Combating Social Isolation In The Workplace

Social isolation in the workplace

Whether you’re working in a large or a small office, it can often be jarring to discover that you may be lonely despite being surrounded by people daily. But social isolation is increasingly common in workers and can have many negative consequences.

The problem of loneliness is something that is not limited to the workplace, with a minister for loneliness being announced in January of 2018. It was created to continue the legacy of the late MP Jo Cox, who set up the Commission on Loneliness.

Loneliness is increasingly becoming a larger problem for people in the UK, with a report from the Commission on Loneliness in 2017 finding that it was as harmful to people’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Not only this, but it was estimated to effect up to nine million people in the UK, across the age spectrum.

Social Isolation In The Office

Isolation is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ issue, as every person is likely to experience a different set of parameters that results in their lonely feelings. It could be that someone is simply introverted and struggles to join in with the office talk or instead there could be the dreaded ‘office cliques’ that result in it being hard to try and communicate. With the rise in open-plan workplaces and employees using headphones, it is perhaps no surprise that loneliness is increasing with people experiencing more social isolation.

While there are people who may be perfectly comfortable with not communicating with their colleagues, it is important to remember that some people may not cope with this. It can result in employees being unhappy in their work if they feel that their work environment is unwelcoming to them.

An uncommunicative team can also lead to incredibly poor team dynamics, not to mention a lack of understanding between individuals. If people feel particularly excluded from their workplace, then there is an even higher chance of them leaving, which can cost businesses as they retrain.

How Can Businesses Promote Interaction?

It is obviously hard to encourage an introverted person to get more involved in the social fabric of the workplace, and if people have gotten used to working in a quieter environment then there will reluctance to change this.

But change can happen between employees, particularly if it is encouraged in small ways that will create small changes that eventually lead to a more interactive and positive work environment. This can include something as simple as greeting people when they arrive or attempting to create conversations.

Whether it’s by asking people the classic ‘What did you do at the weekend?’ or telling others what you did, it may allow people to feel that they are able to speak up and get involved. Consider perhaps having outside gatherings, such as a team dinner to try and promote better understanding, and perhaps even friendship, between workers.

It may take time, but the mood of the workplace can be changed to encourage a more social place to try and prevent any social isolation, even if it is accidental. This can be beneficial to employees who may want to be more outgoing but feel they can’t, but could also include those who feel unable to voice their unhappiness as well!

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Sarah Jubb

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