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Back to Human

Back to Human

How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation

Back to Human explains how a more socially connected workforce creates greater fulfillment, productivity, and engagement while preventing burnout and turnover.

New York Times bestselling author Dan Schawbel guides the next generation of leaders to create a workplace where teammates feel genuinely connected, engaged, and empowered to grow strong interpersonal skills rather than relying on technology. Based on Schawbel’s exclusive research studies–featuring the perspectives of over 2,000 managers and employees across different age groups and from the US, UK, China, India, Brazil and other countries–Back to Human reveals why electronic and virtual communication, though vital and useful, actually contributes to a stronger sense of isolation at work than ever before.

The corporate cultures we are experiencing right now need to change, and Schawbel offers a new leadership model featuring The Work-Life Balance Myth (we should consider work-life integration instead, which creates more synergies between all areas of your life and puts you in control of how you allocate your time), Shared Learning (how sharing knowledge allows you to stay relevant despite industry disruptions), and more. The book includes:
  • Interviews with 100 leaders from notable companies including Facebook, Honeywell, HBO, Starbucks, General Mills, GE, Nike, American Express, Four Seasons, Walmart, TIME, LinkedIn, and The U.S. Air Force.
  • A self-assessment called “The Work Connectivity Index” that measures that strength of team relationships.
  • Exercises, examples and activities that readers can work on individually, or as a team, which will help them improve their leadership skills.
  • Tips and strategies on how to increase personal productivity, be more collaborative and become more fulfilled at work.
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Genre: Nonfiction / Business & Economics / Leadership

On Sale: November 13th 2018

Price: $13.99 / $17.99 (CAD)

Page Count: 288

ISBN-13: 9780738235011

Meet The Author: Dan Schawbel

Dan Schawbel is a New York Times bestselling author, partner, and research director at Future Workplace, and the founder of both Millennial Branding and WorkplaceTrends.com. He is the bestselling author of two career books: Promote Yourself and Me 2.0. Through his companies, he’s conducted dozens of research studies and worked with major brands including American Express, GE, Microsoft, Virgin, IBM, Coca-Cola, and Oracle. Dan has written countless articles for Forbes, Fortune, TIME, The Economist, and The Harvard Business Review. Considered “one of today’s more dynamic young entrepreneurs” by Inc. Magazine, Schawbel has been profiled or quoted in more than 2,000 media outlets, such as NBC’s The Today Show, Fox News’s Fox & Friends, MSNBC’s Your Business, The Steve Harvey Show, The Wall Street Journal, People Magazine, Wired Magazine, GQ, The Economist, and NPR. He has been recognized on several lists including Inc. Magazine‘s “30 Under 30,” Forbes Magazine‘s “30 Under 30,” Business Insider‘s “40 Under 40,” BusinessWeek‘s “20 Entrepreneurs You Should Follow,” and as one of Workforce Magazine‘s “Game Changers.”

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A conversation with Dan Schawbel

What's Inside

Introduction

How Technology Is Isolating Us at Work

Our hyperconnectedness is the snake lurking in our digital Garden of Eden.
—Arianna Huffington

While watching Black Mirror, the popular British science fiction anthology, on Netflix, I was amazed at how well the “Nosedive” episode reflects our current society. The story is set in an alternate reality where people can rate each other using their smartphones and those ratings impact their lives. Lacie, the lead character, is obsessed with her rating, much like many of us obsess over the number of likes, comments, and shares our status updates gain. She starts the episode with a rating of 4.2 out of 5 but needs at least a 4.5 to be able to move into the more luxurious neighborhood where her friends live. Her friend Naomi, who has a 4.8 rating, asks Lacie to be a bridesmaid at her wedding. On her way to the wedding Lacie encounters a series of misfortunes that drive her rating down to a mere 2.6. As a result, Naomi asks her not to be in her wedding anymore. Although the show is fictional, this episode perfectly illustrates how technology can divide us as much as bring us together, and it holds up an unforgiving mirror that shows us how guilty we are of making unconscious social comparisons that make us—and everyone else—miserable.

Modern technologies have impacted our workplaces in ways that would have been impossible just a decade ago. Instant messaging, digital platforms, and videoconferencing have completely changed how, when, and where we work. A Gallup survey found that over a third of the entire US workforce has worked remotely, and Freelancers Union reports that freelancers also now make up more than a third. Robotics and artificial intelligence have supercharged our productivity at the cost of replacing tasks and even eliminating full-time jobs from our economy. McKinsey found that half of today’s work activities could be automated by 2055, accounting for almost $15 trillion in wages globally.

On the positive side, networks, apps, and smartphones have created a more social, collaborative, and flattering global workplace. According to the Harvard Business Review, over the past twenty years collaborative activities have increased by 50 percent and now account for more than 75 percent of an employee’s day-to-day work. But more and more of that collaboration is occurring within social networks and mobile apps, with a far smaller percentage happening in person. There’s no stopping the evolution of these technologies; they’ll continue to transform and reshape our work lives every year.

To give you a sense of just how quickly things are changing, when the telephone was introduced in the latter part of the nineteenth century, it took several decades for that new technology to reach half of all households. A century later, in the 1990s, it took fewer than five years for cell phones to reach the same penetration. Future devices could prove even faster than that.

Our devices offer many incredible benefits including real-time interactions, efficiencies in workflow, creation of new ideas, and access to resources. At the same time, those devices have disrupted our relationships and made our workplaces more dysfunctional. Instead of strong bonds, we have weak ties. Instead of productive meetings, we have distractions. Technology has created an illusion that today’s workers are highly connected to one another, when in reality most feel isolated from their colleagues.

What they crave most—and what research increasingly shows to be the hallmark of the highest performing workplace cultures—is a sense of authentic connection with others.

Technology addiction is increasing. This is especially true of younger employees who grew up with technology and are more likely to be early adopters. They happily use these devices to obtain instant gratification, alleviate stress, and receive personal validation. But there’s a darker side to this technology use. On an episode of 60 Minutes Tristan Harris, a former Google product manager, admitted that these devices are intentionally designed to make us addicted to them. Every time we pick up our phones, we’re pulling a lever in the hope of winning an exciting reward, much like using a slot machine.

Although it’s tempting to think that Harris is speaking metaphorically about tech addiction, it’s actually a very real thing. Every time we receive a text or status update, we get a jolt of dopamine in the pleasure system in our brains—the same system that controls addiction to drugs such as cocaine. Before smartphones existed, people spent an average of eighteen minutes a day on their computers and other electronic devices. Today we’re up to a whopping five hours a day, during which we tap our phones an average of twenty-six hundred times. About half of Americans are so addicted to their devices that they’d rather break a bone than their phones.

Besides putting huge amounts of money into the pockets of device makers and technology companies, our addiction is reprogramming our minds and shaping our actions, feelings, and thoughts. It’s also interfering with our relationships. Author and thought leader Simon Sinek has observed that when young people experience stress, “they aren’t turning to a person, they are turning to a device and social media that offer temporary relief.” This coping mechanism has made us depressed, isolated, and less effective in our lives.

Two global studies conducted by Future Workplace in partnership with Randstad found that what younger workers say they want has very little to do with how they actually behave. The majority of the six thousand twenty-two- to thirty-four-year-old workers polled in more than ten countries told researchers that they prefer in-person communication to technology. Nevertheless, over a third spend approximately 30 percent of their personal and work time on Facebook. Instead of having in-person meetings and phone calls, we choose texting, instant messaging, and social networking. Many of my peers even become frustrated when someone calls and leaves a voice mail, which they view as an interruption.

Workplace loneliness is spreading. When we rely on devices to connect with other humans, our relationships become weaker. Replacing human interactions with text messaging makes us lonely and unhappy. The result is an isolation epidemic that has reduced the percentage of people who say they have a close friend and has left half of all Americans feeling lonely in their public lives. Dr. Vivek Murthy, a former surgeon general of the United States, told me that “loneliness and weak social connections are associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even greater than that associated with obesity.”

To be fulfilled at work, committed to our teams, and happy, we need to focus on building deeper relationships with the people around us. The famous Harvard Grant study by George Vaillant followed 268 Harvard undergraduates for seventy-five years, collecting data on multiple aspects of their lives at different time periods. Vaillant discovered that the best predictor of life satisfaction wasn’t money or career success; it was strong relationships.

A few researchers have studied the correlation between the loneliness that isolated employees feel and their commitment to their teams. The consensus is that having work friends and team camaraderie can make a huge difference when it comes to job performance, loyalty to the employer, and employees’ overall well-being. At Wharton School of Business Sigal Barsade interviewed 672 employees and their 114 supervisors and found that greater employee loneliness led to poorer task, team role, and relational performance. In a separate study John P. Meyer and Natalie J. Allen found that the quality of employees’ interpersonal relationships has a significant impact on how they perceive and connect with their companies. Employees who are lonely are more likely to feel a lack of belongingness at work and have a lower commitment to the company.

Gallup interviewed more than five million people and found that just 30 percent have a best friend at work; those who do are seven times more likely to be engaged in their jobs. In a separate study for this book, Virgin Pulse and Future Workplace polled more than two thousand workers in twenty countries and found that 7 percent of workers have no friends at work and more than half have five or fewer friends. Those with the fewest friends felt lonely “very often” or “always” and were not engaged in their work. This is especially important for people of my generation, who consider their team their work family and their boss their work parent. No one wants to leave their family for a group of strangers at another company, just as no one wants to let their family down by being a poor performer.

Isolation in the workplace has caused employees to seek more intimacy, be more empathetic, and build deeper friendships. After surveying more than twenty-five thousand employees from ten countries, we found that remote workers who rely on collaborative tools are more likely to pick up the phone, check the tone of their emails, and befriend coworkers. As an introvert who has worked from home for several years in both Boston and New York, I can relate to this need for belonging, and I know that I’m far from alone. Even with New York City’s population of over 8.6 million and the countless restaurants, bars, museums, concerts, sporting events, and other activities the city has to offer, it’s easy to feel lonely here. And that’s a problem that affects cities and countries around the world, with devastating consequences. Japan’s population is expected to drop from 127 million to 87 million by 2060.  The cause is fewer marriages, which stems from people not having enough human contact and instead relying on technology to do their “socializing.” In France, although the average workweek is fewer than forty hours and employees receive five weeks of guaranteed vacation, the government instituted a “right to disconnect” law, allowing workers to shut down their devices once the workday has ended. After discovering that more than nine million people always or often feel lonely in the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Theresa May appointed a minister for loneliness to tackle the problem.

The combination of work isolation and technology overuse and addiction has given rise to what I call the experience renaissance, in which people are deliberately seeking out ways of spending time and doing things with others. A recent Harris Group study found that 72 percent of young workers prefer to spend more money on experiences than on material things. In festivals, adult day camps, yoga retreats, group trips, and dinners, people have sought out experiences as a way to establish the connections that they crave—and miss. Despite this renaissance, the average American still spends barely thirty minutes a day in face-to-face social communication, compared to three hours watching television. This lack of social connection affects not only our work experiences but also our survival. After reviewing 148 studies with 308,849 participants, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a psychologist at Brigham Young University in Utah, found that the strongest predictor of a long, healthy life was social integration or how much we interact with people throughout the day.

This book is a deeply personal one. As a young leader like you, I have struggled to maintain a balance between my business life and my personal life. I went from working on a team in a Fortune 200 company to being a “solopreneur” to being on a team again with another business, and I know that I’m guilty of overusing technology and texting instead of picking up the phone. Throughout my journey I’ve felt lonely, depressed, and fearful. Nevertheless, I’ve learned how to use technology to facilitate more in-person connections, and I know the value of those relationships and how to maximize them.

During a three-hour interview I did for a documentary on my generation, I was asked several times about the greatest challenge we face. While many might have said global warming, terrorism, or the student loan crisis, I said isolation. No question, those other issues are extremely concerning, but they’re pretty much out of our immediate control when compared to the day-to-day decisions we make about our lives. My hope is to start a global movement about the importance of employee relationships and to initiate a process of making the workplace a better experience for all of us.

The point of Back to Human is to help you decide when and how to appropriately use technology to build better connections in your work life. I’ve witnessed firsthand how technology has enabled me to create a network and build a business that I never thought would have been possible. I have also seen how some of that same technology has prevented me from building deeper relationships and distracted me from living in the moment. During my interviews with dozens of prominent leaders for this book, time and time again they reaffirmed that technology is a double-edged sword. Back to Human addresses the hidden emotional need that makes us more human and less machine, not by discounting technology altogether but by explaining how to use it to propel your career.

My personal mission is to assist you through your entire career life cycle, from college to the C-suite. My first book, Me 2.0, helped you get your first job after college, and my second, Promote Yourself, supported you on your upward path from that first job into managerial roles. I wrote this book specifically for the next generation of leaders. I will walk you through everything you need to do to create a workplace in which your teammates feel genuinely connected and engaged. This book will help you master self-connection, promote team connection, and build organizational connection. Doing so will help you be the leader your organization desperately needs, while providing greater fulfillment for you and those you connect with.

My goal is to bring some sanity back to the workplace. We spend an average of forty-seven hours each week working, and with all our devices, it feels like we’re always on the clock. Because we spend so much of our lives working, it’s absolutely critical that we improve our relationships with our teams and create a culture of trust.

Back to Human is designed to help you become a more effective leader by creating meaningful connections within our tech-heavy workplaces. Throughout the book you will learn how the four employee engagement factors (happiness, belonging, purpose, and trust) can be used to foster healthier and more productive work cultures. Each chapter focuses on an important topic that impacts our work lives. I start by identifying a problem and then move on to practical solutions to address that problem. You’ll learn how to make better decisions about interacting with your team; how and when to use technology (and when not to); and what specific steps you can take to facilitate deeper, more effective, and more human relationships with them. The corporate cultures we’re experiencing right now must change—and this book will show you exactly what you need to do to be more productive and fulfilled at work.

Cheers to your success!
Dan Schawbel

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Praise

"A practical guide for leaders to stop using technology as a crutch and start building genuine connections with their teams."
Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Give and Take, Originals, and Option B with Sheryl Sandberg
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"Dan Schawbel offers a searching examination of the role technology plays in our lives and how our overreliance on gadgets is deepening our sense of isolation. But Back to Human is also a hopeful book, one that provides a prescription for change for leaders and anyone else interested in doing better."—Daniel H. Pink, author of When and To Sell is Human
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"Elevating humanity through business is the purpose of Conscious Capitalism. Back to Human is a welcomed reminder of the interdependencies that exist across all human stakeholders, and that workplace cultures must be trusting, authentic, innovative and caring so that working there is a source of both personal growth and professional fulfillment."—John Mackey, co-founder and CEO, Whole Foods Market; co-author of Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business
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"Our brain grew in size in order to process our complex social needs, yet we are evolving into a society that devalues human interaction. Dan's insights will ensure you use all your neurons offered by evolution."—Mehmet Oz, MD, Professor of Surgery, Columbia University, Host, The Dr. Oz Show
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"A fun, thoughtful read, but more important, a truly useful book. Back to Human provides concrete solutions for many of the 21st century challenges that shape how we work and live."— General (Ret.) Stanley McChrystal, New York Times bestselling author of Team of Teams
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"Dan will help you put your damn phone in your pocket, look people in the eye, and build actual human relationships at work. You'll be stunned at the difference this makes in your career--and in your life."
Kim Scott, New York Times bestselling author of Radical Candor
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"Back to Human is the definitive guide to connecting in an era where doing so is increasingly difficult. It is one of the best collections of voices and research that will help leaders to create a more cohesive and compelling workplace."
Tom Rath, #1 New York Times bestselling author of StrengthFinder 2.0
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"In Back to Human, Dan Schawbel reminds us that our humanity must never take a backseat to new technology-- driverless or otherwise. And that progress is found in the connection of humans working together creatively in pursuit of better."
Beth Comstock, Former Vice Chair, GE
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"In Back to Human, Dan Schawbel challenges us to put down our phones and start investing in deeper relationships. That's a message we all need to hear."— Dan Heath, co-author of the New York Times bestsellers, The Power of Moments, Made to Stick, Switch, and Decisive
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"I recommend Back to Human to any leader who wants to create a higher quality of life for their team. Schawbel explains how to build the human connections that are critical to personal and organizational success. Regardless of advancements in technology, the human touch will remain and this book will help you create stronger relationships that lead to higher performance and happiness."
Michel Landel, CEO of Sodexo
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"Technology may have accelerated the pace of change, but it hasn't erased the need for business basics. In Back to Human, Dan Schawbel offers expert advice on overcoming technology's shortcomings and refocusing on the true building blocks for business success: relationships, collaboration and getting the job done. A must-read for all leaders."
Ron Shaich, Founder and Chairman of Panera Bread
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"Back to Human shows how modern technologies have made our work lives unfulfilled. In this provocative and insightful book, Dan Schawbel demands our interactions to be more human and less machine and provides a practical guide on how to achieve this. This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to become a more effective leader in today's workplace."—W. Chan Kim, The BCG Professor of Strategy at INSEAD and New York Times bestselling author of Blue Ocean Shift
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"In his brilliantly researched new book, Back to Human, Dan Schawbel provides the deepest, most insightful analysis of how we can restore humanity and authentic connections to the workplace in this technology age: with leaders who build highly motivated, collaborative teams that create healthy, productive workplaces. It is a must read for all who care about making work fulfilling."— Bill George, Senior Fellow, Harvard Business School, former Chair & CEO of Medtronic, and author of Discover Your True North
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"Back to Human is a valuable read for any leader desirous of a more collaborative and productive workforce. By following Dan's advice, we can enjoy stronger team relationships that lead to stronger business results."— Bert Jacobs, co-founder and Chief Executive Optimist, Life is Good
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"There are books on productivity that ignore practical lessons, and books with checklists that ignore the 'why'. But what if there was a research-based book chock full of highly relevant exercises that can help anyone become more effective at work? Look no further: Back to Human is loaded with practical insights that won't only help you get better on the job, but will also give you pause to think about how to live the life you really want to."— Sydney Finkelstein, Dartmouth professor and bestselling author of Superbosses and Why Smart Executives Fail
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"Back to Human provides practical back to basics on how to become a better leader. Good insights coupled with good advice. Well done!"— David Novak, Former Chairman and CEO of YUM! Brands
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"In Colonial times, Samuel Adams and his fellow revolutionaries met in taverns and planned the American Revolution over a beer or two. Back to Human leads us to recapture those essential human interactions--conversation, communication, collaboration, and common passion. If you want to brew up your own Revolution, this book by Dan Schawbel is an excellent guide. Cheers!"
Jim Koch, founder & brewer of Samuel Adams and author of Quench Your Own Thirst: Business Lessons Learned Over a Beer or Two
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"Dan has written a meaningful neo classic. He reinforces the human need for fulfillment and shows that most technology limits this important connection. When applied, his ideas will help people find meaningful connections that increase both personal well-being and work productivity."
Dave Ulrich, coauthor of the New York Times bestseller The Why of Work, Rensis Likert Professor, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan
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"If leaders want to create stronger connections with their teams, they must read Back to Human. Schawbel's message of encouraging more human connection, instead of relying on technology, will become more relevant over time."
Howard Behar, former president of Starbucks
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"[Back to Human] aims to help leaders build stronger team relationships amid our dependency on technology."—Refinery29
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"At a time of increasing technological and virtual interaction, Schawbel's practical book provides a thoughtful model of connected human leadership."—Forbes
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"Recommended to business professionals seeking to manage a corporate culture that provides a work-life balance to its staff."—Library Journal
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Reader Reviews