Insights to Address the Loneliness Epidemic at Work
Earlier this year the U.S. Surgeon General raised the alarm on an evolving health crisis: an epidemic of loneliness and isolation that started long before COVID-19. According to Cigna’s Loneliness Index, a staggering 62% of workers in the U.S. experience high levels of loneliness.
We convened a panel of experts dedicated to addressing loneliness in the workplace to share their insights.
Five themes emerged from their guidance to employers:
- Loneliness is personal. Efforts to address it have to get personal, too.
- Creating a sense of belonging in a hybrid world of work requires intention.
- There’s a business case for fostering relationships beyond the workplace.
- Data and new technology can scale support for your workforce.
- Diversity is a strategic imperative to build belonging.
Read below for the key takeaways and actions you can take at your company or watch the full event recording.
1. Loneliness is personal. Efforts to address it have to get personal, too.
"Core to belonging is understanding what people's authentic needs are,” said Dr. Sohini Stone, Chief Medical Officer for Global Employee Health at Google. And inherent within each of us is a need to belong — particularly at work, where we spend a full third of our lives.
Dr. Stone encourages managers to create space for more intentional learning among team members. Inviting people to share their unique experiences and backgrounds allows for a deeper sense of connection across teams.
As Jerry Golden, Head of Public Policy & Government Affairs at Eventbrite shared, “Part of fostering belonging, inclusivity and social connection is valuing employees as whole human beings.” Taking time to understand who people are outside of the workplace will go a long way to strengthening connections between employees and fostering a sense of belonging.
2. Belonging in a hybrid world of work requires intention.
Our audience asked several questions about how to address loneliness and create a sense of belonging among teams that aren’t physically together.
Google’s Dr. Stone highlighted the value of making space for everyone to have a voice during remote meetings. She reminded us that “having the space to get to know each other at a human level” is foundational to building a sense of belonging.
Dr. Stone starts her team meetings with “small wins” where anyone can share a personal or professional success story that allows colleagues to get to know one another on a deeper level.
For more tips on cultivating belonging, download our Belonging Guide.
3. There’s a business case for fostering relationships beyond the workplace.
Our experts highlighted that creating a sense of belonging at your workplace pays off.
Kimberly Serrano from the Center for Inclusion and Belonging shared findings from their Belonging Barometer, including that people who report a higher sense of belonging also report a greater willingness to recommend their job to a friend or family member.
“At the very core, it's a business problem,” said Dr. Stone from Google. “If you have employees who don’t have a high level of health and well-being, then they’re not going to be able to bring their best selves to the workplace.” Business leaders have to offer opportunities and space for employees to live their authentic lives, both within and outside of the workplace.
4. Data and new technology can scale support for your workforce.
Aimee Hollis, Director of Global Wellbeing at Thermo Fisher Scientific recognized the opportunity to leverage technology to address their employees’ needs at scale.
“I call it getting into the needs and the weeds. When I look at the full spectrum of our colleagues and how to best reach them, we need to look at the needs first," Hollis said.
To identify the needs of their entire workforce, the company encourages employees to submit anonymous questions for a regular ‘Ask Me Anything’ webinar series. Their team also analyzes medical and disability claims for high-level trends, providing them with even more data to develop solutions.
In parallel, Hollis detailed the importance of diving into the "weeds" of addressing a large workforce — ranging from considering multiple time zones to engaging employees who don't use a computer at work.
5. Diversity is a strategic imperative to build belonging.
Embracing diversity enhances a sense of belonging, as diverse teams bring together a myriad of perspectives, experiences and talents, encouraging collaboration and innovative problem-solving.
“Our senior leadership demonstrates the importance of Employee Resource Groups, firsthand. They show up at their events, provide them with funding and direct guidance and shine a spotlight on innovative programming for all employees,” said Jerry Golden, Head of Public Policy & Government Affairs at Eventbrite.