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Loneliness in the Workplace: Tackling Loneliness in the Mobile Workforce

This is Part 1 of a 3-part series on diversity and inclusiveness. 

Recent research from the Harvard Business Review indicates that the feeling of loneliness may be deteriorating performance in the workplace.

Despite some notions that technology makes people more connected, data suggests otherwise. According to the report, at least 40 percent of adults in the United States report feeling loneliness on a regular basis. Further, half of CEOs report feeling lonely in their role.

Loneliness is never a positive feeling, but the repercussions for businesses with lonely employees stretch beyond emotional consequences. Employees experiencing regular loneliness also experience reduced performance levels, reduced engagement, and less creativity, among other challenges. Presumably, employees working in a positive mental state also exhibit better relationships with co-workers and clients.

The issues caused by loneliness can be amplified in a work environment with limited face-to-face interactions; namely, virtual teams. Teams with members separated by time and distance, with communication methods dominated by technology, can be more susceptible to the loneliness epidemic.

Not too surprisingly, the right leadership and training can help mitigate the issues caused by loneliness (or prevent loneliness in the first place). As seen previously, the rates of workers with an appropriate level of diversity training is extremely low, yet, managers and employees alike report diversity-related problems as one of the largest issues facing their organizations.

Here’s a tip: plan in your virtual team meetings to take a few minutes to ask members to share something about themselves outside of work. Asking everyone to share a recent success, a hobby, favorite activity or food for example, helps to build bonds among team members. By sharing their interests, members not only learn something about their team members, the identify common interests and build relationships. Building relationship is key for any team—onsite or virtual. It just takes a little time and creativity. Strong positive relationships among team members helps to reduce loneliness, supports engagement, and improves productivity.

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