Researchers point to a modern-day “epidemic of loneliness.” In a series of recent studies, researchers say that loneliness is a health risk that’s right up there with smoking and obesity in terms of shortening lives. Being socially connected is an important human need. Researchers say that loneliness can lead to stress, sleep and hormone disruption, depression, and poor health. We talk about the loneliness epidemic in our EAP September newsletter (PDF), offering tips from our counselors on how to combat loneliness.

Loneliness can also impact workplace satisfaction. In an article in Harvard Business ReviewBurnout at Work Isn’t Just About Exhaustion. It’s Also About Loneliness – authors Emma Seppala and Mariassa King talk about the correlation between feeling lonely and work exhaustion.

“As anyone who has experienced it can attest to, loneliness is an emotionally painful feeling; it even registers as physical pain in the brain. The social repercussions of this discomfort directly impact work productivity because people disengage. And both the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University and the Gallup Organization have shown the extreme costs to companies of disengagement: almost 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents, 16% lower profitability, and a 65% lower share price over time.”

They discuss how stress management, mindfulness and other common strategies to manage burnout or work exhaustion fall short as solutions because they are not addressing the loneliness factor, which requires a focus on fostering greater human interaction and engagement:

“In fact, research has demonstrated the link between social support at work, lower rates of burnout, and greater work satisfaction and productivity. After all, the most important factor in work happiness, a UK study showed, is positive social relationships with coworkers. Workplace engagement is associated with positive social relations that involve feeling valued, supported, respected, and secure. And the result of feeling socially connected, studies show, is greater psychological well-being, which translates into higher productivity and performance. This is true in part because social connectedness leads to higher self-esteem, which means employees are more trusting, empathic, and cooperative — leading others to trust and cooperate with them.”

The article offers offers a series of practical suggestions for what employers can do to address the issue of loneliness in the workplace.

Related:

Loneliness in the Workplace: Symptoms and Solutions

,,, and on the general topic of loneliness, we were also reminded of this lovely video short by fiilmmaker Andrea Dorfman and poet/singer/songwriter Tanya Davis on “How To Be Alone.”

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