Ever since the pandemic pushed entire organizations into full-time remote work, workplace loneliness has been on the rise. Loneliness is an epidemic, affecting two-thirds of US adults, up from just over half in 2018.
Loneliness is defined as a lack of social support, negative feelings about personal relationships, lacking balance (such as from working too much), and a decline in physical and mental health.
Some studies have found that loneliness can even mean we suffer from more health issues and don’t live as long.
Since we spend so much time working, it’s important that businesses address this issue. They may be unintentionally exacerbating feelings of loneliness among their employees. And it’s most definitely an issue that affects businesses, too—lonelier employees are less productive and more likely to leave.
Combatting workplace loneliness when you see people in person regularly is one thing, but what if employees work completely remotely? Is there anything you can do to make sure they don’t feel so isolated? Read on to find out.
Regular check-ins give employees the opportunity to talk about things that are on their minds.
So long as the catch-ups are at a frequency the employee is comfortable with, they make them feel less alone, too.
If the check-ins happen more often than someone is expecting, it can make them feel lonelier and less understood. It’s therefore important that you understand their needs and set up a regular schedule to support them.
Communication and organization are key to making someone feel like you’re on their side. This helps fend off workplace loneliness.
Whether it’s in-person get togethers or virtual chats, offering your employees opportunities to socialize with their colleagues helps them to feel like part of the team. It’s also a fun way for new team members to meet their colleagues. Building connections early on is important for countering workplace loneliness.
Employee resource groups
ERGs are a great way for employees to meet colleagues, grow their network, and expand their skill set. These things are all important for making someone feel like they’re a part of the team and working on their personal lives/skills.
Open discussions about mental health
At an old job of mine, an employee was on leave due to stress. Almost everyone from every department knew this and made fun of said employee for it.
This is an awful way to discuss mental health. Not only for that person, but for other employees who may be going through something similar.
Talking about mental health is challenging. While society has made some progress in recent years, in some areas there’s still more stigma than support.
When leaders have open discussions about their mental health, it becomes easier for employees to open up, too. This changes the narrative in the workplace, and maybe even in employees’ personal lives, too. It can make them kinder to themselves and the people around them, all because one person set an example.
Plus, by ensuring employees don’t feel isolated by their struggles, you can reduce the risk of workplace loneliness.
Connect employees who are nearby
Sometimes you may have a handful of employees who live near each other, or someone who’s just moved to a new area and doesn’t know anyone.
Why not give them the opportunity to meet up and work together, or just catch up over coffee?
This can help them get to know people from their own or other teams. It will improve collaboration and idea generation, as well as make them feel more like they belong in the workplace.
Be inclusive with your approach and language
If you use language that’s ableist, racist, sexist, transphobic, or ‘others’ someone in any way, it can make those people feel isolated.
If you’re not sure what word or phrase to use, ask your employees what they prefer. You could run a poll or survey, or ask individuals you know who share that identity.
The most important thing is that you approach your language usage with an open mind, and as a growth opportunity. Language grows and changes all the time. It always has, and it always will.
Evolving language usage isn’t about preventing freedom of speech. It’s about making other people feel like they belong, too.
Make sure everyone can communicate how they’re comfortable
Some people love quick videos; others prefer an email. It’s important that everyone communicates in a way that they’re comfortable with, not in a way that’s forced on them.
For some, recording a video is akin to being on stage performing standup comedy. You don’t want to make those people feel less included, or totally uncomfortable, by forcing them to do what they feel unable to do. Guide them, set examples, but remember that everyone is different.
Just because you love videos, that doesn’t mean it should be the default for everyone. Some employees may never process information shared over audio or video as well as a written email.
Likewise, there may be some that prefer audio or video because they can process it quicker.
There’s no harm in accommodating different communication styles so that you can get the best out of everyone and combat workplace loneliness.
If someone has completed a big project, or it’s their birthday, consider sending them a gift to thank them for all their hard work and show them you’re thinking of them.
You could send them their favorite brand of chocolate, a book they’ve been wanting to read, or a gift voucher for a day out somewhere. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive. What matters is that it’s a gesture to prove to them that you care about them and they’re not alone.
Give them a purpose
When we have a purpose in life, we’re happier and healthier. Why should work be any different? Someone’s purpose doesn’t have to be tied to their job, of course, but there’s no reason it can’t be, either.
To ensure people feel like they’re making a difference, think about how you explain what they’re doing and how it ties into the business’s bigger picture. Quite often, we’re not given this information. We end up feeling like we’re operating in a silo, not really making a difference to the business’s wider objectives.
All great businesses are big on teamwork and cooperation, though. So, explaining to employees what you need from them in relation to business goals and their internal motivations can give them a greater sense of purpose.
Are they motivated to help people? To grow their skills? To design new technologies? Something else? Everyone has something that drives them. You just need to find a way to tap into that to ensure they feel seen and don’t fall prey to workplace loneliness.
Loneliness is an epidemic that’s damaging to our long- and short-term health. Businesses can help to improve their remote employees’ health by taking small steps to support them and making sure they feel like part of the team.
If you want to protect your employees from workplace loneliness, giving them an easy way to build connections from day one is a must. Workrowd puts all your employee groups, programs, and events, just a click away, ensuring everyone feels welcome. With real-time analytics, you can see what’s actually making a difference for team members and double down on your most effective programming.
If you’d like to learn more and see how Workrowd can help your people find their people, no matter where or when they work, send us a note at email@example.com.