Benefits and Compensation, HR Management & Compliance

Workplace Loneliness—Should You Intervene?

It’s important to maintain an appropriate separation between one’s personal life and business life. At the same time, we spend so much of our time at work that it’s also crucial to ensure some aspects of social belonging in the workplace. Many observers and researchers have identified workplace loneliness as something that should be a significant concern for employers.

In an article for Harvard Business Review, Shawn Achor, Gabriella Rosen Kellerman, Andrew Reece, and Alexi Robichaux cite research over the last several years that “has demonstrated that loneliness threatens not only our physical health and well-being, but also our livelihood. Research shows that loneliness has the same effect as 15 cigarettes a day in terms of health care outcomes and health care costs. Yet we are often blind to this hidden drain on health and revenue.”
There are many steps employers can take to help reduce loneliness in an organization, and many require very little investment in terms of time and money. Simple things like company picnics and after-hours social events can help employees get to know one another in a more casual and personal setting. Much of the work to prevent loneliness can be handled up front when a new employee joins the organization. For example, a company newsletter that introduces new employees helps expedite the process of employees getting to know one another. And assigning a “buddy” or mentor for new employees is a great way to help facilitate socialization with the new hire.
While the workplace is obviously primarily a venue for professionalism and productivity, research has demonstrated that it’s essential for employees to have a sense of community and belonging at work, as well. Companies that can effectively promote a sense of community and socialization in the workplace likely stand to reap benefits of greater employee morale, retention, and productivity.