Why Does Loneliness Occur and What Is It?
“A person’s feelings regarding the sufficiency and quality of his or her relationships in given settings” constitute loneliness. Everyone wants to have a sense of attachment and a connection with others around them. They experience loneliness when they don’t have such emotional support. There is a distinction between loneliness and being alone. Most of us like spending time alone periodically and solitude has been shown to have advantages. However, there are more likely to be detrimental bodily and psychological impacts for those who don’t have the option—for instance, elderly individuals who don’t have a support system in place. In fact, one study found that smoking 15 cigarettes a day and being alone can be fatal. Furthermore, compared to those with strong social ties, those who experience chronic loneliness have a 50% higher risk of dying young.
According to the London-based Campaign to end loneliness, this syndrome develops when the number and calibre of social connections have fallen short of our expectations. As organisations plan for the future of work, the rising rates of workplace loneliness during the epidemic have made employee welfare a major priority.
Another recent Cigna poll stated, more than 6,000 workers are reporting workplace loneliness; hence it is on the rise. Despite rising for all generations over the previous year, loneliness is still most common in millennials and generation z.
While loneliness at workplace can have a profound influence on the lives of those who experience it, it can also have negative effects on the organisations where those people work.
Workers who experience workplace loneliness use twice as many sick days, are less committed and perform worse. Their feelings may also extend to others, impacting the entire organisation. Thus, these effects of loneliness in the workplace cannot be ignored by an employer.
The social and emotional isolation environment can be used to understand the cause of loneliness at workplace. When one lacks to feel close to and connected to others, they are said to be emotionally lonely. Lack of social connections, such as friendships and romantic relationships, with which one might share interests, causes social loneliness. These two factors together in the job can lead to feelings of emptiness and loneliness. Psychologists have explored loneliness in depth. Unfortunately, it’s very common and is harmful to one’s mental and even physical health.
Loneliness and Covid-19:
Social distance norms have caused emotions of loneliness and anxiety epidemics due to the COVID pandemic. In one study, 1,008 participants between the ages of 18 and 35 experienced “significant depression symptoms” during the pandemic.
Remote Working Increases the feelings of Loneliness in Workers.
Remote workers may struggle when they are cut off from the routine of their jobs. If the environment isn’t adequately controlled, people may quickly feel isolated due to a lack of co-worker support, a lack of structure, and decreasing face-to-face encounters. 16% of remote employees surveyed by Buffer in 2021 said that feeling lonely was their main difficulty, while 27% found it difficult to unplug.
The Impact of Workplace Loneliness
Loneliness plagues the entire globe. Greater than the population of London, nearly 9 million people in the U.K. experience workplace loneliness. Nearly 30,000 people in Japan pass away from loneliness each year. This isolation harms our health. According to a 2015 WHO report, 4.5% of Indians experienced depression.
Although loneliness at workplace may appear to be a private or unimportant problem, it’s anything but that. According to a 2020 survey, three in five adult Americans experience workplace loneliness. According to some observers, there may be substantial health hazards associated with the epidemic of loneliness we are currently facing.
A 2015 research found that, over time, loneliness can be more harmful to your brain and body than drinking and smoking. However, loneliness at workplace affects business and health. It has an impact on both your performance and how you feel.
A lonely person will frequently emotionally withdraw from the group and often work less diligently, creatively, cooperatively, and attentively, and both the quality and amount of their output may suffer. Additionally, it has been linked to workplace burnout.
A Toll on Mental Health
NCBI psychological studies have identified loneliness as one of the primary factors contributing to mental diseases. 46% of employees in India experience stress of some kind. These emotions of loneliness have been linked to suicidal ideation, sadness, and anxiety in some severe cases. They believe that no one cares about them, that no one can relate to them, or that they are not likable. Many forms of uneasiness and self-doubt rot in loneliness. They become socially isolated as a result, which results in unfavourable thoughts and feelings.
Physical Health Declines
People turn to things they can cling to when they feel they lack an emotional connection with somebody or don’t have anyone. As a result, individuals start smoking, drinking, or developing a drug addiction. Loneliness also raises the chance of life-threatening cardiovascular conditions. In 2016, 1,81,000 adults participated in a study that found loneliness raises the risk of coronary heart disease by 29%.
Minimises Employee Engagement
Feeling disengaged and separated from one’s coworkers and one’s work in the setting of a company is referred to as workplace loneliness. Employees lose emotional investment in the company and its success because they feel they don’t have the desired connection with their peers. A sense of disconnection diminishes their dedication to the organisation. Rarely do employees participate in crucial organisational functions or decision-making processes. Employee engagement has decreased as a result overall.
Intensifies Employee Turnover
Employees may even opt to leave the company due to long-term loneliness at work. Employees that are lonely have a very poor drive to work and perform since they don’t have a connection to their jobs or employers. They feel they serve no purpose in the organisation, and their sense of belonging to it is quite low. They may opt to leave your company as a result of this.
Reduced performance at work
Nothing fascinates workers when they are experiencing workplace loneliness. They cannot form an emotional bond with individuals around them, which eventually affects their ability to do their jobs. They lack motivation and have no enjoyment from their employment. Even if they are uninterested, employees may continue to work for some time. However, if it goes on for too long, it will lead to burnout and, eventually, lower performance and productivity.
Impacts Upskilling Initiatives
The effects of loneliness in the workplace have incurred losses for organizations. A 2019 study of over 11,000 adults discovered that within two years of the survey, men who reported higher-than-average social isolation and women who reported rising social isolation both showed above-average declines in the memory performance.
Thus, despite being a good performer in the past, loneliness and isolation can unintentionally harm an employee’s performance. When people feel stressed out and isolated from the rest of their coworkers, upskilling will be less effective. Even after receiving adequate instruction and growth, a lonely person is more likely to find themselves unable to provide their optimum performance.
Signs that coworkers are Lonely
- Deadlines that are missed and inferior work
- Regularly missing work or requesting leave.
- Few or no interactions with coworkers.
- indifference to decisions or group projects
- Discusses only business
- ignores meetings
- Doesn’t offer suggestions
- Is not motivated to advance their career
Your ability to identify issues early on and take action to make employees feel like valuable team members again depends on open communication, the development of trustworthy relationships, and careful observation of the actions of remote workers.
Rishab, a 28-year-old engineer, has been in a well-reputed I.T. company for the past four years. He was extremely hard working initially, but his performance started to deteriorate after his team leader changed. Rishab’s fellow teammate reports that he doesn’t share a cordial relationship with the new leader as this person did not promote his position to Sr. Manager, which he ought to get. Rishab once tried to request him regarding the same, but the new manager shouted at him and threatened to resign. Since then, Rishab started ignoring meetings, his sick leaves increased dramatically, and he seemed demotivated at the office. When taken to a mental health professional by one of his teammates, he was diagnosed with burnout and anxiety.
How to Stop Feeling Alone at Work in 8 Simple Steps
1. Identify the Situation: Work on developing trust with a group member if you have any reason to believe they are isolated or lonely. Ask them to complete the Loneliness Scale questionnaire. Make sure to clarify why you believe the test is a good idea and that it is completely optional and that all results will remain private. Otherwise, you run the danger of alienating them.
2. Modify your mentality: It’s possible that the methods of operation used by your company make it challenging for your employees to forge deep connections.
You might, for instance, work in a closed-plan office where the design physically separates employees from one another. Maybe the highly competitive environment where you work has turned into one where people are distrustful of and hostile to one another rather than having a healthy rivalry.
3. Create a Team with a Shared Vision: An overarching goal gives people’s efforts meaning, and a common goal fosters teamwork. So, involve your staff in the greater impact of its work to counter the energy-draining impacts of loneliness. Keep an eye out for bad behaviours that could undermine team spirits, such as rudeness, bullying, or harassment, and make it your job to deal with these. Be explicit with your team about the kinds of behaviours you want to see, and engage with individuals to help them improve whatever interpersonal skills they lack. Develop a cohesive team by focusing on common ideals. This will lessen the likelihood of conflict and isolation and make it more likely that new hires will “fit” with the rest of the team because their values and goals align with those of the larger company.
4. Encourage positive interactions: No one can be coerced into making friends. However, you may help them connect by fostering possibilities for cooperation, planning entertaining team-building exercises, and sponsoring welcoming and appropriate social events. Encourage your team to focus on making high-quality connections rather than simply accumulating connections.
5. Participate in the Lives of Others: Make an effort to understand your team members as individuals with distinct personalities and experiences by giving them a chance to express these elements of their lives. Also, listen to them with empathy. One may take the lead from Vivek Murthy, the U.S. Surgeon General, whose staff devoted five minutes of each weekly meeting to learning about one another’s lives. People will probably feel safer and more secure if trust and empathy are fostered in this way, which can inspire them to be honest about their weaknesses. Set an example by showcasing your willingness to speak honestly about yourself and your feelings.
6. Do Little Acts of Kindness: Simply remembering to greet them each morning will demonstrate your concern for their well-being. These kinds of benevolent random deeds will probably benefit the rest of your squad as well. Remember to give your one-on-ones top priority. Team members should feel free to express their views and ideas in these without fear of repercussion. Even when you’re busy, don’t skip these meetings and use the time to talk about things other than your current objectives and obligations.
7. Combat burnout: Someone may feel more lonely the more worn out they are. Additionally, a growing number of people report feeling weary due to their jobs; in a 2016 research, almost 50% of participants agreed. Make sure none of your team members become fatigued. Encourage them to set clear limits that safeguard their work-life balance, to work regular and reasonable hours, to take appropriate breaks, and to do so. And remember to heed your own counsel.
8. Observe your online colleagues: Team members who work remotely are especially prone to loneliness, so make sure to communicate with them frequently. Use tools like Sneak TM to let them connect with you and the rest of the team, or save a few minutes after conference meetings or video chats to catch up with them and ask how they’re doing.
Rishab was told that burnout could be treated by applying some basic management strategies mentioned above. He was advised to come after two weeks with the record sheet of what he did every day to deal with his symptoms. Rishab reported that he regularly participates in meetings and has started interacting with other managers. He also received mail from his team leader regarding appreciation of his work. As a result, his situation improved.
Ways Employers Strategically Help Employees Deal with Loneliness
1. Offering digital healthcare services: Supporting employees’ physical and mental well-being is crucial. As was already said, loneliness can have serious psychological and physical effects that, if untreated, could affect employee well-being. With telehealth, staff members can routinely discuss their health and well-being with a professional and receive direction, coaching, and medical advice from the convenience of their homes. This implies that employees should not suffer in silence if they are concerned about an unrelated health condition.
2. Increase Communicate: Discussing mental illness openly in the workplace is still frowned upon, this makes it all the more crucial for employers to do so. Employees also don’t have a lot of faith in their employer’s capacity to manage mental health concerns sympathetically, according to a Totaljobs study that indicated 13% of workers wouldn’t confide in anybody for fear of jeopardising their careers.
3. Promote team-building practices: Along with enhancing collaboration and team culture, team development helps lessen loneliness. Employees have the opportunity to deepen their links with one another and build meaningful relationships with their coworkers when they collaborate on non-work-related activities.
Workplace loneliness can be tackled and overcome with the right approach, better communication and teamwork.
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