Lonely Island: Why connecting to coworkers results in better work

Chloe Borah

Junior Content Strategist

Monday, March 26, 2018

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“WILSON!”

We can all remember this pivotal scene in Cast Away that arguably is one of the most heart-wrenching moments in cinematic history. The bonds of true friendship are lost to the sea but will forever stand the test of time—and leave one heartbroken at the sight of a grizzly Tom Hanks weeping.

Because nothing is worse than being alone…and on an island, no less.

We’ve all experienced this feeling at some point or another. Maybe not to the extremity of being stranded on a deserted island, but there is an implicit epidemic of loneliness that has submerged our work culture, leaving some of its passengers stranded.

I can relate.

Since graduating from college, I’ve noticed this trend along the rolling current of post grads, where there’s the unspoken feeling that as we navigate the choppy waters of careers, bills, and nuances of everyday life, we’re in it on our own. Even as we adjust to the ebbs and flows of our new careers, we tend to cling to this notion as if it were our life raft as if it were all that we depend on. But the truth is, we’re not in it alone and we don’t have to be.

The saying goes: if you want the work done fast, do it alone. Want it to go far? Do it together. After all, anything deemed revolutionary wasn’t created in a day and most likely had multiple minds behind it. It may take just one spark to ignite it, but it takes multiple to make an impact.

Connection is the universal product we are ultimately trying to sell in the marketing industry, whether it’s in the form of a product, platform, or idea. Not to say that we can’t have our own unique thoughts and ideas, of course. But it’s only when we establish an inclusive space to freely share and collaborate, that we can elevate those ideas into something far better than we could have imagined on our own.

When our ability to make connections is compromised, so is our work. Loneliness causes stress when we are already biologically dependent on human interaction. This stress can hijack the way our brains govern our emotions, as well as our rational and abstract thinking. According to former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murphy, who has written extensively on what he calls “the loneliness epidemic,” a more connected work force helps influence a stronger sense of belonging, positive engagement, increased productivity, and ultimately produces higher-quality work.

Even in agency settings that tend to implement open-office environments to funnel these more personal connections, there’s more to it than just breaking down a cubicle. The same goes for any corporate setting as well. Whether you add a Ping-Pong table there or expand the break room with a fancy new coffee maker here, there will be people who still stick to their corner of the island. It all has to do with comfort in what we know to be familiar. Whether in an agency or corporate setting, something internally has to change in order to produce quality work that supports people in their roles delivering on products and services.

By adding flexibility to our interconnected industry we’ve not only made it easier to navigate around our personal schedules, but have also made it easier to isolate ourselves. So how is it that as social species we have become less social? Shouldn’t we be more so, with the rapid technological advancements that allow us to reach far beyond the parameters of our personal networks?

It’s completely understandable that we get caught up in the hustle and bustle when projects, deadlines, and lack of sleep start to pile up. However, my experience in the real world—in the very short time since graduating—has taught me that by just going with the flow of things, I might miss out on incredible opportunities to really get to know someone. True connections are only made when I step aside the current and get out of my comfort zone. Or make time to take care of myself so that I can be fully present with others when the need and opportunity arises. Most of the time, it can be something as simple as grabbing a quick coffee or quickly chatting while we’re microwaving our lunches. These little steps can be the start of stronger relationships with between coworkers. After all, they’re what help keep us afloat when the tides begin to rise.

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Photo by Breather on Unsplash

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