Fact Sheet: Loneliness in the Workplace
“A more connected workforce is more likely to enjoy greater fulfillment, productivity, and engagement while being more protected against illness, disability, and burnout.” –Former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy
The UnLonely Project promotes individual and community connections through the arts. This fact sheet summarizes current research on how loneliness affects the workplace. Health risks associated with loneliness and social isolation are comparable to the dangers of smoking and obesity, increasing premature mortality risk by up to 30%.
Loneliness affects productivity. A study published in 2018 described the “importance of recognizing the pernicious power of workplace loneliness over both lonely employees and their organizations.” Researchers concluded that “being lonelier is associated with lower job performance.”
Corporations are uniquely suited to address loneliness, as they collectively “have the power to drive change at a societal level not only by strengthening connections among employees, partners, and clients but also by serving as an innovation hub that can inspire other organizations to address loneliness,” writes Dr. Vivek Murthy, former U.S. Surgeon General. He recommends five steps for building healthier workplace relationships.
Researchers found that “greater employee loneliness led to poorer task, team role and relational performance.” They suggested that managers view workplace loneliness as “an organizational problem” that should be actively addressed, rather than treat work loneliness as a “private problem that needs to be individually resolved by employees.” Workgroups suffer when a lonely member withdraws from work and is less productive, hindering team effectiveness.
Gallup research suggests that employees without a best friend in the workplace “have just a one in 12 chance of being engaged,” whereas workers with a best pal are seven times as likely to be engaged in their jobs, are better at engaging customers, produce higher quality work and are less likely to get injured on the job.
The Harvard Business Review reports that one-half of CEOs surveyed felt loneliness in their role, and among that group, some 60% believed loneliness hindered their performance, with first-time CEOs particularly susceptible to isolation that negatively affected their performance.
- Phyllis Korkki, “Building a Bridge to a Lonely Colleague,” Jan. 28, 2012, New York Times
- Vivek Murthy, “Work and the Loneliness Epidemic,” Harvard Business Review, Sept. 2017
- Todd Nordstrom, “Workplace Loneliness Is More Common Than You Think,” Inc. Nov. 7, 2017
- Andie Burjek, “Loneliness Creeps into Workplace Wellness World,” Workforce, July 26, 2017
- Jennifer Latson, “A Cure for Disconnection,” Psychology Today, March 7, 2018
For more information: artandhealing.org/unlonely-overview/