All By Yourself: How to Combat Loneliness in the Workplace

February 4, 20191:01 pm
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Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.” – Mother Teresa.

BBC claims that loneliness not only makes us unhappy but it is a core of mental health problems including depression, stress, and anxiety. A report by Mental Health Foundation found that loneliness among young people is increasing. Modern life has become one of reason why today’s generation feel greater sense of isolation as high technology makes us have less human contact and interaction. If left unaddressed, loneliness could be dangerous. Studies suggest that social isolation is associated with a higher rate of death in older people and loneliness is the hidden killer of the elderly.

Although the factors that lead to a feeling of loneliness suffered by each individual is unique, study from Totaljobs found that 60 percent of employees feel lonely at work which results on poor mental health. According to Totaljobs, loneliness and mental health are closely linked because the feeling of being alone and isolated at work can affect employee’s emotional and mental state. Thus, if you have mental health problem, you might be more likely to feel lonely.

See also: How to Think Like a Futurist

The study revealed why employees feel lonely at work. The major reason claimed by 44 percent respondents is the pressure from their boss at the workplace. Among other reasons are employees not fitting in the job, isolating themselves, not knowing anyone, having mental health problem, and facing discrimination.

Then, what is the danger of loneliness? Two-thirds employees surveyed by Totaljobs said that loneliness affects their self-esteem. Other respondents claimed that loneliness increase their stress level, give them bad sleep habit, result on bad relationship, as well as decrease productivity at work. Although many employers have tried to combat loneliness by encouraging employees to speak their feeling out, some employees still prefer to keep quiet and shut their mouth. One in four man and one in five women have never told anyone about their loneliness. Only 4 percent employees said that they will tell their HR and 34 percent prefer not to tell anyone, while the rest prefer to tell their friends, family, partner or manager.

Sometimes, employees feel unable to talk about their feeling due to organisational culture within the organisation. Some are afraid of being considered weak, incompetent, or unable to cope. According to the study, 13 percent employees said they feel lack of trust in colleagues and fear of negative career impact. The other 11 percent of employees feel that their colleagues does not need to know, while nine percent said they feel embarrassed to convey their feeling of loneliness.

The consequences of loneliness is massive. It can decrease company’s profit and performance. As loneliness is same as a regular call in sick and average 5 days off a year. Not only that, 26 percent of employees would prefer to quit their job and 63 percent think their company does not enough to combat loneliness.

As mentioned, an individual way of experiencing loneliness is different. So, knowing and understanding your employees in a personal and professional level is needed. Hence, if you care with employee’s well-being, you can try these tips provided by Totaljobs:

01 Encourage them to talk

When you witness one of your co-workers feel alone in office, do initiate a private talk. You can bring him to a café or garden to start the conversation. Asking how he has been doing is a good start and can make a huge difference. Show him that you can be trusted, and that you care. Listening is one of incredible medicine a person can get. It can provide a lifeline and avert a crisis which turns life around. A thing to remember is you should focus on the person, not the problem.

02 Encourage them to seek support from workplace

If your company provides clubs, social events, group classes, or other non-work related gatherings, you can encourage the employees to join the team. Sometimes feeling lonely is just us who want to be found. In this case, employees can meet the right person to talk to and get their lonely feeling disappear.

03 Avoid making assumptions or judging directly

The most sociable person can also feel lonely, especially if they deal with mental health problem in workplace. As mentioned, employees prefer to stay silent because they do not want to be considered as incompetent and weak. It means that you should stop judging and making assumption. Remember that every person has their own problem, so all you need to do is to be there and listen. If possible, you can give advice when needed.

04 Respect privacy

Information about mental health is confidential and sensitive. When someone opens up to you, you should feel the privilege that you are the right person he can trust. That being said, you should never pass on information unnecessarily – not least because this breach of trust could harm someone’s mental health.  

If you feel lonely at work, it is better to not just wait to be found. Instead, you can make yourself visible and reach out to seek help as there are always ways to treat your loneliness. Here are some:

01 Build a meaningful relationship  

Sometimes people choose to be lonely because they are tired of drama people create. So, instead of putting yourself in jail of loneliness, you can connect to those who matter most for you by putting effort into meaningful relationship.

02 Keep your humor

Laughter is a good medicine, isn’t it? Try a little humor. Everyone has that side of humorous mind. It might not suit all but once it did, your team might want to talk and get to know you more. However, if it does not work, don’t take it too personally. Some social habits and culture take time more to change. Yet, if you stay consistent with your efforts, sure it’ll make difference.

03 Get out more

Get involved in an activity that you can enjoy and find meaningful. Many researches show that involving yourself in a volunteer can give satisfaction to own self. It can keep you energise and give the feeling of happiness.

04 Find your own way out

As you have your own reason, you sure can find your own way out. But if you are stuck, you can once again seek advice from people you trust or from professionals. The point is, you know you are not alone. Many of us feel lonely at some stage until one day, you might find solution, be it getting a new job or friends.

Read here: The Way Millennial & Gen Z Achieve Their Success in the Workplace