Pay attention to employee loneliness; a recent survey suggests

Dealing with distance in a post-pandemic workplace

Focusing on employee mental health in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, a recent survey commissioned by Cigna among US adults has shown that employers need to pay attention to feelings of loneliness among their employees.

The survey of almost 2,500 respondents conducted by Morning Consult showed that employees experiencing loneliness were less likely than their colleagues to say that they could work efficiently and perform to the best of their abilities. They were also more likely to say that they were “mentally somewhere else” while at work during the last three months.

In 2020, an analysis by Cigna showed that loneliness costs employers more than $154 billion per year in lost productivity caused by absenteeism.

Productivity isn’t the only negative result. The survey also found that employees experiencing loneliness were three times more likely to be dissatisfied with their jobs than their peers. A further 30% of lonely employees admitted feeling unwell or sick while at work in the past three months.

While the circumstances surrounding the pandemic may have led to more flexible remote working arrangements for many, isolation and loneliness were also side effects of the new working situation. Together with exhaustion due to blurred boundaries between work and home life, these feelings have added to the stress of many employees.

Cigna highlighted three areas that employers could focus on to address issues with workplace loneliness:

  • Regular activities that bring employees together, both in-person and virtually, such as town hall events, volunteer events, and employee resource group meetings.
  • Providing employee benefits that support mental and emotional well-being while remaining mindful of the barriers that may prevent employees from accessing the help they need.
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives could also go a long way to creating a safe and welcoming environment for employees.
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