The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted how work was done worldwide. People had to shift to remote work overnight, and now, remote and hybrid have become the norm. Organizations adopted new technologies and policies during the pandemic to make work more effective in a remote setup. There has also been a massive shift in how employees interact with colleagues and feel connected.
Vyond recently surveyed over 1,000 professionals to understand how the pandemic affected how employees experience the workplace and communicate with each other. A significant finding was that team-building activities, such as game nights were not something that drove workers to feel most connected at work. Instead, staff meetings, receiving communication from top leadership, and connecting with colleagues on a personal level were some of the top ways employees felt connected. Further, virtual town halls, playing games with colleagues, and being part of a mentorship program were some of the lesser-valued activities.
The following are a few more findings from the study.
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Different Generations Have Different Ways of Feeling Connected at Work
The survey found that not every generation of employees feels the same way of feeling connected. For example, Boomers felt the most disconnected due to remote work. According to 51% of this population, one of the top frustrations of remote work was feeling disconnected. On the other hand, only 23% of Gen Z felt disconnected due to remote work.
Further, about 38% of Millennials felt connected when instant messaging throughout the day. About 24% of this generation felt connected when they received virtual kudos from colleagues. However, about 43% of Gen Z employees felt more connected with their colleagues when they got to know them personally. About 39% of this generation felt connected when they had team lunches. On the other hand, 45% of Boomers and 40% of Gen X felt most connected through participation in team meetings.
Different Genders, Too, Feel Connected in Different Ways
Similar to the differences in generations, men and women felt connected differently. For example, women were more likely to feel connected by sharing emojis, funny memes, and GIFs when communicating with colleagues. While 25% of women felt this way, only 19% of men felt that way.
Men and women also experienced challenges and frustrations in meetings in different ways. For example, 28% of men were annoyed by the need to repeat themselves when a coworker was not listening, while only 18% of women felt that way. About 24% of men were frustrated (vs. 17% of women) when they were asked to hold for a moment while a colleague attended to something else, and 21% of men (vs. 15% of women) were annoyed when a colleague used only audio while others used video.
Leaders Are Doing Better in Terms of Employee Communication
Employee communication was a critical factor of consideration when companies went remote overnight. Companies had to come up with ways to enable communications not only from the perspective of staying connected with the team but also from the point of leadership-employee communication.
According to the survey respondents, the good news was that leaders are doing much better now than at the beginning of the pandemic. About 67% of employees acknowledged (vs. 58% in 2021) that senior leadership communicated more effectively.
Having said that, the channel of communication matters. About half of the employees preferred to listen to or watch a company communication than reading a blog post or email. Further, about 56% said that video messages from their CEO were more engaging than textual messages. The younger generations overwhelmingly prefer video communications and digital tools. About 61% of Gen Z and 63% of Millennials felt video communications were more engaging, while only 49% of Gen X and Boomers felt so.
The younger generations also embraced digital transformation more. About 78% of Millennials and 88% of Gen Z employees were happy to witness their organizations push digital transformation initiatives. On the other hand, only 57% of Boomers and 64% of Gen X staff members felt that way.
Employees Take on Digital Transformation But Are Conflicted Over Digital Communication Tools
As work increasingly went remote or hybrid, digital transformation efforts were prioritized and accelerated.
About 70% of employees are happy to see their organizations push for digital transformation initiatives. About 66% also believe they can see and understand the value. Having said that, not all employees understand the full impact nor feel they have a say in the matter. About 22% were unsure if their companies took part in digital transformation efforts. Further, only 44% felt that their opinion mattered regarding their organization’s modernization.
Many employees also do not have a healthy relationship with digital tools. About 34% of employees felt that they had too many communication channels to connect with colleagues. Yet, only 46% of the employees said that they would get rid of any communication platforms at work.
Organizations need to take control of their digital collaboration and communication tools. They should leverage data to optimize collaboration and avoid tool sprawl.
See more: Get Collaboration Tech and Meeting Culture Right To Improve Employee Experience
As seen from the study, how employees feel connected to their colleagues varies by generation and gender. A one-size-fits-all form of socializing is not making employees feel connected at work. Hence, organizations will have to develop ways to engage different types of employees, be it through digital communication channels, a hybrid work environment, or other steps. Improving how employees feel connected to their colleagues and the organization is key to talent retention.
Talking about the study findings, Jeniffer Strub, director of HR, Vyond, said, “The ability for employees to build real, meaningful connections at work is critical — not just a ‘nice to have.’ When it’s not possible, the organization suffers in terms of engagement and retention. And while different employee groups have different preferences on what makes them feel connected, the lesson for leaders is clear: make connectedness a priority.”