We've never been more digitally connected, yet loneliness is at record levels. It's not just in the home where people are lonely, people are also lonely in the workplace. More than 40% of respondents to a 2018 Global Culture survey conducted by O.C. Turner report they don't have a close friend at work. Most people do not believe that their colleagues know "the real me." The study found that 62% of respondents take the time to get to know colleagues personally, and only 53% believe that their peers take the time to get to know them personally.
A study published in the Academy of Management Journal found that loneliness at work adversely affects job performance. When a team member feels lonely, they are perceived by fellow team members to be less approachable and less committed to the business. The Center for Prevention and Health estimates that poor emotional well-being costs employers $79-$95 billion annually in the form of lost productivity, absenteeism and increased healthcare costs.
It's not that employees who feel lonely don't want to connect with other team members. Research shows that lonely individuals almost always want to connect with their colleagues, but they can't connect because they view their workplace as threatening, and they are overly sensitive to the others' responses. These feelings make lonely employees less approachable to other team members, which only perpetuates the problem. When that occurs, an entire organization can suffer, because the ability to communicate, collaborate and trust one another disintegrates. If your showroom depends on teamwork, lack of trust hurts everyone.
To combat loneliness, acknowledge that your showroom is not only a business, but it is a place for socializing. Second, recognize that there is better than a 50-50 chance that you have team members who feel disconnected from the team, the community and the company. Make an effort to understand your team members' needs for friendship. Learn how your team members spend their free time and gauge how connected they might be in their existing social networks. Work with your staff to create friendship goals and develop strategies to achieve them. An easy button to help lonely team members is to encourage their active participation in trade associations. Trade associations often provide opportunities for individuals to make a positive impact on their industry and develop relationships.
Corporate culture also has a significant impact on loneliness. The study found that a culture that promotes affection, caring, compassion and tenderness among team members weakens the negative relationship between feelings of isolation at work and commitment to the organization. A culture of anger, irritation, frustration and annoyance makes it less likely for lonely team members to connect with their colleagues and to the organization.
There are business, professional and personal reasons to address loneliness in the workplace. Most people spend more time with their colleagues than they do with their families. When team members connect, they not only are more productive, they are happier. Connection also creates a sense of belonging. Finally, when team members feel connected, they believe their efforts make a positive difference in the world.