New Report: How Much Is Human Connection Really Worth?

Posted in Best Practice Research Thoughts & Culture

So many of us spend half our waking hours on weekdays at the office (or logged into the virtual office). So it's no surprise that so many of us place a high value on our work friendships and close working relationships with colleagues.

A warm team environment can make or break the employee experience. But with the rise of remote work and flexible scheduling, it’s harder than ever to form those tight-knit bonds with co-workers.

Employers increasingly need to play an active role in fostering these connections and ensuring employees feel engaged and motivated at work. But what happens when company leaders don’t put time and effort into relationship-building?

We recently surveyed 1,000 full-time, U.S.-based employees about their connections in the workplace to discover how employers help or hinder these relationships. We also looked for notable ways connectedness delivers positive business outcomes.

For a full breakdown of the findings, download the new report: “How Much Is Human Connection Really Worth?” In this blog I’ll share some of the high-level takeaways.

On the whole, our findings show that employees feel more connected at work than they did when we last surveyed employees in August 2021. However, organizations and managers still need to step up their game and foster better interpersonal relationships within their teams.

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Three key themes prove strong connections are critical for companies

Our survey identified the top reasons employees feel connected – or disconnected – at work, and how personal relationships impact critical business objectives like retention and employee motivation. Remember, great employees have options, and salary and benefits aren’t enough to make them stick around at a company where they feel isolated. In our rapidly changing work landscape, good employers make it a point to ensure every employee feels welcomed, included and valued.

Here are three key takeaways from our data:

1) Workplace connections are improving.

Good news! The majority of respondents (93%) feel connected to their co-workers. When you break that number down, over half (56%) feel very connected and over a third (37%) feel somewhat connected. This is up 10% from last year – back then, only 83% felt connected to their co-workers and just 31% felt very connected.

So, what’s helping employees feel more connected? Somewhat surprisingly, nearly two-thirds of respondents (63%) said their co-workers/peers had the biggest impact, while one-quarter credited their managers with helping them feel included.

The office is a large driver of engagement and connection, too. While traditionally the office was only seen as a place to get work done, now over half (57%) of hybrid and in-office respondents named the ability to form stronger relationships as the no. 1 most important benefit of going into the office.

The key takeaway: Employees are building stronger workplace connections, but how can you ensure they keep improving? Whether your employees work remotely, in-person or hybrid, proceed with intention. Regular team meetings, skills sharing sessions and frequent 1:1s between managers and direct reports can help build personal relationships, which in turn, improve the employee experience and productivity.

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2) Connections drive better business outcomes.

The data is clear: When employees feel connected, outcomes like retention, collaboration, engagement and motivation flourish. In fact, 94% of all respondents agree they’re more productive when they feel connected to colleagues.

Respondents who feel connected are also more likely to be satisfied with their jobs – 96% of connected employees are satisfied with their current role versus 60% of disconnected employees. They are also more likely to see themselves staying in their roles long term – 49% of connected employees expect to stay longer than five years versus 34% of disconnected employees.

Connected employees are also twice as likely to agree their workplace motivates them to go above and beyond their job responsibilities. And they were also twice as likely to agree their workplace encourages innovation.

The key takeaway: It’s clear human connection is integral to employee wellness and has the power to move the needle on key business outcomes, too. So, if you want an innovative workplace that inspires employees to stay, focus on building connections across your teams. Start by creating memorable moments at work for employees. For example, you can hold quarterly in-person events, create mentorship and new hire buddy programs or make learning and development (L&D) fun by pairing learners with common interests.

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3) Unsupportive managers, lack of transparency and working remotely can lead to disconnection.

What’s holding back workplace connections? When it comes to the reasons why employees feel disconnected at work, results vary. The top three reasons respondents feel disconnected include:

      1. Personality/workstyle differences that hamper authenticity (34%)
      2. A lack of support/investment from managers (29%)
      3. A lack of transparency (26%)

Additionally, respondents who said they were very disconnected were twice as likely (47%) to say it’s because their manager doesn’t provide much support and/or invest in their professional development when compared to those who were only somewhat disconnected (22%).

When you look at the data from the manager’s perspective, half of people managers agree they are struggling to provide enough human connection for their direct report(s) and/or team. And younger managers are more likely to agree they’re struggling compared to older employees, who likely have more experience in the workforce and with management. Sixty-five percent of Gen Z and 60% of millennial managers felt this way, compared to only 42% of Gen X and 32% of baby boomer managers.

You might also be wondering what role remote and hybrid work play when it comes to connection (or lack thereof). While 19% of all disconnected employees say they feel disconnected because they work remotely in some capacity, this statistic jumps to 63% when looking exclusively at full-time remote employees.

The key takeaway: We can’t overstate the importance of supporting your managers and remote workers. Equip your managers (especially new ones) with the training and technologies they need to support their teams’ desires for engagement, transparency and socialization. With the right tools, your managers can ensure their direct reports feel well-informed, well-connected and set up for success no matter where they work.

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Connect and engage employees for the long run

While our research shows that human connections in the workplace are improving, companies still have work to do to ensure employees of all levels and locations feel connected to their teams and work. If you want to continue boosting both connection and productivity, you need to provide training and resources to your managers. Implementing L&D peer learning groups or encouraging your managers to hold regular check-ins with direct reports can make a big impact on employee well-being and motivation.

The bottom line: Focus on fostering connections, and you’ll see more inspired and engaged employees who want to stick around.

To learn more about how Enboarder can create better human connections across the entire employee journey at your organization, book a demo today.