How To Combat Loneliness and Isolation In The Workplace

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Loneliness may sound like a trivial or private thing; but if not addressed, it could hinder office productivity and eventually affect your health.

It’s good to remember that such feelings are normal. Everybody goes through them at some point: whether it’s you, a colleague, or someone you know. The problem begins when these feelings are suppressed and NOT given solutions. So if you’re wondering why office morale seems low nowadays OR why your team can’t seem to meet that important quota, it’s probably due to people feeling isolated or lonely at work.

It’s time to STOP thinking of these issues as a problem of one.

Top Reasons for Workplace Isolation/Loneliness

ALL people will usually feel lonely or anxious at some point throughout their professional life. This is common if you’re the new girl at the office, or if you just began working from home. However, if such feelings persist even after weeks or months, then it could be a deeper issue.

It’s a fact that humans are naturally social creatures. Sadly, a 2014 study found that about 42 percent of working adults don’t count their colleagues as close friends. This can be disconcerting as good, healthy relationships at the workplace is necessary to help us achieve that coveted work-life balance.

But what prevents us from making friends in our jobs?

Introversion – if you or your officemates are naturally introverted, it could lead to super quiet environments that may produce feelings of being alone for people who are more extroverted.
Personality Differences – office misunderstandings are common; but if not resolved, feelings of resentment may develop into something deeper, eventually leading to self-imposed isolation for some workers.
Working from Home – physical aspects of your job may make you feel cut off from the rest of the world. Business owners or women working at home are typically susceptible to loneliness because they get less social interaction.

You could be suffering from these problems and not realize it. Only when you find yourself lethargic, lacking in motivation or seeking companionship will you see that your office has seemed like a cold place to be in.

Solve Isolation and Loneliness Before It’s Too Late!

Although some people are happy to work in silent environments, they still need interaction that could come in the form of small talk, happy hour, or occasionally eating lunch with a friend.

If you or a colleague feels isolated or alone, talk to your management about it. If prolonged, these issues could result in the following problems:

• Weaker productivity
• Withdrawal from work
• Hinder team performance
• Physical and emotional stress

Employees who cannot connect with anybody at the workplace – especially their bosses – don’t be surprised if they suddenly jump ship. En masse, this is going to be detrimental to the company and its culture on a whole. If you’re a manager and you don’t want other workers to feel the same way, you should take action immediately.

On the other hand, if you are the only experiencing these issues, TALK to someone you trust. It could be a coworker, a family member, a partner, or a close friend. It would be a shame to change jobs because of these reasons.

Breaking the Silence

Both men and women could suffer from isolation and/or loneliness. But thanks to our changing workplace environments, there is now one in five Americans who work from home. This makes them more prone to such feelings because of their current situation.

In order to cope with isolation and loneliness, the first step is always to RECOGNIZE THE PROBLEM. Ask yourself:

– Do I feel secluded from the rest of my team or from the rest of the bustling office space?
– Does this constant silence bother me? If so, in what way?
– Do I find work routine, bland, and unchallenging lately?
– Do I feel alienated every time I see coworkers having fun together?

It’s important that you’re honest– even if you don’t like the answers.

Once you realize that you – or someone you know – have been feeling lonely at work, you can begin by addressing the issue. Start by BREAKING THE ICE. It could be with casual small talk with team members (a simple “Hi”), or joining a colleague for lunch. Make the change yourself, especially if you are the extrovert. Who knows? They may have been too shy before and would appreciate the effort.

If you’re a manager or supervisor, you can hold weekly team meetings for general performance assessment or feedback. Employees would certainly love to hear what you think. Plus, this could also serve as an avenue to brainstorm new ideas.

Next, you should FOSTER TEAM SPIRIT and GOOD OFFICE CULTURE by initiating different activities or events for your employees.

Don’t have anything planned for the year other than the Holiday party in December? Why not talk with workers about having weekend Fun Runs or the occasional Happy Hour Fridays? Most people would love to actually have the time to hang out in groups and relax. Talk to your in-office events coordinator or engagement committee about designing events that promote healthy work-life balance.

What if you work alone or at home? Fight off loneliness by CREATING A REASONABLE SCHEDULE of activities. Reasonable in a sense that it is attainable. Say you want to work from 9AM to 2PM. After that, instead of simply binge-watching on Netflix, you should try going out for a quick jog at the local park OR calling up a friend for afternoon coffee. The important thing is to get out of the house and interact with other people.

If, after you have exhausted all efforts and you still can’t shake off feeling lonely, perhaps it’s time to seek professional help. Don’t be afraid to look for proper counseling from experts. After all, it’s your emotional and mental health that’s at risk.

Conclusion

As you spend a large chuck of your life in your job, it wouldn’t hurt to have at least one person to talk to about the daily grind. Aside from misunderstandings with coworkers, certain factors like being away from family, could also put a damper in your mood. Instead of beating yourself over it, take the initiative to change the situation. Approach your colleague, ask someone out for dinner, participate in team activities.

You don’t have to be the friendliest employee at the office to combat workplace woes. You just need to keep an open mind and attitude towards others. After all, we could all use a friend.

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