When employers quickly pivoted to remote work at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the traditional workplace was transformed. Social groups also dissolved, and although technology has allowed much work and community interaction to continue online, the lack of physical connection has led many people to feel isolated, less engaged, and less supported.
According to a recent article in The Conversation, sharing a physical space allows for more spontaneous conversations that don’t tend to occur during a Zoom or FaceTime call. There are no opportunities to grab a coffee or lunch and have informal discussions that give people a chance to share what is going on in their lives. This disconnect between managers and employees helps to explain “The Great Resignation” and why so many people – burned out, stressed, and isolated, left their jobs over the past two years.
Because it’s much harder to discern facial expressions and body language through an image on a computer screen, employees, and even friends and family, can imagine a sense of disapproval or worry about their importance to others. If however, managers take the time to practice “deliberate listening”, they can begin to build a greater sense of a shared reality that can improve morale and productivity. The same principles can be applied to personal relationships – asking questions and actively listening to friends and loved-ones help build a closer bond.
Listening well strengthens social connections and also helps avoid miscommunications. When people interpret a situation similarly, they feel a closer bond, and they feel validated. But not every interaction requires passive listening, and especially in the case of a manager/employee relationship, constructive listening that gently challenges negativity can produce a positive result.
Feeling heard and understood by the people we interact with at work and in our personal life is fundamental to developing a connection and a shared reality essential to fostering a sense of belonging, collaboration, and productivity. Learn more about how deliberate listening can change relationships and build closer connections with peers and others with advice from journalist Ronnie Polaneczky in a recent Today Show interview.