Workplace loneliness can drastically reduce employee productivity, according to new research out of my alma mater. Management professor Sigal G. Barsade of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and associate business professor Hakan Ozcelik of California State University, Sacramento studied over 650 workers and found that loneliness hampered employees' productivity on team-oriented and individual tasks alike.
Loneliness isn't the same as depression or solitude. What differentiates loneliness from either emotion is the drive to get rid of distress "by integrating into new relationships," Sarah Wright of the University of Canterbury explained to the New York Times. "With depression, there is a drive to surrender to it."
"Loneliness tends to distort social cognition and influences an individual's interpersonal behavior, resulting in increased hostility, negativity, depressed mood, increased anxiety, lack of perceived control and decreased cooperativeness," Wright continued.
How to Fix Workplace Loneliness
Managers won't fix workplace loneliness with more parties or big social gatherings -- these can stress lonely employees out even more. Instead, Dr. Ozcelik recommends one-on-one interaction: a lunch or coffee break invite, a short chat, an informal conversation about last night's game.
Leadership should also avoid fostering a work environment that centers on fear, suspicion or distrust, as this atmosphere naturally drives employees apart.
Have you personally experienced loneliness at work? How did you alleviate it?