Managing Loneliness in the Workplace

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Have you found that you or your employees are feeling more lonely or isolated lately? It’s not surprising given all that the COVID-19 pandemic has handed us.

That said, approximately 25 per cent of Canadians reported experiencing acute loneliness and social isolation before the pandemic began.[1] Now, more than half of us are struggling with these feelings, and it’s affecting us both personally and when we’re at work.[2] In fact, almost half (47%) of Canadians reported their mental health as only fair, poor or very poor—a significant increase compared to the 30 per cent who rated themselves this way in 2019.[3]

As humans, we’re genetically wired to need social connections. Not having them can be painful, pose a threat to our well-being and can lead to mental illnesses such as depression and addictive behaviors.[4] In fact, research has shown that lacking social connections carries a risk factor potentially worse than smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, obesity, physical inactivity and air pollution.[5]

At work, a lack of social connection impacts how engaged we feel—and ultimately how productive we can be. Research published by the New Economics Foundation in the UK found that lonelier workers perform poorly more often and report less job satisfaction, and this costs employers £2.5 billion per year ($3.5 billion US) in the United Kingdom alone.[6] Another study of 477 workers across 99 work groups found that lonelier employees are[7]:

  • less committed to their organization,
  • at greater risk of being perceived as poor performers,
  • less approachable, and
  • reluctant to offer help.

Recently, Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS) in Ontario, in partnership with Howatt HR, produced an interim research report which looked at the relationship between perceived isolation, loneliness and resilience and their impact on the employee experience and productivity costs in the workplace. Like the studies referenced above, the preliminary results of the research showed[8]:

  • A strong correlation between loneliness and isolation and higher productivity costs; helping employees feel a greater sense of connection can have a direct impact on engagement, retention, productivity and performance.
  • Employees who feel more connected to a safe social network typically put forth more discretionary effort and tend to take less sick time.

 

What can you do?

Luckily, hope to manage this issue among yourself and your employees is within reach through a new mental health app—Hugr Authentic Connections.

With premium features offered through Arete as Hugr’s preferred provider, the self guided digital program is designed to help people feel connected. Simple to use, the app helps you and your employees measure your level of social connection, discover how to build and maintain authentic connections and regularly share how you’re feeling with those closest to you. There’s also a free version available to those who don’t yet have access to the premium features.

If you’re feeling isolated or lonely—or have employees who are—and want to work towards building or improving your social connections, or if you simply just want to be proactive about your mental health—download Hugr (App Store | Google Play) and start connecting today.

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[1] https://angusreid.org/isolation-and-loneliness-covid19/ October 2020
[2] https://www.ipsos.com/en-ca/news-and-polls/Majority-Of-Canadians-Say-Physical-Distancing-Has-Left-Them-Feeling-Lonely-Or-Isolated April 2020
[3] https://angusreid.org/isolation-and-loneliness-covid19/ May 2019
[4] Mushtaq,R.Shoib,S.Shah,T.Mushtaq,S.(2014). Relationship Between Loneliness, Psychiatric Disorders and Physical Health. A Review on the Psychological Aspects of Loneliness, 8(9), WE01-WE04
[5] Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB. Social relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review. PLoS Med. 2010 Jul27;7(7):e1000316. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316. PMID: 20668659; PMCID: PMC2910600.
[6] https://neweconomics.org/2017/02/cost-loneliness-uk-employers/ February 2017
[7]  https://faculty.wharton.upenn.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Work_Loneliness_Performance_Study.pdf 2012
[8] http://www.ceohsleadership.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/exploring-relationships-between-isolation-loneliness-andresiliency-report.pdf July 2020

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