Combat Workplace Loneliness to Improve Employee Engagement

Connection and Relationships are Key to Productivity

It’s been a month of cheesy cards and cheap candy. But in a world that’s so dead set on the negative, why not embrace a day that celebrates love? Why not make connection an integral part of your organizational culture?

Yes. Cynics abound. Fair enough. But when you get right down to it, more people are lonely today. It seems that the more connected we are – through social media, apps, and technology – the less connected we are on a personal level. In fact former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy claims, in a Harvard Business Review article, that work loneliness has the same detrimental health affects as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. He says loneliness is an epidemic.

Creating programs that improve social connections in the workplace will increase employee engagement, production, and employee creativity while decreasing absenteeism. But how?

Here are 6 tips to build positive, productive relationships in your organization.

1. Provide support. Loneliness isn’t something visible. It can slowly eat away at an employee and, in turn, an organization. Loneliness can lead to other, more severe, health problems like depression. And because mental illness continues to carry such a stigma, some workplaces or employees don’t even bring it up. Through Human Resources or another department, make sure there’s a team to support employees, a place where they can go if they’re having difficulties.

2. Talk about it! Encourage open communication. This kind of communication must be multi-directional, and managers must take the first step. Managers shouldn’t shut themselves up in the office, instead talk to their collaborators. This kind of communication shouldn’t be to check a things-to-do box, instead to connect. When employees feel like their managers are reaching out, this creates a sense of belonging and purpose. They feel like they matter.

3. Drop the “information-is-power” gig. This is reminiscent of all the spy movies. “You don’t have clearance for that information.” It works in Hollywood but not in the workplace. When collaborators feel like they’re not getting the whole story, this creates a workplace environment of mistrust and insecurity. Moreover, when information is kept at senior management, employees can feel like they’re not good enough. Certainly not everybody needs to know everything all the time. Some information is “classified.” But not much. We’re not Jason Bourne.

4. Foster an environment of connection. Not everybody jumps on the friend bandwagon right away. Providing opportunities for employees to interact can be tricky. Sometimes, it might feel contrived. But something as simple as having a healthy snack area, or a monthly potluck lunch, can help build relationships.

5. People aren’t work-bots! People celebrate weddings, birthdays, holidays. There are baby showers and going away parties. Create a committee to celebrate these moments in your employees’ lives. Strip away the work-only mentality.

6. Say thank you! Gratitude is the number one attribute of people who say they are happy, satisfied with their lives. Cultivating a culture of gratitude in the workplace is essential for connection. When collaborators realize that their success is connected to the work of others, this creates a sense of meaning and shared vision.

Connecting with co-workers should be top of mind for organizations. Make ending loneliness a top priority. Considering two-thirds of our lives are spent at work, it seems pretty fundamental to have a friend there.

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