7 Tips for Organizations Seeking to Mitigate Employee Loneliness
In our latest research report — Loneliness as an Organizational Crisis: A Persona-Based Approach to Navigating Through the Silence — we found that workplace loneliness has a profound impact on employee well-being and productivity. While the impact of loneliness happens at an individual level, the burden falls on employers to take effective and systemic measures to mitigate an environment where loneliness festers. At the heart of these efforts should be a focus on leadership, community building, resource accessibility, and a dedicated approach to improving the employee experience.
What Employees Want
When asked, employees themselves are calling for more in-person social and professional gatherings. This suggests a longing for genuine human interaction, which has been increasingly marginalized in the digital workplace. Pressed further, employees indicated that increased virtual events don’t create the same level of connection, particularly when this virtual interaction is frequent, back-to-back scheduled meetings.
For employers who have seen their workforces become increasingly distributed given the rise in remote hiring, it may be time to get creative about how to bring people together. Secondly, employees seek greater access to mental health resources, a call that underscores the psychological toll of loneliness. Employees know that loneliness is a problem and they are sourcing solutions for themselves, in the event that the workplace itself doesn’t improve to meet their needs.
The Role of Leaders
Leaders in the organization also play a significant role in improving workplace camaraderie and connection. At the organizational level, employees who have a strong connection to the values of the company are twice as likely to avoid workplace loneliness. Similarly, employees with a strong sense of belonging — often driven by an organization’s commitment to inclusion and career development for each and every employee — are 1.9x more likely to say they have not experienced workplace loneliness.
Collaboration and cooperation in the workplace are impacted by everything from an understanding of company vision to HR policies to individual employee attitudes, but its importance in mitigating loneliness is clear. When employees work together towards a shared goal or to solve a customer issue, real relationships are forged. Employees who regularly cooperate with teams across the organization are 1.3x as likely to avoid loneliness.
For managers, the key is in treating employees with respect in service of true relationship building. When an employee has a great relationship with their manager, they are 1.4x as likely to be free from loneliness at work. In addition, when managers can show real appreciation for the contributions employees make, those employees are half as likely to be lonely at work. Employees themselves are not totally off the hook for efforts to avoid loneliness. Building personal friendships and connections — even when people aren’t co-located — doubles the likelihood that an employee won’t experience the ill effects of loneliness in the workplace.
As organizations grapple with the reality of a loneliness epidemic, there’s an urgent need for both strategic interventions and personal actions that address the issue comprehensively. Whether through leadership behavior, company get-togethers, purposeful management, or employee actions to build relationships, employers need to measure, act, and then measure again to ensure they are offering a workplace experience that is building connections and not building fences.
Seven Tactics for Mitigating Workplace Loneliness
On a practical level, many avenues exist to tackle the issue head-on. Some of these are tried and tested methods of creating a culture where employees can create and maintain deep, authentic personal and professional relationships. Others build on these in new and different ways, capitalizing on the current technology and workplace situations that have emerged over the past five years.
- Make Use of Employee Suggestions: According to data, employees are calling for more in-person social and professional gatherings. This suggests a longing for genuine human interaction, which has been increasingly marginalized in the digital workplace. Secondly, employees seek greater access to mental health resources, a call that underscores the psychological toll of loneliness. A crowdsourcing product like Dialogue from Perceptyx can enable employees and leaders to co-create solutions for many of the problems posed by loneliness.
- Redefine Leadership and Communication: The role of leadership is pivotal when discussing employee well-being. Leadership sets the organizational tone, influencing not just productivity but also the psychological health of the team. More contemporary leadership styles have begun to emphasize work-life integration over mere work-life balance. Examples include "no-meeting Fridays" and a renewed focus on outcomes rather than hours clocked on task. These are signals to employees that their well-being is a priority. Moreover, integrating well-being conversations into performance reviews is an innovative way to make mental health a regular part of the corporate dialogue.
- Develop and Publicize Community Support Systems: Building a sense of community among employees is crucial for combating loneliness. Organizations can set up communal support funds, commonly referred to as "sunshine funds," where employees contribute to a pool meant to aid colleagues facing unexpected financial hardships. Besides financial safety nets, Paid Time Off (PTO) donation funds also play a role in building a culture of support and empathy. In addition, working together towards a community goal, such as packing food boxes for a local food bank or volunteering at a community event are ways to encourage camaraderie while accomplishing something important together.
- Empower Employees with Resources and Accessibility: Resource accessibility is another area for employers to focus on. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) devoted to well-being can act as an information hub, continuously updating and distributing well-being resources. Alongside ERGs, advisory groups of deeply embedded employees can act as change ambassadors, aligning well-being strategies with workplace realities.
- Promote Breaks and Self-Care: It's essential for employers to encourage taking breaks as a way to rejuvenate. Technologies like Perceptyx’s Cultivate Intelligent Coaching can provide real-time data on an employee’s cognitive load, suggesting when it might be time for a break. This melding of data-driven insights and intuitive human understanding allows organizations to adopt a proactive approach to employee well-being.
- Build Empathy and Resilience: Empathy and resilience are two skills that are increasingly viewed as critical for employee well-being. Employers can offer training programs aimed at boosting these skills. Emotional intelligence among leadership also plays a vital role in creating a supportive environment where employees feel seen and heard — and is another area where a product like Cultivate Intelligent Coaching can make a difference at scale.
- Encourage Mindfulness and Physical Well-being: Physical health is often seen as separate from mental well-being, but the two are intertwined. Implementing mindfulness techniques, dietary guidelines, and physical exercise can all contribute to a more holistic approach to combating loneliness. Companies could offer discounted gym memberships, healthy food options in cafeterias, and regular educational workshops on nutrition and fitness.
Perceptyx Can Help You Connect To Your Workers Wherever They Are
Regardless of whether you're trying to determine which well-being resources your lonely employees need, or merely want to understand the efficacy of your existing approach to foster belonging and connection in the workplace, Perceptyx’s People Insights Platform delivers listening solutions and data-driven insights to guide your organization’s approach. To learn more, read the full report and schedule a meeting with a member of our team.