Impact of Loneliness in the Workplace

Loneliness in the Workplace

Human Connection

Humans crave connection

We develop into cells that are connected to another person

Then we are born into a world surrounded by people and we thrive when we are held, touched, caressed, fed and loved.

Somehow, as we grow older our sense of control shifts our desire for connection and our interpretation of what it means to be connected.

  • Toddlers rant and shout, “get away”
  • Teenagers duck the kiss from a parent
  • Adults move from hugs to handshakes

Today many adult workers find value in their remote work life even though it removes them  from the direct physical  and social connection of a workplace environment. While there are positives to this remote work life, it can also result in an increase in loneliness in the workplace.

Virtual Connection

Technology is often blamed for the disconnection of individuals from one another. Phones, social media, apps,  computers, wearable technology and the list will continue to grow.  Our daily lives are permeated by technology and generations to come will not know a world without it being “essential”.

Generationally, millennials are seen as having been impacted the most by technology and as a result lacking social etiquette and skills acquired by older generations.

Some reasons given are the following. They:

  • Don’t put phone’s down while dining
  • Prefer non verbal communication (texts, snapchats, etc)
  • Schedule phone calls versus accept impromptu calls
  • Engage with technology when in social groups/gatherings
  • Have found tech to perform tasks for them (food delivery, shopping, dating)

There’s an app for everything.

Is Technology to Blame for Workplace Loneliness?

There isn’t much need to connect with individuals in a non virtual way or is there?

Human beings need human, physical connection for their physical and emotional well-being. We connect to survive.

Loneliness has become an epidemic. Individuals are reporting greater mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, which can result in the need for medical care.  In addition,  indicators include an increase of premature deaths by suicide and other medical conditions like cardiovascular disease and strokes.

Outwardly “happy” individuals that “have it all” – great careers, money, followers on Instagram – are overdosing on pills and  dying prematurely from medical conditions or suffering from mental health conditions.

How can these seemingly happy individuals be so unhappy, unhealthy and desperate?

Loneliness and disconnection or feelings of isolation can create a mental health crisis in individuals. Research has shown health consequences including premature mortality .

Tips to Help Your Organization

Social connection is a protective factor. With working from home (WFH) increasing, how can organizations create the social connection that can protect their workforce when physical connection is not present?

Here are some suggestions to increase social connection in employees.

  • Schedule virtual meetings with virtual attendance for all (in office and WFH employees)
  • Set aside time for teams to connect socially and remotely (think water cooler)
  • Make time for individuals to join around organizational volunteer opportunities
  • Create “rituals” for transition into group meetings
  • Review WFH schedules and create equity
  • Assess individual employee need and comfort
  • Provide the necessary technology, support and instruction
  • Set clear standards and expectations

What This Means for Your Organization

With much of the workforce moving towards some virtual component to their workplace, how can an organization assess and develop a plan that encourages social connection and reduce the impact of loneliness in the workplace?

In turn, the protective measures to reduce loneliness and its negative impact can have a huge return on investment

  • Increase productivity
  • Reduce sick days
  • Increase employee engagement
  • Reduce insurance rates
  • Reduce turnover

These are only a few of the ways organizations can counter the loneliness epidemic. If you would like more information or to discuss how your organization may be impacted and how we can help, please contact us.

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