. Employees who are feeling isolated but cleverly change the subject away from them onto something else, usually something to do with a work priority or back to you and how you are.
Finally look at how your business is performing. Successful teams tend to be happy teams so build a successful team by following a science based team building formulae for today’s digitalised world. First get the team Set by ensuring everyone is on the same page, then get them Safe so they can speak their truths and then move onto to getting them Strong, so they can work autonomously with constructive rather than destructive tension. This developmental sequence applies to solo performers too. The world is changing and we have to change with it.
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