How can employers do more to encourage co-worker relationships?
The social media generation may be well-connected online, but when it comes making friends in the workplace, the majority are reportedly gripped by social anxiety.
Nearly seven in 10 Millennials (65%), or those aged between 25 and 34, are struggling to build friendships at work, while almost a quarter of workers under 25 feel anxious when introduced to a new co-worker, a study by jobs board Milkround.com showed.
When the pressure to mingle at work becomes too much, Millennials (38%) and Generation Z workers (48%) said they would rather call in sick and ditch their colleagues.
Stress emerged as the top reason why nearly a third of younger workers are having trouble finding friends in the workplace, yet only six per cent of Millennials and Gen Z said they have reached out to their line manager or HR department for help.
The social anxiety younger workers feel – as seen in their reluctance or inability to interact with colleagues – may be a sign of deeper issues that remain unaddressed.
In a 2018 survey by the news website Quartz, 30% of Millennial and Gen Z respondents said they experience anxiety or depression to the point where their work is disrupted ‘often’ or ‘all the time’. This psychological struggle may manifest itself in the form of social withdrawal or loneliness in the workplace.
Employers are thus in the best position to guide younger workers as they start to build their professional network, said Georgina Brazier of Milkround.
“By providing staff, particularly graduates, with a working environment that encourages social interaction across all levels,” Brazier said, “employers can help enable employees in honing their interpersonal skills, establishing professional networks and laying the groundwork for the kinds of skills they to excel in throughout their careers.”