People’s personal and professional networks have decreased close to 16%—or by more than 200 people—during the pandemic, according to new research from the Harvard Business Review.
During the pandemic, people have shifted attention away from strangers and toward their “bubble,” comprising family, friends and close colleagues. There’s significant cons, though, that come with a shrinking network. For the individual worker, it can make finding a job more difficult or can hinder career progress and make it harder to get promoted. For companies, it can lead to less creativity and more groupthink. People with fewer connections at work have a decreased sense of belonging and are less likely to identify with the organization, which puts them at higher risk of turnover and possibly even fraud and negligence.
At a time when many people are struggling with loneliness and feeling disconnected from work, Harvard Business Review says it’s more imperative than ever to be intentional about maintaining connections to casual acquaintances.
Tanya Menon and Ned Smith, business school professors at Ohio State University and Northwestern, respectively, found that having a reminder of who you are and what your core values are can help you overcome some of the tendencies to turtle in. They maintain that our networks start to focus inward because we feel out of control. Reaffirming who and what is important to you can help create a sense of comfort and control and make it easier to reach out to people you’ve fallen out of contact with.
In the remaining months of the pandemic, it’s critical to focus on reconnection. Without an active effort at regenerating lost relationships, a shrunken network will likely stay small.