Workplace engagement is a vital requirement for effective workplace performance. When an employee feels socially isolated, his/her productivity is crippled and his/her mental health is jeopardized. That is why it is important for every business manager or owner to understand the causes, consequences, and solutions to loneliness in the workplace.
But this topic does not get as much attention as it deserves. Not many executives care to investigate how employees engage with one another or how poor relationships between colleagues affect different departments. Many of them argue that social isolation in the office reduces time wastage, among other benefits. But that argument isn’t entirely correct according to psychiatrists. Loneliness is an epidemic that should be taken seriously by employers and bosses both for the sake of an organization’s efficiency and employee welfare.
So, if you are genuinely interested in understanding the dynamism of employee loneliness, please read on.
Traits of Lonely Employees
You will know that an employee is lonely if he/she loves to isolate him/herself from everyone else at the workplace. These people are in most cases disinterested in anything that could force them to socialize with their colleagues. They seem least connected to their roles in the office and the organization as a whole. Research shows that lonely employees are hyper-vigilant when choosing who to talk to and overly sensitive to negative comments. As such, their colleagues will rarely want to chat with them, be it on social topics, personal issues, or even work-related matters.
However, research isn’t conclusive as of whether lonely employees desperately want to dissociate from other people or they just lack the skills or favorable environment to socialize. That is to mean that there is still a chance that these employees aren’t antisocial per se. The only problem, in that case, would be that they have been caught up in a cycle of loneliness. They pull away from people, colleagues stop talking with them, and so they feel unwanted. They conclude that certain relationships are not worth cultivating so they pull away even further. Simply put, lonely employees are more likely to get deeper and deeper into the loneliness hole than they are to get out.
How Loneliness Hurts Productivity
For starters, loneliness stems from work-related contributors. It could be coming from the feeling that the bosses or colleagues are unsupportive or the feeling of chronic exhaustion; the emotional exhaustion of workplace burnout. An employee who works with such an attitude can never be productive. To such a person, work is more like a punishment. They find no pleasure in waking up in the morning or coming to work.
Social isolation in the workplace could also be a result of unfair treatment. The affected employee could feel like they have been confined to the lowest ranks or pay grades at work, so they constantly feel like they aren’t as fortunate in life as their higher-ranking colleagues. Someone could have a great job but for the simple reason that someone younger or lesser qualified was promoted unscrupulously before him/her, he/she chooses social isolation. That negativity will hurt their productivity if not controlled early enough.
How to Stop Employee Loneliness and Improve Productivity
1. Create a strong sense of social cohesion
People become more productive when you celebrate their success and recognize the effort they put into the roles you have given them. In case someone is unproductive due to loneliness, don’t wait for the annual employee appreciation day to recognize him/her when he/she does something beneficial to the company, no matter how insignificant. That way, you will be able to create a stronger sense of social cohesion in the office. The recognition doesn’t need to be an award. It can be something simple such as praising the involved staff members on social media or during a staff meeting. If the member was working in a group that achieved more than expected, congratulate him and his colleagues. That will make him feel part of the team and recognize the power of collaboration.
2. Create an emotionally warm office culture
If your organization operates in an aloof top-down system, there probably is a significant lack of connection between the top brass and the employees. Your employees could be getting lonely due to the emotional cold you subject them to. Maybe it is time you brought in a life coach to help unproductive employees to feel warm again. It is time you revised your company policy and culture for the sake of the employees.
3. Create a good first impression
If you are a new employee and you feel more than ever lonely, don’t feel pressure because you are not the first one. Find the best way to move your stuff into the new office and maybe someone would help you and create some connection, introduce you to your new colleagues and break the ice.
Now that you have an idea of the causes of employee loneliness and its mitigation measures, it is incumbent upon you to revise your organization’s office culture and help lonely employees back on their feet. Don’t make the mistake of concluding that someone’s loneliness is their problem and not yours because, in the long run, it will greatly harm their workplace production.