An academic study of 672 workers by the Wharton School of Business and California State University in 2011 claimed those who felt lonely at work suffered “significant effects” on their performance – both in carrying out personal tasks and as part of a team. Feelings of isolation had impaired their performance, as their knowledge that co-workers appeared oblivious to their existence had affected the overall quality of their work.
A study in 2017, the Employee Engagement Report, carried out by software manufacturer Tiny Pulse, revealed only 24% of employees felt connected to their peers. This meant around three in four workers felt isolated to some degree. The study concluded strong companies were fuelled by teams that had plenty of camaraderie.
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It follows that the effects of employee isolation can also impact on meetings. Although employees collaborate and sit in meetings together, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are comfortable with each other and feel any sense of belonging.
Some companies seem to actively foster a culture of keeping your head down, working hard and “getting on with it”, rather than carrying out any team-building activities that will improve employee relationships and thus improve productivity too.
When it comes to meetings, it can be of great benefit to carry out some ice-breaking activities before the business part of the meeting commences. Not only is this useful to help employees from different departments and offices to get acquainted, it can also help staff members who may feel isolated due to other factors, such as their age or because they’re relatively new.
The adverse effects of isolation mean it’s more difficult to build a strong team, while employee engagement, happiness and productivity are likely to slump.
Icebreaker games can help employees to feel more at ease with each other, assisting veteran or new staff members to get to know colleagues better. Aside from this, they are fun to play and make a change from regimented day-to-day activities.
Icebreakers can actually help to kickstart meetings or training sessions, making it easier for participants to communicate with each other afterwards, as they will feel more comfortable with their colleagues. There are some simple icebreakers that can help loosen up even the frostiest meeting – and if they feel awkward at first, this is normal and employees will soon start to loosen up.
One idea is a game called “two truths and a lie”. Employees are asked to jot down three facts about themselves, one of which is untrue. Then, they briefly present the facts to colleagues, who have to guess which piece of information is the lie. This can spark often humorous debate and help those present get to know each other better.
The next icebreaker works best at bigger meetings, where there are people from several different departments in the room. Split them into groups, ensuring there are people from each department in each group. Then, ask them to find five or 10 things they have in common. This can be anything from hobbies and interests to the type of music they like, or where they like to go on holiday, for example.
Another game is “whodunnit”, when the employees are asked to write down something interesting they have done on a card and pop it into the “hat”. This can be absolutely anything, from skydiving to keeping free-range hens! The possibilities are endless. Then, each delegate draws a card out of the hat and reads aloud what’s written. Co-workers must try and guess “whodunit” and explain why they have reached this conclusion.
An old-fashioned icebreaker that is still valuable today, a scavenger hunt will get people talking and working together. You can send them anywhere in the building – or if you have more time and you’re feeling adventurous, send them to other locations away from the meeting place! To make it more interesting, offer a prize to the winning team – perhaps a restaurant voucher, or an Amazon gift card.
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