Loneliness is a condition that can affect us socially and professionally. Its impact can be significant. It is suggested that loneliness can reduce your lifespan in a similar way to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day, or greater than that associated with obesity. So what can we do about it?
The impact of loneliness
Loneliness is also associated with a number of health risks.
- increased risk of cardiovascular disease,
- depression, and
At work, loneliness impacts performance, limits creativity, and other aspects of executive function like reasoning and decision-making.
This suggests that for quality health and work, it is important that we address the issue of loneliness.
How to counteract loneliness
The antidote to loneliness is social connection. Strong social connections at work make employees more likely to be engaged with their jobs and produce higher-quality work. But how can that be facilitated?
- forming connections at work
Knowing the people you work with and their particular strengths and contributions to both the workplace and their community, is important. This can be developed by people sharing something about themselves with the work team. The time for it can be limited, but the dedication to the process of sharing is important so that people learn more about each other and where connections can occur.
- creating connection
Having time together with colleagues to socialise and discuss the everyday things provides an avenue for connections to be formed. Typically, people have short lunch breaks and frequently spend these at their desks. Sometimes, making a time to meet in the lunch room, to share a meal together is worth the effort involved.
- developing high-quality relationships
Positive relations are important to work culture. That means relationships that are characterised by generosity and reciprocity, foster positive connections between co-workers. Management support of this through policies helps to underpin these.
- making strong social connections a strategic priority
An organisational culture that supports connection is important, and can have more impact than individual activities or initiatives. Success relies on buy-in and engagement from all levels of an organisation, including the leadership team. Endorsement of strong connections by senior staff sets a powerful example. Their demonstration that vulnerability can be a source of strength, is significant in this endeavour.
- encouraging co-worker support
Encourage coworkers to support each other in times of need is important. Giving and receiving help freely is one of the most tangible ways we experience our connections with each other. Support offered in this way, can have lasting positive effects across the organisation.
A new world of support
We all spend a lot of time at work. It is important that we develop strong, authentic social connections with the people we work with there. The resulting internal network will also be rewarding and supporting in a way that only in-house colleagues can understand. These positive relationships are what will help attain required performance outcomes, despite the challenges presented.
The development of a sense of community within an organisation makes good sense. The common bond to achieve an outcome has a greater impact on performance than can be imagined. This civil association between coworkers, supervisors and managers is not only socially functional, it bodes well for performance across the board. It is disappointing that in many highly competitive organisations this is not encouraged more.
Murthy, Vivek. 2017. Work and the Loneliness Epidemic. Harvard Business Review. 26 September 2017.