Feeling Alone at Work?
May 3, 2023
We spend so much of our lives at work. It’s no surprise that our workplaces have a significant impact on the quality of our lives and our mental and physical health. Ideally, our work environment energizes and inspires us. It is also the place where we develop relationships and find opportunities to form meaningful connections. But COVID-19 has drastically altered our workplaces, and feelings of loneliness and disconnection at work have surged since the pandemic’s onset. In our current reality of working from home and seemingly nonstop screen time, how connected do you feel to your colleagues?
A 2022 survey from the Society of Human Resource Management found that a staggering 8 out of 10 employees (82 percent) feel lonely at work. This rise in workplace loneliness is taking a negative toll on our mental health and productivity, leaving us feeling stressed out and burnt out. Feelings of loneliness stem from the difference between the social connections we desire and the ones we actually have. Feeling left out or unwelcome is another aspect of loneliness. We know that loneliness takes a toll on our mental, physical, and social health, which is why developing meaningful social connections is so important. Work has always been an important place for finding these connections.
Redefining the Workplace: Why, Where, and How Do You Work?
The COVID-19 pandemic and economic uncertainty have led a growing number of workers to search for greater meaning and purpose in their jobs, driven by a desire to align their work with their personal values.
With the rise of remote and hybrid work environments, fostering authentic connections among coworkers is an increasingly difficult challenge. Over 70 percent of remote workers feel like they aren’t able to socialize enough, even though forging close connections with colleagues can significantly enhance our career prospects, job satisfaction, and sense of belonging.
When most of our interactions with coworkers happen online, it can feel like something is missing. Without the ability to pick up on body language and other subtle cues, it’s harder to build deeper relationships with colleagues. The continued uncertainty about work-from-home and hybrid environments has left many feeling anxious and depressed.
Prioritize Engagement & Connection
First, whether you’re an employee or an employer, it’s important to recognize that connection is critical to health and wellbeing, as well as strongly linked to job satisfaction and performance. There are group activities that can foster social connections with your coworkers, like volunteering, joining employee resource groups, or participating in stress/burnout programs. At The Foundation for Art & Healing (FAH), we believe that engaging in arts-based activities promotes self-awareness and enables authentic, meaningful self-expression. With creative expression, you share a little about yourself and connect. Whatever you choose to do, it’s important to seek out opportunities to build relationships and to prioritize getting to know and connecting to your colleagues.
Many organizations are struggling to fill job vacancies and retaining quality workers is essential to the success of any organization. Actively fostering a sense of connection to colleagues—and to the work itself—provides the opportunity for healthier, happier employees and work environments.
Our Project UnLonely initiative brings artmaking and creative expression to workplace wellness and DEI with a focus on building employee connection. To learn more, visit our Workplace UnLonely webpage.
Our brains are wired to seek out social connections, and when we lack them, it can affect how we think and feel. By learning more about the science behind loneliness, we can take the first step in building deeper connections with ourselves and others.
by Reji Mathew, Ph.D., LCSW, REAT
As an expressive arts educator and advocate, a central ethos of my teaching approach is to bring ideas to life through multi-media arts expression, referred to as intermodal processing, using the arts as a tool to process themes.
Can Art be Medicine? Whether through expressive writing, music, movement or visual media, all the arts are able to change...