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Back to Human summary

Dan Schawbel

How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation

4.5 (39 ratings)
21 mins
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    Back to Human
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    For all its benefits, technology is weakening human relationships that are important for personal and business life.

    Digital technology continues to change the world. Things that barely existed a decade ago, like smartphones and tablets, messaging systems and social networks, are a fact of life today. And this technology undoubtedly has had many positive effects. It has never been easier for us to connect and stay in touch with people all over the world.

    But technology is also having a negative impact on people’s lives. For one, it exacerbates social isolation – a lack of contact and connectedness with other people – particularly amongst younger people who use technology the most.

    That’s because people crave human connection but nonetheless find it easier and simpler to turn to a device than to have a normal conversation. As a result, people feel they are getting their dose of social interaction. But in reality, they are missing out on forming real relationships. The University of Pittsburgh conducted a study in 2004, finding that a person spending two hours a day on social media doubled their risk of social isolation.

    Depression is also a concern. University of Houston research from 2015 found that the more active someone was on Facebook, the more likely they were to be depressed. According to the author, that may be because they compare themselves to the curated, shiny and impossible versions of their friends’ lives put on display.

    Isolation and depression damage social relationships that are hugely important for satisfaction. The famous Grant Study, described in great detail in three books by American psychiatrist George Vaillant, followed the lives of 268 Harvard undergraduates for 75 years from 1938 onward. The study discovered that the strongest predictor of life satisfaction among participants wasn’t their career achievements or earnings, but rather the strength of their relationships.

    Strong relationships have also been shown to help specifically with satisfaction and success at work. A Wharton Business School study from 2017 that interviewed over 700 employees and managers found that employee loneliness was correlated with poor performance. It’s perhaps not surprising. After all, doing business is all about relationships and relationship building.

    If our increasing tendency to hide behind screens and devices instead of investing in our relationships is weakening our ability to achieve work and life satisfaction, what’s the solution? Surely, it’s to get back to being more human. Read on and find out how you can help cultivate true, human fulfillment in the workplace.

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    What is Back to Human about?

    Back to Human (2018) explores how workplaces that offer a more human approach offer not just a better environment for employees, but better business results. In an age dominated by the use of technology, Back to Human is a practical guide showing workplace leaders how they can build a better corporate culture based on human connections.

    Best quote from Back to Human

    To be fulfilled at work, committed to our teams, and happy, we need to focus on building deeper relationships with the people around us.

    —Dan Schawbel
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    Who should read Back to Human?

    • Managers and leaders who want to build human connections in the workplace
    • Anyone uneasy about the impact of technology on work and workplace relationships
    • People looking for a practical guide to modern day management.

    About the Author

    Dan Schawbel is an expert in all things related to the future of the workplace. The founder of, the world’s largest aggregator of research on workplace issues, he is an acclaimed entrepreneur, podcaster, speaker and author. He has published two other best-selling books about life at work, Promote Yourself and Me 2.0.

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