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Balancing tech connectivity and the power of human connection

05.12.2023

I think we all agree that technology has changed the way we live and work. But there is a constant push and pull of getting the right balance between tech connectivity and human connection that is hard for all of us. It’s easier in many ways to connect via tech, but I believe it’s the human connections that we forge that will improve life at work.

So let’s look at both sides of the debate by acknowledging the undeniable benefits of technological connectivity. It has literally given us the power to connect with anyone, at anytime, anywhere in the world. The pace of development, of options and opportunity has been staggering. And it can all be done with a piece of kit that we hold in our hands.

Technology has allowed us to bridge geographical divides, created the flexibility for us to work in different ways, and connected us with colleagues and clients worldwide. Tech connection has absolutely revolutionised how we work.

The pandemic accelerated our use and reliance on technology to keep us connected. At a time when we couldn’t be physically together, technology enabled us to stay connected. And that’s the dilemma now facing employers.

As we decide whether we need to return to the office and on what terms, we must ensure that we are retaining the best bits of technology without losing our ability to connect as human beings. How do we build and maintain cultures that enable us to be happy and productive if we’re not together?

The other side of the debate is this – at work, human connection is irreplaceable. One of our basic neurological needs is that of human connection. It fosters trust, empathy, and collaboration. We know that a connected and engaged workforce is the secret sauce to driving success at individual, team and organisational level.

When people feel seen, heard, and valued, they are more likely to be motivated and productive. True human connection and a culture that enables us to feel psychologically safe means you can feel all the feels – happy, sad, angry, frustrated, and feel them together. You can’t get all that from emojis and video calls alone and yet it takes effort to get right.

Another consideration is that we have diverse workforces made up of different generations, who have different relationships with technology, so we have to balance their needs to get the best out of them. One size definitely does not fit all.

Most of us in this room will have multiple devices, each with different bleeps and bells and bongs and vibrations and lights and noises…. And whilst we all love to be wanted, it’s actually creating overwhelm and stopping us switching off and giving our brains a break. This is leading to stress and burnout and increased levels of anxiety and depression causing time off work which costs organisations millions.

The ’always on’ culture that we have created is affecting our physical and mental health. Whilst tech has brought us closer together, according to HBR research over 40% of workers feel lonely at work and that number increases for younger generations.

We have a responsibility to create the cultures in our work places that bring people together, that create a sense of belonging and unite people with a shared sense of purpose to counteract those feelings of isolation. Yes, it’s easy to stay at home and work remotely, and yes, it’s increased our sense of flexibility, but at what cost?

Think back to your best times at work…. I bet you think about the people you were with.

And think about our ability to innovate. We need to create opportunities for diverse minds to come together to create solutions. Innovation and creativity flourish in environments where human connection thrives. We can use technology as a tool to support that, but we shouldn’t let it replace it.

We have the opportunity to create this in our workplaces and we need to do it now, before we forget how to. Of course it can be done remotely, but it’s accelerated by doing it together. And that’s important for new starters, new managers, for knowledge sharing and for creating a sense of belonging.

Our responsibility as leaders is to get the right balance of tech connection and human connection at work, so we create cultures that are happier, healthier, and more innovative.

The heart and soul of any successful organisation is not its Teams channels and tech will always have a part of play in connecting us at work. The true heart and soul of an organisation is its people and the meaningful connections they forge. It’s up to us as leaders to push for opportunities to enable human connection to flourish.

Balancing Tech Connectivity and the Power of Human Connection | Jemma Maclean | DisruptHR Talks

 

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