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by Finnegan Pierson | January 31, 2020

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According to a new survey by health care insurer Cigna, 80 percent of Generation Z professionals and nearly 70 percent of millennial professionals are “lonely” at work. One likely reason for the high rates of loneliness, says Cigna’s Chief Medical Officer for Behavioral Health, is the “communication style” of the younger generations, who “tend to shun phone calls and in-person conversations—the kinds of interactions that can lead to real connections—in favor of email and text messages.” The survey also found a strong connection between loneliness and social media use, as heavy social media users were found to be more lonely.

The problem of employee loneliness is no small matter for employers. Lonely workers call in sick more than twice as often as non-lonely workers (9.5 days a year vs 4.2). They also miss more days of work due to stress. So what can you do to help your team feel less lonely, increasing their work-life quality and improving productivity?

For starters, you can begin with better communication—which can improve relationships in the workplace. When employees are able to communicate well with one another, they feel less alone and morale improves. In turn, productivity improves. So, if you're looking for ways to improve the communication within your team, consider these five strategies.

1. Organize team-building exercises

Getting employees to engage in activities together can help them form stronger bonds. And when managers and employees do something else together besides meet deadlines, there's a great chance they'll get better at working together to solve problems. Team-building exercises might also help employees develop soft skills, like listening skills, which can help them on the job. Plus, there's evidence that when adults engage in play, they become more imaginative and open-minded. Playing team-building games can also reduce stress in managers and employees alike. So set aside an hour a week for team-building exercises to see how they might unlock your team's potential and bring your team closer together.

2. Create a trusting environment

Trust is another important factor in effective communication, and trust leads to a feeling of belonging. If the parties in a conversation don't trust one another, they're less likely to speak openly and honestly. Showing support for members of the team when they're stressed or facing hard times can boost trustworthiness. Also, being respectful of everyone's ideas, even if they aren't your favorite, can boost trustworthiness. And always make sure that your words match your actions. Be honest with your team and follow through.

3. Schedule one-on-one meetings

Scheduling one-on-one catch-up sessions with members of your team is another way to improve communication. Holding one-on-one meetings significantly benefits the manager-employee relationship. And it will go a long way toward improving employee engagement. Whether you catch up once a month or once a week, taking the time to listen to your employees shows them you have compassion and are interested in their ideas. Private meetings with each employee may also help you address problems in the workplace you didn't know about. Then, you can use future one-on-one meetings to solve these issues.

4. Explain the value of tasks

Employees do a better job at working together when they understand the value of a project. So, the next time you're filling staff in on a new project, explain how this new venture will impact them specifically and the company at large. Being transparent about the impact of projects and task helps employees feel like they can ask questions and share new ideas. Plus, you may even see an uptick in productivity, as team members tend to work harder when they understand how projects help them as well as the overall company.

5. Brush up on communication styles

How well do you know the various types of communication styles? If you don't know them well, brushing up on them could help you learn how managers and coworkers communicate. There are four styles of communication: intuitive, analytical, functional, and personal. You might be able to infer what each style is like by their names. For example, people who have an analytical communication style prefer clear expectations. Each of these styles differ, but understanding your style and those of your coworkers and team members can help you reach each person. Plus, using communication styles to steer the conversation can help you defuse confrontation and avoid misunderstandings.

A final note

Creating a workplace with effective communication can be the key to uncovering the hidden potential in staff and management. It can also help to make your team members feel more engaged, feel “seen,” and thus feel less alone. So, try starting with team-building exercises. That can lay the groundwork for creating a trusting environment. Then, scheduled one-on-one meetings with your team members. During team meetings, discuss how the work employees are doing benefits the company and each team member. Finally, make an effort to learn more about each team member's communication style.

Finnegan Pierson loves business and has a passion for technology. Even more interesting to him is the combination of the two. As a freelance writer, Finn hopes to influence others so they can have a positive business experience.

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