Borders with the new means of communication seem to have been abolished. And yet nothing is more difficult than to communicate outside the obligations related to the different tasks of employees. Employees feel isolated. Deciphering a disturbing reality.

SFL has just published the results of the 6th Paris Workplace Barometer, conducted in partnership with Ifop (1,600 employees surveyed, working in an office in Paris and the inner suburbs). This 2019 edition measures, for the first time in France at this scale, the impact of interactions between employees on their performance and well-being.

Needless to say, the means of communication are omnipresent
7 out of 10 employees interact daily with more than 10 people via instant messaging, email, telephone or intranet. The misleading appearance is that we are far from isolation.

In addition, open spaces and shared offices have multiplied like mushrooms over the past 20 years, now accounting for 82% of workers. Employees therefore live in workspaces where in fact they are almost never alone. The misleading appearance is that we are far from isolation.

However, a majority of employees admit that they “sometimes feel isolated” within their company (59%) and more than a quarter of employees say they feel “often isolated”, evoking the daily reality of the employee trapped in isolation.

For the company, this survey shows its flaws since feeling isolated is a feeling that is far from showing the conviviality of a company and therefore that its employees are not really happy at work. Employees even mention the fact that this situation causes them real stress and establishes harmful relationships since they feel devalued on their performance compared to their colleagues.

But what are the reasons and consequences?

49% of employees who are often isolated feel that they do not feel supported when faced with difficulties and they admit to having tensions with their line manager and even with their colleagues. Under these conditions, the feeling of isolation and its corollary, suffering, are obvious. 70% of employees are looking to leave the company to find a better quality of life at work.

Dimitri Boulte, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of SFL, emphasizes:

“The interest of the study is to demonstrate, with figures and a solid sample of 1,600 employees, how relational intensity (quantitative and qualitative) creates well-being and performance. By bringing employees together physically, the office is a catalyst for performance, a magnet for talent and a vehicle for corporate culture. Companies that have understood this are taking advantage of it as a strategic asset in the race for innovation and in the talent war. »

Talk face-to-face to break the isolation

Send more emails? Call the employee more often? Nothing more destructive. While the generalization of internal and external messaging is based on a logic of operational efficiency, it does not bring any improvement in human relations. The results of the survey confirm that an employee who exchanges daily with 10 colleagues by email is as likely to suffer from isolation as one who exchanges with less than three people.

On the other hand, the more we exchange face-to-face, that is, the more we talk to each other, the more the feeling of isolation disappears. Person-to-person exchanges are popular with employees: to choose, 77% prefer to exchange with their colleagues or their hierarchy face-to-face (13% by email, 10% by telephone).

What can management do?

Promote collaborative work: well-being at work is directly correlated to the frequency of teamwork: employees who work “very often” in teams have a more positive perception of the atmosphere in the company. They rate the quality of relationships with their colleagues at 7.4/10, compared to 6.8 for those who work “rarely” in a team. The principle of collaborative work is exchange!
Support employees in a difficult situation: employees who feel “supported” in a difficult situation are happier at work, consider themselves more effective and consider their superiors to be more efficient.
The work environment, a positive criterion?
The employees who exchange the most and maintain good relations with their colleagues have, more often than average, convivial spaces in their offices (84% vs. 66%), and spaces intended to work in collaborative mode (62% vs. 47%).

Last but not least, the layout of offices plays a role in the quality of relationships: the best “format” is that of shared offices with 2 to 6 people, which favour quality exchanges more than open spaces or closed individual offices.

The quality of employee relations is therefore also the result of the choices made by the company in terms of space planning.

Eric Singler, General Manager of the BVA Group, underlines this in these words:

“We have moved on… to a knowledge-based economy in which everyone’s intelligence is paramount. It is therefore necessary to create the conditions for creativity and commitment. And, as such, the physical environment has a role to play. Everything counts: materials, colours, smells, sound atmosphere, travel flows… There are universal “rules”. For example, round tables in a creativity or meeting room reduce the risk of conflict (versus rectangular tables), etc. Open spaces have both communication machines and interrupt spaces. »