Employee well being is at risk from loneliness at work

Loneliness at work

If you are feeling lonely at work, you are not alone. One in five people reported feeling lonely at work on a typical day in the UK, and the most recent EY Belonging Barometer study found that 80% of people globally said they feel or felt lonely at work.

Employee Well being is at Risk

While remote working has excellent benefits, including reduced commute times and more flexible working days, there are also risks to employee well being. If you’re facing another week of work from your bedroom, spending another workday mostly alone can be challenging. The increased productivity gained from fewer distractions and more time to focus on tasks comes with a risk of work being less meaningful. There is less opportunity to balance completing your work with helping others, getting involved in new initiatives and spending time with people face-to-face. 

No amount of Zoom calls or MS team group chats can replace the spontaneous, friendly laugh of the person sitting behind you. And you can’t glance over at someone else’s desk to check in on how they are doing. 

Microsoft’s latest Work Trends Index, which surveyed 600 Irish people working from home, found that 44 per cent of those surveyed said it is hard to build trust with colleagues in a remote environment.  So it’s not surprising that people hesitate to let their colleagues and supervisors know if they feel lonely or isolated at work.

This is a genuine concern because loneliness at work impacts employee engagement, retention and productivity. And most worryingly of all, it takes its toll on your mental health.

Whether you are working hybrid, remote or in the office, we now need to focus on building trusting relationships between employees and reducing those feelings of loneliness. 

How to feel less lonely at work

Help others

You can rediscover meaning and connection in the workday by considering the people you can help and support. Share your skills and expertise with others so people know how you can help them. At the end of every workday, write down the name of one person you helped and how. This simple practice reinforces your sense of purpose at work and creates new friendships.

Find your work bestie.

Studies by Gallup have shown time and time again that having a best friend at work results in better performance and engagement. But many people who moved jobs during the pandemic haven’t had the opportunity to find their work bestie. If you manage a team, you could help address this by having a buddy system for recent hires and organising more social events – whether online or in person. At an individual level, exploring any clubs or groups within your company could be a great way to meet new people.

Meet in person

If your company is operating in a hybrid or flexible working model, spending time with the people you work with is a great antidote to feelings of loneliness. When possible, schedule your in-person days to match your team. You could meet with colleagues that live close by on the days you work from home. As a team, you could plan more social events outside of work.

Add 10 minutes to your team meeting.

There is no denying that the volume of meetings spiralled over the past few years, and many people are now looking at shorter and less frequent meetings to reclaim the time needed to get the job done during the workday. However, the team meeting is different because it serves a social purpose as well as a forum for work updates and discussion. The team meeting may be their only interaction with colleagues during the workday for some people. Make time to talk about what’s happening in people’s lives outside of work and to check in with each other.

Say hello to someone you haven’t seen in a while

Everyone can feel lonely sometimes, from the student on work placement to the CEO. While technology ensures we stay in contact with the people we work with most often, there are people in other teams and departments you may not have spoken to in a long time. 

Make a list of as many people you can think of that you would usually chat to in the office and say hello to one of them every day. It could be a chat message, an email or a call; it doesn’t matter as long as you are making the connection.

These are just some ways you can help reduce loneliness at work, whether for yourself or someone you work with. Take the time today to ask someone how they are feeling. You never know – it might be the start of a conversation to change that person’s workday for the better.