The New Epidemic – Loneliness

Do any of these statistics* surprise you? 

  • Nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone or left out 
  • Two in five Americans sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful and that they are isolated from others 
  • Generation Z (adults ages 18-22) is the loneliest generation and claims to be in worse health than older generations. 

When we think about loneliness, many of us imagine a person who lacks human company and has isolated surroundings. Someone in such a situation could be lonely, but not because they are alone. Loneliness stems from a lack of connection to others, or rather the feeling that you lack connection to others. This feeling is subjective and varies from one individual to another. It can also vary in circumstance; an individual may feel lonely at work but not lonely at home. Understanding the cause and subjectivity of loneliness is essential to reducing sentiments of loneliness in the workplace.

Leaders and managers should be concerned with workplace loneliness because of its direct effect on productivity. Employees who feel lonely experience declines in effectiveness and this is a significant cost to business. What can companies do to reduce loneliness at work? 

Recognize Loneliness Appropriately
To address loneliness, you must first recognize it. Avoid making assumptions about loneliness based on solitude–a person who works remotely may not be any lonelier than a person who works in an office full of people. Instead, focus on the emotional response. Someone experiencing loneliness at work probably does not spend much time interacting with coworkers and may be more difficult to approach. If the work volume or quality of an employee has been decliningloneliness may be the cause.  

A certain degree of loneliness can be a driving force for good. New hires or employees who have been promoted or changed departments can expect to feel a certain amount of loneliness. When the feeling is fresh, it can act as a motivator to reach out and develop relationships. If the feeling persists, it can quickly weigh down the individual. Be sure to develop a company culture that meets new employees with compassion and enthusiasm so that relationships can be developed swiftly, and beginner’s loneliness can be mitigated. 

Put Connection Above Interaction
Be careful in your attempts to develop connection among your team. A lonely person will likely withdraw at a casual social event where the main purpose is to interact with one another. A better way to increase connection in the workforce is to work in teams toward a common goal. Where individual competition may increase feelings of loneliness, teamwork has the opposite effect. Another way to foster connection is to highlight employees in a newsletter or a weekly roundtable. Your organization may already have many initiatives to encourage employee interaction; see what you can do to enhance those initiatives to focus on increased connection. 

Develop Solutions with Employees
Loneliness is a subjective emotion and requires an individualized approach. Work with your employees to determine how many of them experience workplace loneliness and why. Understanding the cause for each individual will help you develop a personalized solution, which will have a greater effect on work productivity than a broad approach. Your organization may be equipped with a robust mental health or wellness plan that could be utilized in your efforts to address workplace loneliness. 

Watch for trends of loneliness in your organization and carefully develop solutions that will promote connection between staff. As employees increase their engagement with one another, they will also become more engaged in their work, leading to improved output and better business. 

How can we help?
Compensation Works has the expertise and bandwidth to support your organizations’ unique communication, culture, compensation structure, and benefits needs. We partner with your team to provide meaningful feedback, recommendations, and observations. We add bench strength and a unique perspective to your busy team. We help our clients by crafting impactful strategies that inform, engage, and inspire, and most importantly, retain your team. 

*Source:  Cigna