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Networking and team engagement in isolation

Social distancing is not only impacting our personal lives, it plays a significant role in how employees feel connected or disconnected from their team and organisation – because without face to face interactions, emotional attachment can deteriorate quickly.

The shrinking networks

A recent Harvard Business Review research has found that the pandemic has shrunk our personal and professional networks by 16 percent. This has a negative effect on career development and sense of belonging, leading to limited creativity and engagement. Pre-pandemic, our networks have been evolving with old relationships lost and new relationships formed as we progressed through our careers and lives. However, our current limitations mean that old relationships are no longer being replaced by new ones and during this difficult time, many employees are left feeling lonely and disconnected from their work and colleagues.

It is estimated that an average person would interact with 11 - 16 people they don’t know well on daily basis. These unplanned watercooler-type interactions have a positive impact on how we feel and create a greater sense of belonging. Interestingly, the research also highlighted that women’s networks haven’t shrunk as much as men’s. Given that women traditionally carry the additional burdens of housework and childcare, it is unlikely that they are spending more time networking than men. Instead, it’s their networking style. Women talk to maintain emotional connections, whilst men are more likely to do things together, rather than talk – which is proving to be very difficult to maintain given the pandemic-induced social restrictions.

In crisis, it’s the leaders’ role to manage the energy of their teams and cultivate the quality of employee relationships. While positive news about the vaccine rollout is providing new hope, it doesn’t change the fact that many employees are struggling with pandemic fatigue and anxiety. On the other hand, as the crisis is uncovering new opportunities, organisations are becoming increasingly aware of the need for greater empathy and compassion to unleash the full potential of their people. The new human-centered approach is putting talent and people at the centre of organisational success and bringing them closer as they collectively power through the crisis.

The impact of engagement

Engagement is an outcome, not an input, and requires a consistent approach. It is a result of many elements, from internal communication, through learning and development to more intangible aspects such as a manager that listens and cares about employee wellbeing. When employees are engaged, they show high levels of enthusiasm, energy and motivation, which translates into higher levels of performance, creativity and productivity, not only resulting in increased revenues, but also higher levels of employee wellbeing.

The recovery phase provides leaders with a compelling reason to strengthen the connection with their employees, however, to create the best-in-class workplace, leaders need to consistently deliver on the fundamental elements of a great employee experience. Employees need to know they have an optimistic future within the organisation and a long-term plan for achieving their growth goals. By encouraging new ideas and considering suggestions put forward, leaders can create psychological safety that can not only drive engagement but can also help innovative business ideas to emerge.

At Acumen, we pride ourselves in offering development that gives managers practical tools to help solve real-life challenges. We offer an extensive menu of courses, workshops and coaching programmes, ranging from communication skills through to executive leadership development. In most cases, we design the interventions specifically for each client, but we also offer a wide range of off-the-shelf programmes for those who prefer this approach. For more information about our programmes please contact Simon at


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