Robert Ordever, managing director of O.C. Tanner Europe, the workplace culture specialist, provides his top tips on how businesses can address the growing loneliness epidemic
More and more people are suffering from loneliness in the workplace. The IT tools that have been developed to connect us are in fact making us feel increasingly disconnected and the results are alarming.
These higher levels of isolation are contributing to frightening levels of depression, stress and negativity, with Gen Z and millennials feeling considerably more isolated than Baby Boomers and Generation X.
With many now suffering from workplace loneliness, perhaps now is the time to remind businesses of the importance of tackling the issue. After all, true wellbeing requires positive human connections both at home and at work.
(1) Promote an inclusive culture
Global research from The O.C. Tanner Institute has found that when an organisation’s culture is inclusive, employees are 141% more likely to feel a sense of belonging. However being inclusive isn’t simply about diversity, it’s when people from all walks of life are allowed to be themselves and to thrive. This level of acceptance is key to workers’ social and emotional wellness.
(2) Encourage social connections at work
Provide opportunities for employees to get together during office hours so that the workplace is filled with camaraderie and champion face-to-face communications rather than relying on technology. Research proves that people who have a best friend are more engaged and happy, so strive for a culture which allows friendships to thrive.
(3) Make your office environment social
It’s all very well to encourage camaraderie but if the office has few communal areas, this may prove difficult to achieve. Provide spaces which allow staff to build social connections and have impromptu conversations. After all, when organisations have workspaces that enable interactions with colleagues, employees are 84% more likely to have a close friend at work.
(4) Champion a culture of appreciation
This means ensuring staff are regularly recognised for their efforts and results. It’s not enough to provide the occasional pat on the back but instead staff need to be recognised in a meaningful and genuine way and, if possible, involve managers and peers in the celebrations to encourage togetherness and a sense of belonging. There is a strong connection between appreciation and wellbeing, with those leaders who combine wellbeing and recognition efforts having more positive and engaged staff. In fact, when employees experience recognition, their sense of belonging is increased by 33% and they feel a 8.8% increase in their wellbeing.
(5) Introduce a volunteer programme
This will build-up the volunteers’ feeling of self-worth while encouraging them to make relationships in their local community. Volunteering also provides that feel-good factor which contributes to overall emotional and social wellbeing. Consider volunteering programmes that are in keeping with the company’s purpose and values and build them into every employee’s work schedule.
Too few organisations are focusing on workers’ emotional and social wellbeing. Just 14% of employees’ worldwide believe their workplace prioritises emotional wellbeing and only 9% believe their organisation cares about their social wellbeing. The knock-on effect is that workplace loneliness is on the increase, impacting health and wellbeing and all areas of an organisation, from staff engagement levels through to productivity.
By addressing loneliness through promoting an inclusive and appreciative culture that encourages social connections, this will go some way to combating this escalating issue.
*Research findings taken from The O.C. Tanner Institute’s 2018 Global Culture Report which included 12 participating countries with over 14,000 respondents.