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Bonding with Freshmen in the Workplace

Workplace Connectedness: No One is an Island

14 Oct 2022 5 min read
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Ruby Liu MY

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Self-exploration
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Stepping into autumn, while the end of the year is approaching, the working life of freshmen in the workplace has just begun. Everyone who graduated during the pandemic must have experienced a long period of online learning, which might drastically reduce closeness and intimacy in the communication process. Did the pandemic hamper your social competence in connecting with others? 

The Sapien Labs' Mental Health Million Project surveyed nearly 50,000 young people aged 18-24 around the world, about half of the respondents believed that their social self has diminished after the pandemic as well as their ability to connect and interact with others. Another overseas survey found that entry-level workers are more lonely than other levels such as senior employees, managers, and executives. 

Many newcomers in the workplace are curious and have much anticipation towards work. In the face of social isolation during the pandemic, while adjusting to the social and work norms in the workplace, how do they adapt to changes in the environment and their identity and alleviate the sense of loneliness? What kinds of support can the management provide to these newcomers? 

young employee

How does loneliness affect work performance? 

You might think that loneliness is a personal issue; but in fact, loneliness potentially can affect communication between employees and among team members, work productivity, and the overall culture of the company. 

According to a study, 65% of employees who do not feel lonely believe that they can exert their abilities to the best, while only 48% of employees who feel lonely believe that they can perform their best at work, suggesting that loneliness affects our perception of our work performance. Another study on how loneliness affects employee performance included more than 100 management ratings of nearly 700 employees, including engineers, truck drivers, accountants, and project managers. Findings showed that loneliness is related to people being less productive at work. In addition, the lonelier an employee was, the lower their supervisor rated their performance, for reasons including: 

  1. When employees feel isolated, the level of commitment and engagement in the company will be lower, and their efforts will diminish 
  2. Other colleagues might think these employees are difficult to approach and communicate with, thus exclude them from work or business circles over time 

The study argues that loneliness is situational rather than a result of personality or lack of social skills. In other words, loneliness occurs when people believe their social needs are not met in a specific environment. 

companion

How can management help the new generation of employees integrate into the workplace? 

According to a LinkedIn survey, 66% of Gen Z (broadly defined as those born between 1997 and 2012) want companies to dedicate more resources to mental health. Even in the post-pandemic era, where the mixed work model is the general trend, management can consider policies that can strengthen the sense of connection of new workers in the workplace and create a culture that is conducive to mental health: 

  1. Enriching the onboarding experience by helping new employees deepen their understanding of the position and company culture. If the work nature is suitable, you may consider involving work shadowing, where new employees follow senior colleagues to work for one day, allowing them to think, respond, and understand the connections and the potential challenges from the perspective of the position 
  2. Setting up peer coaching and mentorship program 
  3. Having ongoing virtual/ in person training program 
  4. Offering mental health-related activities: e.g., workshops or training on emotion regulation, mindfulness, and stress management, having “Meeting Free Days” 

Create the company's exclusive "emotional culture" 

Management can lead employees to jointly create ideal emotional cultures, such as a culture that priorities sharing and supports each other, instead of a culture that often expresses anger and blame. Management can also create an environment that encourages expression, accommodates different voices and values, encourages newcomers to express their ideas and increase their sense of engagement: 

  1. Let employees fully understand the operation, performance, and process of the company, also the shared goals of the team, so that employees can get more information, understand how their positions can contribute, and timely provide ideas and inspiration  
  2. Make good use of different channels for collecting opinions, such as anonymous questionnaires, polls, or group meetings on various topics or issues 

A culture that encourages diverse opinions and space for discussion is conducive to the mutual development of the company and its employees. It can also prevent the enthusiasm of newcomers in the workplace from wearing down quickly. If you want to learn more about how to communicate effectively in the workplace or discuss the meaning of work, welcome to chat with our virtual companion Boon on the topics of "How to Communicate with Others from the Heart" and "So Not Enthused about Work"

References:

Newson JJ, Sukhoi O, Taylor J, Topalo O, and Thiagarajan TC, Mental State of the World 2021, Mental Health Million project, Sapien Labs, March 2021. https://sapienlabs.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/Rapid-Report-The-Deteriorating-Social-Self-in-Younger-Generations.pdf

Ozcelik, H., & Barsade, S. G. (2018). No employee an island: Workplace loneliness and job performance. Academy of Management Journal, 61(6), 2343–2366. https://doi.org/10.5465/amj.2015.1066

Forming Stronger Bonds with People at Work. https://hbsp.harvard.edu/product/H03XEW-PDF-ENG

Gen Z Employees Are Feeling Disconnected. Here’s How Employers Can Help. https://hbr.org/2022/06/gen-z-employees-are-feeling-disconnected-heres-how-employers-can-help  

Cigna 2020 Loneliness Report. https://www.cigna.com/static/www-cigna-com/docs/about-us/newsroom/studies-and-reports/combatting-loneliness/cigna-2020-loneliness-report.pdf

Self-exploration
Interpersonal relationship
Workplace
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Ruby Liu MY

Well-being Promotion Officer of Jockey Club TourHeart+ Project

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