The workplace often reflects the happenings of the society at large, and those within our own lives. However, issues that may arise at work can get overlooked. Leadership and staff alike can hold back about their feelings due to real or imagined stigma. Loneliness at work is one of these phenomena.
Those of us relying on Zoom and phone calls over in-person meetings are bearing the weight of the pandemic’s new normal. Remote working and learning provides us with efficient communication but heavily taxes our organizational culture, team bonding, and emotional, real-life connection.
Let’s look at a few tips we can apply to overcome these obstacles that often lead to loneliness at work.
We’re Not Alone
Consciously recognizing (and even verbalizing) that loneliness at work during these times is normal and completely understandable. Everyone is feeling lonely sometimes and because of our siloed, virtual work environments it is easy to forget this.
When it comes to loneliness, I encourage my clients to activate their own feelings of self-compassion. It’s part of a commitment to a compassionate growth mindset. Judging ourselves for feeling lonely can unwittingly drive us deeper into loneliness. Instead, know that we and millions of other people feel the same way through the pandemic. Accept our feelings as normal to set the foundation for successfully navigating through these emotions. And, give ourselves a gift to celebrate when we have done that well. It can be connecting with a good friend on a work break, buying or picking a few flowers for our workspace, or having a favorite snack. Mine is popcorn these days!
Learn from Loneliness
The feelings and emotions that spur loneliness signal what is happening with our state of mind. It’s valuable information intrinsically built into our human feedback system. Emotions are building blocks that help us shape the “growth” part of a compassionate growth mindset.
Therefore, we don’t have to stay lonely. By contrast, we can start to experiment with solutions that help to mitigate, reduce, or even eliminate loneliness at work for a while. Emotions are natural, they ebb and flow, and that is good. When we find success in our path, we can continue down that road and, simultaneously, tweak the options that don’t work as well. Then, build on these accomplishments and question the misses.
Lean on Human Connection
The antidote to loneliness at work, more often than not, is working with other people. By reaching out to others, we give ourselves a chance to transcribe internal thoughts into meaningful conversations. This can be much harder when we feel lonely, as a common response is to isolate. Here are a few things to try:
Crowdsource solutions. Speak to friends and colleagues. Ask them how they manage their loneliness at work, what has been successful and why. Then try it!
Develop a relationship with a mentor from crowdsourcing. When a suggestion from someone in your network is successful, share the great results with that person. Ask them if you can check in from time to time to work through your trial and error process. Show your gratitude by sending a gift certificate for coffee with a time and date for a 20-minute chat. Ask for their feedback on your experience and share tips you're learning along the way. Make it reciprocal by asking about their life. Repeat and enjoy.
Facilitate a weekly meeting with colleagues. Ask a small group of like-minded coworkers if they’d like to join a regular Zoom meeting. Let them know that it will be a safe, confidential space where everyone can discuss projects, request feedback, or even collaborate on work together. Keep it professional, casual, and invite others who could add positive energy to the group, knowing that everyone will sometimes go through a difficult time.
Become a mentor. Helping others will help everyone. Listen empathically and note issues that pertain to each situation as well. Find someone going through some of the same challenges and send a gift certificate for a coffee date. Check in on them and share that you’d like to be helpful. Let them drive the conversation.
Take walks. Set a day and time to walk and talk with a friend or coworker before work or during the workday in person. Serotonin will kick in and multiply with the human connection. We’re bound to feel energized when we get back to our virtual office. In my personal life, I have walking partners 4 days a week at 7am. It’s one of the best wellness solutions I’ve ever used. Everything about that hour makes my life better for the day and beyond.
Acknowledge our wins. We can always pat ourselves on the back for trying something new and succeeding. If it fails, then tweak it or try the next option. Treat ourselves like a dear friend and reap the rewards of positive self-talk and honing in on our compassionate growth mindset. My favorite line is: “Great job, Rhoda!”
Loneliness at work can feel daunting and insurmountable. It’s not. However, the solution requires strategic thinking and regular practice. If you’re struggling with solutions, I’d welcome you to chat with me, so we can work together on devising a custom-tailored and curated plan for your success!
Everything Rhoda does is innovative. She’s all about people – and to watch her spot people of talent is amazing. At AJU she remade the model of how we hire talent. She can sense amazing people – just pick them out! She taught me that it’s about honoring who people are, not trying to make them into something they’re not. “Let’s take someone and whatever their skills are we can help them develop that,” is her attitude.
-Dr. Rachel Lerner- Dean, Graduate Center for Education at AJU