With the COVID-19 pandemic restricting social interactions and enforcing remote working, loneliness has become a common phenomenon affecting employee mental health.
While many may question why employers must be bothered about their workforce’s loneliness, it is vital to understand its impact on employee wellbeing.
Studies show that loneliness causes anxiety and depression, which is strongly associated with loss in workplace productivity. A Cigna report shows that employee loneliness costs businesses around $154 billion annually due to stress-related absenteeism.
Even before the pandemic began, almost 3 in every five adults experienced feelings of loneliness. As the pandemic restrictions came into action, these feelings intensified as stress, anxiety, and depression.
Cigna’s Loneliness Index data
An Ipsos survey, accredited by Cigna, was conducted between July 16, 2019, and August 2, 2019, with 5,927 workers across the USA. The objective of the survey was to estimate the feelings of social isolation and loneliness amongst the workers by using the UCLA Loneliness Scale. The survey was a 20-item questionnaire, and a score of 43 or more indicated feelings of loneliness.
Here is a quick brief of the outcomes of the study.
Impact of Loneliness on Workplace Productivity
According to the study, lonely employees were more likely to have higher avoidable absenteeism rates. Compared to the workers who did not feel as lonely, the ones who experienced higher feelings of loneliness had higher absenteeism rates. While they missed more than five additional working days per year, the ones who did not feel lonely only missed 1.3 days of work annually. Also, 56.6% of lonely workers demonstrated almost twice the possibility of quitting their jobs within the next year, while only 29.3% of ‘not-so-lonely’ workers felt like quitting.
Factors that Mitigate Feelings of Loneliness in Employees
The study lists 5 key factors that can help mitigate the feelings of loneliness in employees. They are –
· Social relationships
· Healthy communication at work
· Personal connectivity
· Personal resilience
These factors also played a major role in overall employee wellbeing and workplace engagement.
Of these five factors, the first three were job-related, and the other two were personal factors.
- Social relationships – It is the ability to engage and make friends at the workplace, socialize with co-workers, and mingle with new employees. 72.5% of employees who did not feel lonely reported good social companionship. On the other hand, 52.4% of employees with loneliness issues maintained good social relationships at work.
- Work-life balance – Having a work-life balance is the ability to complete work on time without seeping into personal lives. While only 50.7% of workers who felt lonely agreed to have a good work-life balance, 71.5% of employees who did not feel lonely felt the same way.
- Healthy communication at work – Clear and regular communication at work is important for engagement and productivity. Healthy communication at the workplace includes all kinds of interactions with colleagues, over the phone, in-person, messages, video conferences, or emails. 54.5% of workers who felt lonely were satisfied with workplace communication, whereas 71.6% without lonely feelings felt that way.
- Personal connectivity – It is the feeling of being respected and valued at the workplace. Having emotional support and a strong feeling of security from the workers can improve mental wellbeing and resilience. Only 43% of employees who felt lonely had a strong resilience. On the other hand, Almost 91.5% of employees who did not feel lonely agreed to have a strong resilience at the workplace.
- Personal resilience – Having a sense of inclusion and personal connectivity with coworkers where you can share thoughts and ideas without hesitation can mitigate the feelings of loneliness. A workplace with good personal connectivity is one where employees can be their true selves. While 46.4% of lonely employees said they had personal connectivity and less perceived alienation at the workplace, almost 84.5% of not-so-lonely employees felt that way.
At a time when employee wellbeing and work-life balance have become top priorities, employers have also realized the importance of mental health. Many studies shed light on loneliness as a key reason for absenteeism and productivity loss. And so, employers must take adequate action through workplace wellness programs to ensure employee wellbeing.
The advancing corporate wellness technology offers many opportunities for employers to support employees through their loneliness and improve wellbeing. They can help them build strong connections at work, enhance their mental stability, and have strong resilience through various modules offered through workplace wellness programs.
Also, building a healthy, diverse, and inclusive workplace culture is integral for workplace wellness and employee engagement, without any feelings of loneliness or discrimination.