You’re not alone in feeling lonely. 40% of us feel physically and emotionally isolated at work. We spend roughly one-third of our life at work, and feeling that sense of belonging is paramount.
The debate of whether or not colleagues should be friends is never-ending. Is it unprofessional and distracting? Or is it valuable for trust, stress mitigation, support and engagement?
Professors from California State University and Wharton School of Business, Hakan Ozcelik and Sigal Barsade, dove into the subject. After surveying almost 700 people, they concluded that there’s a “significant influence on employee work performance, both in direct tasks as well as employee team member and team role effectiveness rated by both the employee’s work unit members and supervisor”.
It’s undeniable that feeling connected and happy will lead to higher engagement and productivity. Not to mention, a sense of belonging is excellent for our mental health.
So how can you reduce loneliness in the workplace?
Recognise the Problem
Recognising that loneliness is on the rise is a big first step. What goes up must come down. Acknowledging the issue means you can readily implement a solution. For employers, this might mean bringing in a community hub like Tahora, holding more one-to-ones with team members, and encouraging weekly check-ins for teams. For employees, it’s about being open with your employers about how you’re feeling and being open to new changes.
Whether or not you feel lonely at work, saying “Morning!” or “Hi!” to your colleagues can go a long way. It’s simple but effective, starting your (and their) workday with positivity and a feeling of being welcome.
If someone has made your workload a bit easier or has been making an effort to be welcoming, tell them! Text them, call them, email them or chat in person. Let them know that you appreciate them. Everyone loves to know they’re making a bit of difference. Plus, it can open that dialogue, and you may make a new connection.
Nobody should feel isolated at work because of who they are, where they’re from, or how they identify. Diversity is a beautiful thing – we should be celebrating it. Discrimination is a learned behaviour, so work from the top down. Employers must increase programmes, workshops and talks about diversity to educate and raise awareness of problematic behaviour or ideologies. And co-workers must be welcoming to anyone and everyone. Don’t push people to the sidelines just because they’re different to you. Extending that sense of belonging at work can also come from DE&I groups. Weekly coffees, meet-ups and support from people who understand you can be very powerful tools. Embrace diversity and be inclusive.
We all have “small-talk-colleagues” whom we chat with at the photocopier or watercooler. More often than not, it doesn’t grow beyond that. So, be bold. Ask if they’d like to grab a coffee one day and see how it goes. What’ve you got to lose!
Build a Community Hub
A sense of community goes hand in hand with a sense of belonging. It’s easier than you may think to create it, too. Apps like Tahora put that community hub in the palm of your hand. You can find colleagues based on shared interests, location and purposes. Making that first move is less daunting when you know you have common ground.
Maybe you’re looking for a lunch buddy or a mentor. Tahora can help you find them. You can also message people one-on-one or in group chats and create events with your team. We must cultivate positive workplace cultures where everyone feels engaged and as they belong.
It’s in our nature to connect with other humans. Literally – it’s hard-wired into our DNA! Social rejection and physical pain “share common psychological mechanisms”.
In summary: Everyone wants to feel less alone. Reach out to colleagues, ask your employer to bring in a platform like Tahora, and be bold. You’ve got this.