How to get rid of ‘the problem’ of loneliness in the workplace

Loneliness is a major problem in the workforce, and in many workplaces it is an ongoing problem that can prevent people from engaging with colleagues and the community.

A new study from the University of Exeter, published in the Journal of Social, Behavioral, and Economic Psychology, shows how organisations can tackle this by recognising the symptoms and addressing them before they become chronic and disabling.

The research, which involved more than 10,000 people, found that employees with high levels of loneliness are more likely to have negative work outcomes, such as lower productivity, absenteeism, and lower satisfaction with their jobs.

The study also found that people with high loneliness were less likely to feel positive emotions and were more likely than others to have lower levels of trust in their colleagues.

“We wanted to understand why some people, particularly those with high rates of low social support, felt so isolated and depressed in their workplaces,” says lead author Dr Lisa Stacey.

“Loneliness can be a challenging and isolating experience for both people and organisations, so this work aims to understand how it affects people in the first place.”

Dr Stacey has been studying the effect of loneliness for more than 20 years, but has been particularly interested in how people’s feelings of isolation are affected by their work environments.

“The work we are doing in our lab has focused on loneliness, but it is also important to look at other kinds of work-related loneliness such as being unable to engage with colleagues or the community, or feeling depressed when they have difficulties working together,” she says.

“Our work shows that people’s feeling of loneliness can be influenced by how their work is perceived, and therefore what they expect from their organisation, and that this can have an impact on their performance, wellbeing and social interactions.”

Dr Lisa says the work shows organisations should consider how to support staff who feel isolated in their work environment.

Find out more about how to change workplace behaviours to reduce loneliness at workplace.org.au/learn more.”

Other things such as a time to rest or exercise can also be helpful, and it’s important to consider the possibility that these may not be ideal.”

Find out more about how to change workplace behaviours to reduce loneliness at workplace.org.au/learn more.