You may have heard it from your team members or even felt it yourself. People are lonely in our WFH world. Working from home means sitting in front of a screen for hours, only interacting with people in the physical world in places like the grocery store or the local coffee shop.
In her book wellbeing at work, Jim Clifton and Jim Harter highlight a study showing that 25% of Americans feel lonely at work at home. Recent research suggests that workplace loneliness has a negative impact on employee well-being and is associated with poorer performance and less helpfulness at work.
Loneliness is often hidden, especially because people don’t share unless they feel safe to do so. But positive social interactions are definitely a big part of our working lives. we need each other We need to know that we belong and that we are important.
3 strategies against loneliness
If you’re a leader, it’s part of your job because the well-being of your team members is inseparable from their ability to be engaged, motivated and able to do their best. Here are some strategies you can use right now to combat or prevent loneliness.
Encourage more team sharing
Loneliness can be mitigated with more team connection. dr Constance Noonan Hadley, organizational psychologist and associate professor at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, explains:
Key aspects of teamwork to consider when designing relationship building are collaboration and social support. Working in parallel, or merely passing the baton from one teammate to the next, is unlikely to create as many opportunities for true connection as more integrated forms of collaboration. Instead, frame the work to include a high level of interactivity and regular sharing of resources and thought partnerships.
Think about how you can structure work projects for more interaction and engagement. You may need to restructure the way you do things now to include more people. This, in turn, may require some skill and training in the art of collaboration in order for team members to work together effectively.
You can also use Slack or another team communication app and create a channel like #whatmadeyourweek for team members to share and connect. It’s less personal but gets people to share and connect more.
Don’t assume you know how your team is really doing unless you invite them to share. A check-in is a process of people sharing how they are doing and what’s on their minds and hearts. This way, you and your team focus on individual human issues, not just organizational issues. This helps the team to network with each other.
Schedule a meeting—in person or virtually—that just focuses on check-in. Don’t try to do “real work” too. The real work is forging social bonds and alleviating isolation.
Ultimately, we can all cope better with being kinder to ourselves, and as researchers Stephanie Andel, Winny Shen, and Maryana Arvan note in their recent study, it starts with self-compassion.
“When experiencing work loneliness,” they write, “workers with high self-compassion might be kinder to themselves, more likely to recognize that this is a common experience during the pandemic, and to be aware of their feelings but not consumed by them. ”
How does it look? dr Kristin Neff, recognized for her work in the field of self-compassion, puts it this way: “Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various shortcomings or deficiencies, self-compassion means being kind and understanding when confronted with what is personal Suffer.”
Simply put, don’t be too hard on yourself and remind your team members, especially when it comes to loneliness. Recognize that it is a legitimate human emotion and make room for it. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be better able to identify helpful measures you can take to alleviate it.
Loneliness in the workplace is real. I encourage you to use one or more of these strategies to bring your team back to success. The effort will be worth it.