Connectivity in the Workplace (originally published 2020)

Connectivity in the Workplace

Why is human connectivity critical to the workplace? Aside from making the many hours a day we spend with colleagues more enjoyable, research has shown business outcomes improve when employees feel connected to their work and their peers.

Gallup Research shows lower turnover, higher employee engagement and higher productivity are some of the benefits to the bottom line when employees report a strong sense of belonging and purpose.

Yet it seems to me the greater our technical advances, the less we feel connected. Can’t we have a balance of both?

Imagine a business where employees and customers alike feel the warm glow of human connectivity in addition to the most technically advanced products and services.

According to Susan Scott, the founder of Fierce Inc, human connectivity in business is the future. ‘Human connectivity with colleagues and customers is the next frontier for exponential growth, the only sustainable competitive edge.’

So how do we do that? How do we make our workplaces more connected?

Let’s start small.

Smile. But don’t smile like you’re trying too hard, even if you are. We’ve all been recipients of the fake smile. That’s not going to do it. I’m talking about a genuine smile. The kind where you feel a warm glow when you give it — or when you receive it.

Did you know there’s a scientific term for an authentic smile? Known as a Duchenne Smile, it’s one that reaches your eyes and makes your crow’s feet appear. It’s the smile that says, ‘I see you. I connect with you as a fellow human.’ Notice the difference between the smiles in the picture below.

Now imagine each person in the photo above is wearing a mask. Put your hand over the bottom part of their faces and ‘read’ their eyes alone. It’s kind of hard at first. But this is how we are communicating these days. With strangers on the street. Baristas at the coffee shop. The cashier at the grocery. We’ve lost so much non-verbal connectivity these last few months that we all need to practice giving and identifying Duchenne Smiles.

For many our workplaces have become Zoom calls. Although thankfully folks don’t wear masks on Zoom, now that you know what to look for, the fake smile will be more apparent to spot.

Challenge: On your next work Zoom call make a point to notice when others are smiling but not feeling it. Perhaps use the opportunity to engage discreetly with them after the call to ask how they are (the ‘no, really, how ARE you?’ type of question). You might just get a positive ‘warm glow’ feeling from connecting more personally with a colleague as a result.

Will authentically smiling at someone make our workplaces more connected? Perhaps not by itself. We have more work to do. But it’s a start.

‘Use your smile to change the world. Don’t let the world change your smile.’ Author unknown