No More Lonely Work

That growing feeling of isolation at work is a subject that's receiving lots of attention lately. While it used to be the natural result of technology hindering human connections, now the additive impact of a pandemic has created a workforce shift that has increased the number of remote Associates. For the first time, our homes are work, and work is home. Many believe that this shift is a new normal. I'm not sure about that; however, if you feel lonely at work, you're not alone.

Isolation leading to loneliness affects individuals as well as the entire company. Current research highlights many negative impacts that loneliness has on the workplaces we are counting on to produce great results. This sense of isolation brings about increased symptoms of depression, burnout, and agitation. It also hinders our engagement levels at work, which creates sharp decreases in productivity.

There is a difference between loneliness and being alone. Throughout 2020 it seemed to have more to do with massive shifts in workforce models and working conditions that stopped fulfilling individual desires for companionship. Even those who like being at home want to have a trusted friend at work.

Studies are showing that when it comes to loneliness at work, it gets complicated for employers. You see, depending on our personality, the same situations could seem ideal for some yet incredibly isolating for others.

Ultimately, we all need to believe that things will get better and understand that people genuinely like being a part of something special. Until then, here are a few suggestions for encouraging a greater sense of connection.

Getting “Un-Lonely” at Work

The faster we act, the easier it is to reverse the negative impacts of being lonely. I call this getting un-lonely. Gallup strengths-based research tells us that weakness is anything that gets in the way of progress, and I like how they think. If we slip into a state of isolation, our attitudes can decline, and our performance starts to deteriorate. If we let this go on too long in our lives, we may find making connections and getting un-lonely more difficult. It can become harder for people to connect with us because loneliness can make us seem weird to others.

Consider these ideas:

1. Get involved. Frequent interactions are the heartbeat of great relationships. The trick is to make the time to put ourselves out there often. Even during a pandemic look for opportunities to hang out with and spend more time with people at work—volunteer to serve or help someone understand their job better.

2. Break up with emails. If this is something we can discuss over the phone or through zoom - do it! Even if it's making a quick visit to the office, it's better for us. We should consider breaking up with emails and begin enjoying human interactions again. Stub Hub's CEO, Singh Cassidy once told a crowd of workplace engagement leaders that there is an extraordinary power to "live" interactions. She is so very right.

3. Practice listening. When we show that we care about our co-worker's lives, we prove that we care about their wellbeing and thoughts. Although extended isolation makes us want to talk – I recommend we learn to listen—active listening is a great gift to give others.

4. Lean in and help solve problems. We all have issues, and people really appreciate others who run to them and try to help. Why not be generous with our time and talents. If we can, perhaps we can help others and lean in when others seem overloaded.

5. Get real. We should work at getting comfortable in sharing the personal details of life at work. Be fully transparent and essentially you. When we can create more intimacy, we become magnetic to others. Sometimes, a new photo on your desk is a great way to invite a trusted connection.

6. Share knowledge like we do candy. Simple gestures go a long way in building authentic connections. While bringing a batch of cookies into the office during COVID seems silly – try sharing big ideas or even great books that can help you build a connection with someone else.

7. Live ALOHA. It's way easier for us to make connections when showing up the best version of ourselves. Whatever model of wellbeing you choose, you should consider making sure we are doing ok inside and out. The wellbeing framework I call ALOHA stands for Achievement, Legacy, Others, Health, and Adventure. How's your ALOHA or wellbeing these days?

8. Get help. There may be times when we need to accept a little help. Feelings of isolation can turn quickly to anxiety, depression, or despair. Should we continue to feel isolated after making a sincere effort, reach out to a friend, mentor, coach, or counselor that can help map a healthy plan forward.

Here's How to Prevent Loneliness Through a Strong Workplace Culture