The Pandemic Growth of Corporate Loneliness
Granted, human loneliness is an universal experience.
“No person has ever walked our earth and been free from the pain of loneliness. Rich or poor, wise or ignorant, faith-filled or agnostic, healthy or unhealthy, have all alike had to face and struggle with its potentially paralyzing grip. It has granted no immunities. To be human is to be lonely.”
So, what is so different about the Disconnected Feeling that is pervasive in our Technocratic 'Speed Society?'
According to a recent study by Cigna, nearly half of Americans report feeling lonely frequently or always and only 53% report having daily meaningful in-person social interactions. Nearly one in four people say they rarely or never feel as though there are people who really understand them – compared to one in ten 30 years ago.
The short answer: We are so busy friending the apps on our mobile device that we fail to acknowledge the person sitting next to us. Technology is shaping our perspective and creating an environment that cause us to expect expedient results.
In a culture hooked on 'speed' the challenge is, that in an absence of meaningful customer experience, the companies are differentiated on the basis of price as opposed to the actual service. On top of that, since technology competes with the human side of business, your product "teams may run the risk of decreased output quality, project ownership, and overall innovation capacity."
The Task Ahead for Business Leaders
In the cover story of Harvard Business Review, Work and the Loneliness Epidemic, former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy explains the significant role the business leaders need to play to combat this epidemic. Needless, to say, most of us spend the majority of our waking hours at work, and co-workers are the people that make up significant portion of social interactions. However, it still requires leadership and strategy to help create meaning and connections.
"To accomplish this, leaders have two tasks. First, they must communicate to employees how their work contributes to these sources of meaning. Often, a well-articulated mission statement is the place to start:"
Our mission: to inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time. Starbucks Coffee
Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.. Patagonia
The above statements give people a sense of how their efforts will contribute to the lives of the customers, communities, and world they impact. Once you have established a sense of purpose, walk the talk. Design an environment that nurtures creativity and encourages engagement.
image source: Pinterest
Mike Brenner and Steve Van Valin, of the consulting firm Culturology, talk about sources of meaning amplification that leaders can tap in their quest to sustain employee engagement. "These sources spiral out from the self (providing for one’s family; making progress in challenging work), to a broader array of other people (working as part of a well-functioning, respected team or organization; having a positive impact on customers; contributing to one’s community or country); and finally to the broadest level (serving society; helping people around the world). Employees will be most strongly engaged in their work when they perceive it as serving each of these goals in some way."
If you have a remote workforce or staff who regularly telework, then bring them together every once and while to connect, share, and socialize. If you are a global brand, with an international work force, consider, “timezone syncing,” which involves ensuring that there is an overlap in your schedules across time zones where you are both working. Sqwiggle is a web-based tool that’s a great way to stay connected with your team members when you’re timezone syncing, by offering an “always on” video workroom that runs on very low bandwidth.
image source: Skyline
Implement full-scale transparency — this builds trust and fellow feeling
Buffer is a San Francisco-based company with a virtual office that goes to extremes to educate the team on the needs of its members. “At Buffer, everyone knows what everyone is working on, what everyone is trying to improve on, what everyone on the team is reading and even how much everyone on the team slept and how much they make in salary. This builds an incredible amount of trust and intimacy in the team which is fundamental for communicating freely and making loneliness a thing of the past.”
Companies are using web-based apps like lunch roulette to get to know more people within their organization over lunch.
Implement a culture of radical gratitude — make them feel that they matter
Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, demonstrated just how important it is to feel like your work matters, has value and makes a difference. “At a call center raising money for student scholarships, Grant found that call center workers who spoke directly with a student who would benefit from the scholarship would make three times as many phone calls as those call center workers with no connection to the students receiving scholarships.”
When your employees' efforts are made to feel worthwhile, they will feel a greater connection to their work making them more engaged, happier and productive.
The Advantage of Building a Brand Based on Connectedness
A recent study by IBM iX, underscores — “a decline in trust in institutions, economic divides, political partisanship and increased levels of isolation of loneliness due in part, paradoxically, to near constant digital connectivity, have all challenged our sense of belonging.”
According to the study, there are 6 attributes that will help companies stay relevant and make good 'brand sense' — "top performing Belonging Brands grew their revenue at three times the rate of lower performing brands over six years and saw market share gains up to 10 percent higher than low performing brands."
image source: IBMiX
Everyday Enrichment: Enhances people’s lives through simplifying, continually improving, and infusing meaning into everyday moments.
Compelling Relationship: Creates a strong personal relationship based on shared values, loyalty and personalization, while cultivating a sense of being part of something bigger.
Trustworthy Excitement: Is principled, dependable and makes people’s lives more enjoyable through anticipation of the consumer’s next brand interaction.
Activated Purpose: Commits to social responsibility and behaviors that align to a core brand purpose in order to benefit a consumer’s well-being, instill optimism and improve the world.
Empowered Community: Serves as a conduit for inspiring experiences with others, and strengthens people’s interpersonal connections, helping them feel at home in the world.
Empathetic Innovation: Creates a continuous set of sensory systems that listen and learn from internal and external groups to improve products, services and experiences.
It turns out that we trust each other a lot more when we interact face-to-face and venture capitalists are recognizing this. No wonder, businesses that feature an in-real-life component are attracting billions from venture capitalists. Uber is worth $41 billion, while Airbnb is worth an estimated $13 billion. A recent round of investing put WeWork at $5 billion, and EatWith has raised $8 million in a Series A round.
Technology that small business owners and marketers should integrate in their processes.