How to Avoid Social Isolation in a Virtual Workforce
For people who are part of a virtual workforce, social isolation can be a real problem. It can have them feeling detached from the world, and can lead to anxiety and depression. Of course, those kinds of concerns can also mean that the job will not get done properly, which can hurt their career chances and the company they work for.
If they are not pulling their weight on their virtual team the other members of that workforce will have to do more, causing them additional stress and difficulty, as well. Fortunately, there are ways that social isolation can be avoided in the virtual workforce. Here are some tips to consider when choosing and managing a virtual workforce.
Productivity is Higher When There is More Interaction
The reason that traditional teams work is because employees feed off of the energy of one another. They also share ideas, plans, and thoughts. Essentially, they talk to each other a lot and that keeps things moving forward. The more they interact with each other, the more they feel like part of the group and the more they want to be a cohesive unit that gets things done.
That is true for work-related discussions, but also for chatting around the water cooler or at an office party. Reaching out to virtual employees and giving them online ways to interact with their teammates can make a big difference in their energy and productivity levels. In return for those opportunities for interaction, employees will have more enthusiasm for the task and get more done on the project they are working on.
There Are "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" Worries for Virtual Workforces
When a virtual employee feels ignored or passed over because they are not in the office where the boss can see them every day, it can lead to discouragement and a feeling of isolation. At that point an employee may stop trying to do their best, because they do not feel it is going to matter for their career success. They should still be committed to doing a great job for the company, but feeling like they are stuck can be deeply discouraging.
When managers frequently interact with employees and let them know they are valued, though, the level of social isolation and worry those employees feel can be reduced. That makes the working environment better for everyone involved, and also helps ensure that deadlines are met and clients are kept happy so the company can continue to grow.
The Level of Trust Between Employees Must Be Built
Employees who are not around each other in person may take longer to get to know one another than employees who work side by side each day. To keep virtual workforce employees from feeling isolated, it is important that they build trust with one another. This can be harder to do when they are not in the same room, and may not even be in the same country.
However, there are exercises for trust building, and a manager may want to consider requiring the completion of these exercises to reduce the isolation and lack of trust in their peers that virtual workforce employees often experience. Building a level of trust helps all virtual employees work better together, and that is good for everyone at the company.
Choosing the Right People Can Make All the Difference
Among the biggest ways to avoid social isolation problems in the virtual workforce is to carefully choose employees who are less likely to experience this problem. In short, some people are better at being along than other people. If a manager selects these kinds of introverted people who generally do not seek out a high level of social interaction, they will not be as likely to feel isolated or to mind if they do feel that way.
Most people need some kind of interaction with others, but introverts and extroverts are very different in the ways they seek out interaction and how much it matters to them. By choosing qualified employees who are better suited for a more isolated working environment, a manager can have a strong virtual workforce that is not bothered by a lower level of interaction with the company.
Communication Really is the Key to a Strong Workplace
To have a good workplace, communication is required. Whether an employee likes working along or not, or whether an employee feels valued or wants more interaction from their manager and peers, these issues need to be talked about. Seeing an employee doing less is a red flag that something is wrong, and a warning that the virtual workforce environment may not be a good fit for that person. For any manager who has a virtual workforce, making sure to reduce social isolation can go a long way toward happy and productive employees.