social media's effects on employee engagement

Disengaged and Happy

Lessons Learned on Being Human Again

Have you read the novel, “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter”?  Neither have I. My daughter, cleaning out her room before heading back to college, left a copy of it on the hallway table.  The title caught my attention and I began to consider what the storyline might be.

Later that day, the title struck me as a fitting simile for our lives engaged with social media but disengaged from real life.  How suitable a portrayal it is that our hearts are constantly hunting for human connections, yet we remain focused on these narrow apertures of social media that guarantee only surface-level interactions. Lonely.

At the close of 2017, I had spent some time introspectively thinking about how I had let some once solid friendships erode. I knew what was going on with these friends all the time, thanks to various social media outlets.  Yet it still felt as if I were merely a spectator to their existence, and no longer the intimate friends we once were.  My resolution: a counterintuitive social media blackout for 2018.

In the workplace, as in the home and life, this conundrum of being digitally connected all the time can be sapping to our culture by advancing work environments of disengaged employees.  Why talk to my co-worker when I already know what they did over the weekend via social media?  I already gave them the obligatory thumbs up and a one-sentence comment. What else is there?

Let’s not even mention the meetings you’re in where people are “reading emails from clients.” Right…status update: disengaged!  Is this you?

In the realm of employee benefits, one of the top five buzzwords is engagement.  Employers desire employees to not only be engaged with their benefits but also with each other.  The second part is called culture.  That’s simply defined as a happy place to work where people agree to pursue and accomplish shared company objectives.

What I have learned in nine months of social media abstinence is that my resolution to disengage produced the unexpected fruit of being genuinely engaged. Engaged with my family, friends and co-workers.  The benefits have been two-fold, with my mood improved thanks to those real-life interactions.  Happy.

There is one undeniable truth about humanity. We are designed for relationships. In this blogger’s opinion, it is encoded in our DNA.

What does this all have to do with employee benefits, you might be asking?

I would like to audaciously challenge you to consider thinking about social media in the workplace being as culturally unacceptable as stealing your coworker’s lunch from the fridge.  It’s these little things that creep in and, over time, become contentious — or at minimum, a negative undertow on your people and culture.

Incite your culture to be one where genuine, live interactions are the norm and are expected.  Create collaboration spaces where facial expressions, tone of voice, and emotions mean something.  Facilitate scenarios where employees can become personally invested in each other.  Raise the bar on expectations for employees to put personal mobile devices away during meetings, seminars, and one-on-one interfaces.  These are just a few ideas to get you started.

Once you start defining the culture of your workplace, the engagement levels for both personal interactions and employee engagement with benefits will rise exponentially.  At the end of the day, happy, engaged employees produce a better work product at a lower cost.  That lower cost includes benefits consumption, which is second only to payroll on your balance sheet.

Take notice this week of how, when, and where social media may be robbing your workplace of the improved culture and engagement it could be experiencing.  Then, begin with yourself by establishing the paradigm.  Be the change you wish to see.

You may personally discover, as I did, “disengagement” is the road less travelled to happiness.  Now please excuse me as I need to go and visit an old friend.


John S. Dodson

John S. Dodson

Communications Director


P.S. A friend posted this to social media for me.






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