Building Human Connection in a Virtual World

Written by Melissa Kessler, MA, PCC

There has been a common thread in my dozens of coaching sessions with leaders this past month: people are ready to get back to the office. Although most people don’t miss the commute into work, many are working longer hours, while being far-less productive. This is due to the non-stop meetings and constant interruptions that are making it difficult to get work done and extending the work-day long into the evenings. The virtual environment has made work more task-focused and less relationship-focused. When this happens, people start to feel less appreciated, less connected, and less engaged in their work.

The workplace is our biggest social network outside of our families. And all relationships that are important to us must be nurtured regularly. In the virtual environment, we are missing key opportunities for real human connection with our co-workers, such as informal conversations in the hallway and networking in the break room.

So how can we build connection to drive engagement in the virtual world? In the book Making Work Human by Eric Mosley and Derek Irvine, they offer three principles for connecting with co-workers in a meaningful way.

  1. THANK is gratitude turned into action. Express genuine gratitude for someone’s work effort or helpful behavior. When people feel appreciated, their performance increases. This is just as effective, if not more effective when it comes from peers rather than just the boss.
  2. TALK is open and deep dialogue between people and among teams. Encourage one another toward meeting common goals. Use positive conversations to solve problems, share ideas and see new perspectives. Positive feedback helps people learn and continuously improve and inspires them to do their best.
  3. CELEBRATE is how we share what matters most to us and our common purpose. Recognizing accomplishments, especially those that are shared, builds connection and comradery. Taking the time to show our humanity by acknowledging milestones, affirming our common values, and showing common concern for one another brings us closer together.

These three principles can be put into action both in the virtual environment and in the office. Human-centered workplaces will continue to thrive and out-perform organizations that do not practice these principles. People want to work where they feel a sense of meaning, purpose, and connection. It keeps them engaged and drives them to do their best work.

“After years of happiness research, one thing has proved fundamental – the importance of our connections with other people.” – International Day of Happiness

“Social isolation is as potent a cause of early death as smoking; and the epidemic of loneliness is twice as deadly as obesity. We could change this in a day if we all reached out and made at least one positive connection.” – International Day of Happiness

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