What Can Employers Do to Fight Loneliness?

By George Khoury, Esq. on April 09, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

While running any business may require quite a bit of socializing, that doesn't mean that employees won't suffer from loneliness. In fact, accord to a recent study published in the Harvard Business Review, approximately 40 percent of Americans report feeling lonely.

Although it may be easy for an employer to not get involved in what's more than likely a person's individual issue, a recent study stresses the fact that lonely workers are at a higher risk of poor performance and jumping ship. Naturally, employers shouldn't stick their nose in places it doesn't belong, like an employee's social life, but there are definitely things employers can do to help employees be less lonely.

Support Work-Life Balance

Significantly, the study's authors have a valuable message to teach employers: "When workplaces become more supportive, performance and retention improves." Given that the study explains that the most significant factors influencing how lonely a person is revolves around their private lives, employers may be left scratching their heads about what they can even do.

Perhaps the most significant way an employer can help lonely employees with their private lives is by allowing schedule flexibility and encouraging employees to engage in self-care. And no, self care is not a euphemism, though it could be in some rare cases. Employers can encourage employees to engage in self-care by negotiating promotions with local vendors, such as gyms, massage therapists, spas, or even theme parks and family friendly attractions.

Allowing schedule flexibility, such as through flex-time, work from home, or other alternative scheduling policies allows employees to feel more autonomous, which is a good thing. Employees can often respond well to being trusted with their own autonomy such that it helps them become more productive, confident, and trustworthy, employees. Although there may be nominal required costs when it comes to cybersecurity and telecommuting, once the infrastructure is in place, it is a free benefit that employers can provide that employees highly value.

Creating a Supportive Work Community

As the HBR study's authors explain: "A robust workplace support network is not just a nice-to-have -- it's become a business imperative."

In addition to a robust network, it is suggested that managers and colleagues help create an environment where co-workers can find "shared meaning" in the work they do. Basically, employers should try to foster an environment where individual employees see how their separate, individual work impacts the whole. It may sound narcissistic, but when people find meaning in the work they do, they're happier and less likely to feel lonely.

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