The United Kingdom recently appointed a Minister of Loneliness to help combat what experts consider a major mental health issue. CBC reports that at least one out of five Canadians of all age groups experiences loneliness. People may be dealing with loneliness in your workplace, even if they are constantly around or virtually connected to others.
Loneliness is a perception of feeling less connected to others than we believe we should feel. This differs from being alone; we can be alone but not lonely or lonely in a crowd. The perceived isolation of chronic loneliness can affect brain function by shutting down the zone of the brain crucial to empathy and communication. Other areas of the brain go into overdrive, causing a person to be on guard against real or imagined emotional threats.
Research by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania links loneliness with disengagement and poor job performance. When this emotion persists, it can lead to serious mental and physical health issues. Loneliness can be contagious and trigger a cycle of isolation, indifference and even antipathy.
As a business owner, you are in a prime position to cultivate a culture of kindness in your workplace. Psychology researcher and former journalist Michelle Gielan advises that whenever we invest in connecting socially, we simultaneously mitigate loneliness and fuel our success. Your commitment to alleviate loneliness at any level can spark positive changes for them, yourself and your enterprise.
These are some things you can do to alleviate loneliness in your workplace:
- Be Predictable: The lonely mind treats uncertainty as a threat and seeks to protect itself with isolation, so strive to ensure that your workers are in the know regarding your company mission, job responsibilities and work-related events.
- Come Face-to-Face: Speaking with people in person creates a stronger social connection than meeting digitally.
- Break the Ice: Begin meetings with short, interactive exercises to help employees build meaningful connections.
- Reach Out to Others: Set up opportunities for you and your employees to work together for a local humanitarian cause.
- Connect and Grow: Connect with business owners or colleagues within and outside your business and encourage your employees to do the same.
- Be Kind: Rachel Reeves states that kindness can be the best cure for loneliness; a genuine smile, handshake or word of appreciation is free but priceless to a lonely person.