Do your employees feel lonely at work?

Loneliness has a similar effect as smoking 15 cigarettes a day

Do your employees feel lonely at work?

Loneliness can be defined as being disconnected from others and seeing one’s relationships negatively.

Consequently, one can feel lonely in a crowd, and yet surrounded by others. According to Dr Lindsay McMillan OAM, Managing Director of Reventure, loneliness can be detrimental to health and wellbeing.

In Australia, this trend is also being observed. However, very few commentators have drawn a connection between this public health epidemic and its impact on the workplace.

Now, the Australian report, Workplace Loneliness, has revealed that 40% of Australian workers feel lonely at work and it is causing a detriment to workplace productivity and personal wellbeing.

Workplace Loneliness by Reventure, is based off data obtained through a quantitative survey with a sample of 1,010 employed Australians aged 18 – 65.

The research highlights that 38% of lonely workers report making more mistakes and 40 percent of lonely workers feel less productive.

Moreover, 47% of those that are lonely are more likely to suffer poor wellbeing and 36% of lonely workers report getting sick more often.

Workplace Loneliness builds on international commentary about the impact of loneliness on people’s health, including findings that loneliness has a similar effect as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

READ MORE: Tackling mental health problems at the front line

McMillan, who is also lead researcher for a future that works, said this report is first-of-its-kind and is a call for change in workplaces throughout the nation.

“One of the most alarming findings in Workplace Loneliness is how workers believe workplace leaders and HR teams have not acted on the growing epidemic,” McMillan said.

He added that 9% of Australian workers feel comfortable speaking to HR about relationship concerns at work.

“Other countries have responded to this public health concern. The United Kingdom, for example, has appointed a Minister for Loneliness and announced the first ever ‘Employer Pledge’ to tackle workplace loneliness,” said McMillan.

“Workplaces can and must take charge to design and implement support systems and structures to reduce – and end – workplace loneliness once and for all.”

READ MORE: Workplace mental health – are your line managers prepared?

According to the report, it’s important to prioritise social connectedness from the start.

All leaders and HR practitioners know that effective onboarding is a critical component of the employee lifecycle. It has direct flow-on effects for employee engagement and retention.

People leaders in workplaces must also understand that the onboarding process is an important first step in mitigating loneliness for new starters and, in fact, can curb the workplace loneliness trend.

Leaders responsible for onboarding should make every effort to ensure strategic pairing between new starters and current employees.

For example, pairing an introverted new starter with an extroverted colleague, who is well connected with people throughout the organisation, will be an ideal way to help them immediately start to forge connections with their new colleagues.

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