Is Loneliness in the Workplace Hurting Your Bottom Line?

by Tim English - VP Superior Business Solutions on October 5, 2017

Is Loneliness in the Workplace Hurting Your Bottom Line?

“Lonely” Can Mean “Costly” to Your Company

One of our major goals is to make your sales process more effective, from using promotional items smartly to having your printing needs met more efficiently through print supply chain management.I often suggest one of our advanced technologies, or point out how our vast experience as a print and promotional item partner can make those things happen.

But I’d like to spend today’s post talking about another way to enhance productivity in your company. It doesn’t involve technology. Quite the opposite, it requires solving a problem that has come about largely because of technology: loneliness in the work place.  A very human problem, with very human solutions.

Do you have a problem with your sales force? Maybe so. But it may have nothing to do with their ability to do the job. They may be excellent at that part of it, and have all the skills needed. Instead, maybe they are suffering from loneliness in the workplace due to a lack of personal connection to others in your organization, or to other people in general.

So Many “Friends” But Little Friendship

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review really caught my attention. It was written by Vivek H. Murthy, Surgeon General of the United States from 2014-17. Dr. Murthy points out that, despite all our “connections” on social media today, we are more and more isolated from real contact and relationships.

  • More than 40% of U.S. adults reported feeling lonely
  • It’s true in the workplace, as well. More than half of all CEO’s say they feel lonely.
  • In recent decades, the number of Americans who report having a “close confidant” in their lives is decreasing.
  • Loneliness and weak social connections result in a measurable shortening of lifespan, equivalent to that of smoking 15 cigarettes a day (and greater than the threat presented by obesity).

Dr. Murthy says that during his many years of caring for patients, the most common pathology he found was loneliness. He goes on to detail how that loneliness impacts a wide spectrum of patients, from the elderly to teenagers, and from parents to prominent professionals.

Not a Just a Feeling – a Physical Threat

Loneliness in the workplace and in the personal life exacts a very real physical toll on the body. It causes the release of a stress-related hormone that increases inflammation. This in turn helps pave the way for heart disease, diabetes, joint disease and more. Loneliness is also associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression and anxiety.

Loneliness in the workplace limits and impairs creativity and reduces brain function in the areas of reasoning and decision-making. These things are critical to the kind of thinking a top sales team needs to display. Loneliness also causes people to feel more stress, which translates to more sick days and more use of healthcare resources.

In contrast, employees who are connected with others and engaged in their work are happier and more productive at their jobs. That means good things for them as people, and good things for your company as their employer.

How To “Lose” the Loneliness

Dr. Murthry provides a checklist of six things to do. My big takeaways are that your company needs to:

  1. Take the issue seriously. It is not “soft” to think about things like this, or implement policies to deal with them. In fact, it’s the only “human” thing to do.
  2. Make it a strategic priority. Nothing meaningful will happen until you develop real programs and initiatives to build stronger relationships. And it’s not just a company picnic and a holiday grab-bag.
  3. Encourage employees to get to know more about one another. Information and common interests lead to friendships, and friendships blot out loneliness. Is your sales force frequently out of the office? Create tangible opportunities for them to engage not only with one another, but with other employees in the office.

If you take a personal interest in the health and welfare of your employees, good for you. Loneliness in the workplace is worth addressing. But even pragmatic companies should understand that loneliness is hampering productivity, and taking steps to alleviate loneliness can only improve the bottom line.

Contact me, and I can share some realistic ideas for making your company a welcoming place. Helping your employees feel less lonely and engage more deeply with their jobs and coworkers will help both your employees and your bottom line. What does your company do to help combat loneliness?

 

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