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As Loneliness Presents Itself at Work, What Can Employers Do?

by | Nov 20, 2020

In November 2020, the Founder & President of the Foundation for Art & Healing – Jeremy Nobel, MD, MPH – led a conversation with American Health Policy Institute about COVID-19’s impact on employee loneliness and isolation to help answer the question, What Can CHROs Do to Improve Employee Well-Being? Panelists included Dr. Stuart Lustig, MD, MPH, National Medical Executive for Behavioral Health, Cigna; James Garvie, SVP HR, Total Rewards and Technology, Southern Company; and Dr. Laurie Hommema, MD, Medical Director, Provider and Associate Well-Being, OhioHealth.

During the webinar, panelists noted that loneliness is not just a quality of life issue but impacts an individual’s productivity and performance in the workplace. The below summary of the webinar was originally created by Margaret Lasso on hrpolicy.orgTo watch the webinar, please view the below video recording.

Significant health risks accompany loneliness: Dr. Jeremy Nobel, MD, MPH, who is on the Harvard Medical School faculty and President, Foundation for Art & Healing, presented ways employers can help employees struggling with loneliness during these times. He referenced an employer case study evaluating Health Risk Assessment questionnaires which found employees that were identified as lonely had roughly twice the number of avoidable admissions and readmissions than employees who were not identified as lonely.

How are employers addressing loneliness so far? Dr. Stuart Lustig, MD, MPH, National Medical Executive for Behavioral Health, Cigna, James Garvie, SVP HR, Total Rewards and Technology, Southern Company, and Dr. Laurie Hommema, MD, Medical Director, Provider and Associate Well-Being, OhioHealth, shared the work they have been doing as employers to improve the health and wellbeing of their employees. The panelists agreed that employers can take steps like ramping up education and awareness programs, promoting engagement and connection among employees, improving access to assistance, and continually monitoring and measuring the mental health of their employees.

Outlook: Creating an environment which lets employees know they have avenues for support is crucial, and there are many ways to approach this. The UnLonely Project, for example, founded by Dr. Nobel, uses the arts as a way to reduce the burden of loneliness and isolation. The American Health Policy Institute continues to engage with The Path Forward and policy makers in advocating for evidence-based behavioral health care reform.

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