By Brandon Fargis
May 24, 2023
In a recent advisory, the U.S. Surgeon General described loneliness as a growing epidemic. Across all ages and backgrounds, research suggests that it can adversely affect productivity, mental and physical health. Fortunately, there are steps leaders can take to help organizations and employees overcome loneliness and promote better outcomes.
There is a framework outlined in the advisory for addressing loneliness that can be applied in any organization. It includes three main pillars: enhancing social connections, improving coping and problem-solving skills, and creating a sense of purpose and meaning. These strategies can be used to create an environment where employees feel valued, connected, and supported.
Creating a culture of belonging and inclusivity in the workplace can help address loneliness. This can be done by creating an environment where all employees feel valued, supported, and included, regardless of their background or personal characteristics. In addition, mentorship programs, team-building activities, and social events provide opportunities for social connection and interaction.
Loneliness can affect neurodiverse individuals even more severely. As a result, employers can further empower and support these individuals by creating a culture of inclusivity and understanding. Leaders can facilitate this by providing resources and support groups for neurodiverse employees. They can promote their strengths, and ensure they feel valued and included. Employee Resource Groups and other affinity-focused communities are highly effective ways to build this into your organization’s DNA.
Technology can be used to further connect employees and reduce loneliness in today’s workplace. With remote work, video conferencing and messaging apps can provide virtual spaces for employees to connect. Leaders can encourage the use of these tools and promote virtual social events to foster community among remote workers. Additionally, technology can provide easily accessible mental health resources, including online counseling and mental health apps. Leaders can also use technology to gather anonymous feedback from employees on their wellbeing to gain insight into areas where they may need to provide additional support.
Statistics show that mental health issues are becoming more prevalent in the workplace. One study found that 79% of employees have experienced burnout, and over 42% say their mental health has declined since the pandemic. By bringing these matters to the forefront, leaders can create a more open and supportive work environment that promotes better human and business outcomes. Leaders can improve productivity, reduce absenteeism, and create a more engaged and loyal workforce by investing in mental health resources and supporting their employees’ well-being.
According to the World Health Organization, every dollar invested in treating common mental health disorders yields a return of $4 in improved health and productivity. By prioritizing mental health and addressing issues such as loneliness, leaders can create a more engaged, productive, and resilient workforce.
You can help your organization and employees overcome loneliness and promote better mental health outcomes! Let’s all work together to create a brighter, more connected future for all!
About the Author
Disclaimer: The ideas, views, and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of International Institute for Learning or any entities they represent.