Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Why Companies Need to Address Loneliness

I don't know about you, but I've had jobs that made me leap out of bed every day, feeling so lucky to be going to work.

But I've had horrible jobs, too. You know those jobs that cause you on Sunday night to start dreading Monday? I've been there. In fact, I hated a couple of jobs so bad I started getting depressed on Saturday night.

I also remember the feeling of isolation I had in those jobs. I began to withdraw more and more from my colleagues, often eating my lunch alone in a park or keeping to myself when other people were chatting around the coffee pot.

I recently read a new study in Harvard Business Review that may explain why I hated those jobs so much. It wasn't just that I didn't really like what I was doing and the boss was a butthead. I think a large part of my problem was that I was lonely. I felt no connection to the boss or my colleagues, and it just made the situation worse for me.

Could I have become less miserable in these jobs if I had been less lonely? The study says "yes."

The study finds that just as you can "start an exercise regimen to lose weight, gain strength, or improve your health, you can combat loneliness through exercises that build emotional strength and resilience."

The study was based on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the "alarming" number or soldiers who returned home and had adverse outcomes, including suicide. Many soldiers, it was found, were struggling with loneliness.

In response, the U.S. Army developed a program focused on social resilience and social fitness, a strategy that paid off with soldiers reporting they were less lonely and simply felt better about life after receiving the training.

Researchers believe that workplaces can reap the same benefits. If workers are taught how to develop greater emotional strength and resilience, they can become less lonely and happier at work.

"It's time for managers to turn their focus from traditional structural inventions that are designed to reduce social isolation -- such as mandatory social activities at work or specialized workspace design efforts -- which studies have shown are less effective," researchers say.

Their recommendation for an entry-level social fitness class includes disconnecting online and connecting with someone in person; doing small favors for someone else; taking opportunities to work with others; and asking questions to engage others.

Finally, there is one step that each of us can take today to boost our well-being at work. Just say "hello" to a friend, colleague or a stranger.

"It"s a cliche, but it's true: We are social creatures," researchers say. "We have a social muscle. The more we exercise it, the healthier we'll all be."

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