Employee isolation in corporate America is a growing threat to morale and productivity, but teachers may have been struggling with it for decades.
While jobs in other industries often involve team projects, meetings, and other responsibilities requiring collaborative effort from employees, teachers are asked to spend the majority of their time closed off in a classroom.
As email has become the primary source of communication between employees, teachers are less likely to talk and ask questions of their peers and administrative staff. This eliminates crucial face-to-face communication, which leads to poorer task, team role, and relational performance, according to a recent report from SHRM.
District HR staff can help combat teacher isolation and loneliness by following these tips:
- Provide better, more frequent, and more personalized communication.
- HR staff could consider visiting campuses and attending a faculty meeting to answer questions and provide information to campus staff.
- Email communications could be directed to new staff to share reminders about district resources and benefits available to them. Much of what’s shared in new employee orientation can be forgotten in the whirlwind of the first few weeks of work.
- Plan a monthly meeting outside of the school day for first-year teachers to meet, share experiences, and provide support for each other.
- Encourage campuses to schedule monthly “quick breakfasts” for teachers to get together, share breakfast tacos or donuts, and build personal connections with their teammates.
- Check in periodically with new employees (including non-teachers) to provide personalized support and guidance. A quick visit with a new staff member can go a long way.
- Substitute face-to-face communication for written communication when possible.
Following these tips can bring the reality of campus life to central office workers and help them support educators. Creating personal connections improves employee morale, increases productivity and work quality, and even promotes better health. According to a study released in May, 89 percent of respondents who said they had “good,” “very good,” or “excellent” relationships with co-workers were also in “good,” “very good,” or “excellent” health. Only 65 percent of those who reported having “fair” or “poor” relationships with co-workers were in similarly good health.
Ultimately, there’s no replacement for face-to-face interaction when it comes to preventing workplace loneliness. Not only does it take away the sense of isolation for teachers, but it also provides better quality communication.
One professor at California State University reported nearly 70 percent of face-to-face communication involves reading nonverbal cues, such as expressions and body language, that can help clarify what a person is actually saying. Those expressions aren't available in an email or text message, so it’s clear why increasing the number of those in-person interactions is so beneficial for all district employees.
Zach DiSchiano is the communications specialist for TASB HR Services. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.