Loneliness has become a common complaint across different age groups. Technology has a key role to play in this. Interactions on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat are slowly replacing face to face interactions. Most situations which used to involve socializing are now filled with silence. Except for the constant clicks and taps on mobile phones, of course. But, what is not expected or foreseen is loneliness in the workplace. This is because the workplace is where individuals have to continuously interact and work with each other to achieve common goals. But, studies have found that constant social interaction does not mean individuals will not feel lonely.
According to Totaljobs, a UK platform, over one-third of the employees surveyed had no concrete work relationships. This means that over 30% employees felt isolated or distant from their colleagues. This subsequently resulted in negative implications for their own mental health as well as their performance on the job. There are laws in place to prevent harassment at work or report your colleagues for the same. Yet, there is nothing in place for the effects of loneliness. Research has found that ostracism affected turnover more than harassment at the workplace did. This could be because a lack of belonging to the social group leads individuals to feeling unwanted. This in turn reduces their motivation to continue going to work. Performance on the job was also adversely affected for employees who felt alone at work. This could be attributed to a lack of motivation to perform well on tasks with little acknowledgement from individuals they consider important in their lives.
Causes of Loneliness at Work
Feeling lonely can be attributed to several things. First, the individual’s personality. When it comes to personality, there is a difference between the interactions of introverted and extroverted people. Extroverted people are more outgoing and social. They are thus more likely to form close relationships with their colleagues. Introverted people on the other hand, prefer to keep to themselves. Because they are not the kind to go out and interact extensively, they are viewed as being aloof and distant by others. This could cause issues when workplace bonds are forged with the introverts getting left out in a larger group of extroverts.
A second factor is the employee-job profile fit. Those who are happier with their work are more likely to be positive and outgoing than those who dislike it. When individuals are interested and motivated, they are more likely to work with their colleagues and achieve their end goal. On the other hand, an extreme dislike for the job will mean the person does the bare minimum and will not put in the extra energy to form bonds with people. This will result in the development of loneliness and an even lower dip in motivation.
The third factor is the employee-work culture fit. For example, take someone used to working with precision and on concrete tasks in a traditional way. This person will not fit in in a work culture where each person is valued for their creativity and innovative methods of solving problems. Similarly, take someone used to flexible schedules and casual meetings. He will not fit in in an environment where order and discipline are the highest values.
Whatever the cause of loneliness, it is detrimental to both well-being and performance. To ensure that loneliness does not grow over time, companies can put in precautionary measures. Some of these could be team building exercises and efforts to create inter-personal relationships.
Ashvita has just completed her undergraduate degree from FLAME University, a Liberal Education school situated in Pune. Having pursued a major in psychology and a minor in advertising and branding over the course of the last four years, she hopes to implement her learning from both these areas of study into her work.