Sydney, Sept 26: Loneliness isn’t just a personal issue; it’s a challenge that businesses should address as it contributes to employee absenteeism and reduced productivity. Dr. Shea Fan, a Senior Lecturer in Management at RMIT University, sheds light on strategies for individuals and organizations to combat loneliness in the workplace.
Loneliness: A Workplace Challenge
While loneliness is often discussed as a social phenomenon, it’s less recognized as a workplace issue, despite affecting many employees. Dr. Fan points out that work roles, environments, and transitions can lead to loneliness, resulting in social isolation, strained relationships, and hindered social connections.
Certain groups, such as CEOs, entrepreneurs, remote and gig workers, and expatriates, are particularly susceptible to workplace loneliness. CEOs, for instance, may find it challenging to establish authentic workplace relationships due to their elevated status, leading to social and psychological distance from colleagues.
Research has revealed that about 50 per cent of entrepreneurs sometimes or always experience loneliness, often due to their limited time for social interactions. The rise of remote work, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has also amplified social isolation due to reduced opportunities for face-to-face interactions. Gig workers, while enjoying flexible schedules, may struggle to develop meaningful relationships at work. Expatriates, on the other hand, grapple with the separation from their existing social networks and cultural differences, language barriers, or insufficient social resources.
Addressing Workplace Loneliness
Dr. Fan emphasizes the importance of addressing workplace loneliness, considering its pervasive nature and its impact on employees and organizations alike. Individuals can take proactive steps to combat loneliness by understanding their social goals and identifying areas where they lack connections. Whether desiring a few strong relationships or broad but weak social connections, self-awareness is key to nurturing workplace relationships.
Organizations also play a vital role in combating loneliness. They can foster a culture that encourages positive social interactions by auditing work practices to identify and address social isolation factors. Cultivating an inclusive work environment, especially for minority groups, can help remove social barriers and promote a sense of belonging.
Additionally, organizations can provide various social opportunities, such as mentoring programs, support initiatives, social events, coffee breaks, holiday celebrations, and team-building activities. These investments in alleviating workplace loneliness can result in employees feeling more connected to their organizations, ultimately enhancing productivity and well-being.
Dr. Shea Fan’s research delves into the impact of global mobility on employees and their interactions, as well as how organizations and managers can support employees in reaching their full potential in modern work environments. His insights shed light on the importance of recognizing and addressing workplace loneliness to create healthier, more productive workspaces.
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