With the emergence of remote and flexible working arrangements, employee loneliness is going to become increasingly prevalent. Surprisingly though, workplace loneliness is starting to not only impact those that are physically isolated but also employees located in an office environment. While the topic is starting to be talked about, for example in this ABC article, there is still a way to go to address it.

Although loneliness has a significant impact on the individual, it is important to understand the broader impact of this on business productivity. Here are a few tips you can implement to limit the impact on both individuals and the organisation.

The impact of employee loneliness

There has been a direct link identified between employees that are suffering from loneliness in the workplace and overall job performance. Lonely employees tend to withdraw from social interactions and collaboration initiatives within the workplace. This can be a vicious cycle as the avoidance of such interactions discourages colleagues to collaborate which can perpetuate the feeling of loneliness. Employees who feel this way have also been observed as having higher absenteeism, lower resilience within the workplace and generally lower self-esteem.

On the other side, employees that have strong personal connections and bonds with colleagues show an increase in engagement and motivation. The relationships formed within the workplace increases the overall wellbeing of staff by building trust and reducing stress levels.

While the impacts of employee loneliness are evident at an employee level, businesses need to consider the broader disruption this can have to business success. If left unmanaged, impacts can include:

  • Less employee commitment resulting in higher turnover
  • A decrease in communication across teams and colleagues
  • An unwillingness to collaborate resulting in silo’s and inefficiencies
  • Lower performance levels across the organisation (as behaviours spread to colleagues)

How to deal with workplace loneliness

A paper published this year in the Human Resource Management International Digest observed that loneliness is increasingly present among remote workers and it is the responsibility of both the employee and the employer to utilise tools to reduce the feelings and impact of loneliness. Employees in the same environment can be impacted in drastically different ways so it should be a priority at a management level to identify and prioritise employee loneliness.

Tip 1 – Employee Culture & Collaboration

As mentioned in this article about building culture remotely, a great company culture can create a more collaborative and productive workforce. Building a culture that integrates remote and local workers and promotes emotions being expressed at work can encourage employees to build genuine connections and relationships.

Tip 2 – Work Buddies & Relationship Building

Buddying new starters and remote workers with another colleague promotes and expedites the relationship building process. Organisations should be considering this throughout their induction processes. It is important that organisations focus on the building of relationships as opposed to the increasing of social events as these can be counter-productive for employees suffering from workplace loneliness.

Tip 3 – Manager Training 

It is important to ensure that managers are aware of the warning signs of employees that may be feeling lonely in the workplace and how this can impact the whole organisation. Upskilling your managers to identify these signs early will limit the spread across colleagues and the broader impact on employee performance. It will also show a commitment from the organisation and a willingness to resolve employee feelings of loneliness.

Following these simple tips are the starting block in limiting the likelihood of workplace loneliness being prevalent among your local and remote teams. Teams and organisations that are built on strong relationships and social bonds are more engaged, committed and are higher performing. While combating workplace loneliness requires effort, time and follow up, the long-term impacts on business success far outweigh this.

Employment Innovations can provide HR consultancy services to companies looking to build culture and values from scratch along with  outsourced HR partnering for ongoing support, training, management and recruitment needs. If you need some immediate advice or help with building company culture, optimising your induction processes or manager training please contact us to speak with an expert today.