There’s a Loneliness Epidemic in the Workplace – Here’s How Employers Can Help
|Right now, in workplaces across the country, people are going about their jobs, seemingly content, but deep down feeling the ache of loneliness. They aren’t necessarily working alone or all by themselves with no one to talk to. They may be chatting amicably with customers on the phone or in person. Or they may work from home, but are in frequent communication with their coworkers through digital channels. Whatever the case, these lonely workers feel isolated and unnoticed.
Given all the means that people have at their disposal to connect with each other in the workplace – face-to-face meetings, email, social media, messaging apps – one might have expected loneliness in the workplace to be diminishing. Unfortunately, the number of communication channels hasn’t helped. Although technology may have increased the quantity of connections people have in the workplace, it hasn’t improved the quality of those connections.
Why It Matters at Work
To make matters worse, lonely employees are sometimes perceived to be less approachable, less committed, and less trustworthy. In turn, these perceived qualities obstruct communication, collaboration, and teamwork. A person’s loneliness can lead to misperceptions and misjudgments that ripple through a workplace – it’s a classic downward spiral.
But there is some good news! According to Gallup, people who have a best friend at work “are seven times as likely to be engaged in their jobs, are better at engaging customers, produce higher quality work, have higher well-being, and are less likely to get injured on the job.” In contrast, “those without a best friend in the workplace have just a 1 in 12 chance of being engaged.” Gallup found that the single best predictor of higher well-being and engagement was “not what people are doing – but who they are with.” The takeaway for employers: “small increases in social cohesiveness lead to large gains in production.”
What Employers Can Do
The workplace can be a lonely place, and when it is, people and productivity can suffer. By raising awareness about workplace loneliness and taking steps to create an environment in which people can easily make friends, employers can help bring the benefits of friendship to their employees and to themselves.