Dealing with isolation at home and in the office

Isolation continues to be a growing issue in the workforce as the pandemic rages on. Yet this is more of an employee experience issue than an inherent property of working from home, and both the office and working from home can contribute to a sense of isolation. New WFH workers are hit hardest, but this has been a long-running problem. 

We’ve gathered our own data and interviewed leaders who have created engaging employee experiences and built strong communities that include both those in the office and those at home. Here we’ll dive into a few strategies to reduce this sense of isolation wherever your staff are working.

At Home 

Steelcase just posted their annual report on employee engagement, this year with a work-from-home component. The results were dismal, with isolation being reported as the biggest challenge for home workers followed by a hit to productivity and speed of decision-making processes. New-to-WFH employees reported 14% higher rates of dissatisfaction than when they were in the office, and 12% lower productivity. 

Those hardest hit are the youngest workers who have had the least time to build strong connections with their peers, and who haven’t had the benefit of years of professional experience to ease the transition to WFH. 

Microsoft is one of the leaders in pandemic remote working experiences, and we sat down with Erik Anderson, their Director of Workplace Intelligence, to learn how they did it. He offered advice to help credit unions develop stronger working-from-home strategies. 

Right away, managers established 30-minute one-on-one weekly meetings with their staff. Not to keep tabs on them, but to help them establish healthy work-life boundaries and understand what is a priority and what isn’t. They listened to concerns and talked though issues that employees were facing and took an active effort to minimize feelings of isolation and the negative feedback loops that can result. 

Meeting norms also shifted away from longer meetings with large numbers of attendees to smaller, informal meetings. 30-minute meetings became a norm, and employees were encouraged to have meetings to chat and stay connected. The data gathered around meeting usage showed that coffee meetings and small talk moved online. 

The results were incredible, employees managed to maintain and build new networks of communication across the organization. 

“We’re interested in how networks help people do their work. So, if you think of a credit union, not every group is working only within their own silo,” said Erik. “There’s collaboration that has to happen across the whole credit union and people form networks when they do. We find that these networks of people are really strong enablers of them to be successful.” 

Replicating this strategy in your credit union can help you go against the trends and stave off isolation. 

At the Office 

An office doesn’t fix isolation by default, it actually requires deliberate strategies and designs to bring people together.  

Our own data gathered from over 1,200 credit union professionals shows that only 63% of workers believe that their workplace contributes to a sense of community at work. All too often workplaces fail to build an environment where people feel connected to each other, and instead the only impromptu conversations are in passing at the water cooler. 

Offering employees a mix of both private focused spaces and collaborative areas, supplemented by breakaway public areas where more informal meetings or away-from-desk work can happen, can help employees feel a sense of community and connection without the constant distraction. The breakaway areas especially can promote collisions and deeper impromptu conversations that spark innovation and build stronger networks across the organization. 

Getting Started 

The first step is learning more and taking a deep dive into how your employees work both at home and in the office. Last year, during the pandemic, we released a whitepaper analyzing the data we gathered from over 1,200 credit union professionals. We dive deep into issues facing credit unions in the future of work and this is a great place to start your journey. Download it today! 

Jay Speidell

Jay Speidell

Jay Speidell is the Marketing Manager at Momentum, a strategic design-build partner that takes a people centric approach to helping credit unions across the nation thrive. Web: Details