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Loneliness affecting office workers

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Employers must do more to tackle loneliness by encouraging meaningful face-to-face interactions at work

Nearly three-quarters (70%) of office employees say they don’t know the people they work with very well, according to a survey by Nespresso Professional.

This is despite the majority (84%) of employees believing that good relationships with colleagues boost their quality of work.

The survey of 7,800 office workers found that almost half (47%) think their employer does not encourage them to get to know their colleagues, other than in a basic professional sense.

Office environment was also found to be a contributing factor. Almost half (48%) of those surveyed say that new technologies, including videoconferencing and collaboration tools, prohibit getting to know their colleagues properly. Despite more companies encouraging remote working, 82% believe face-to-face interactions are critical to developing good working relationships.

Rachel Lewis, associate professor in occupational and business psychology at Kingston University, told HR magazine that the research showed there are many reasons employees feel lonely at work.

“There are so many different reasons why employees can become lonely at work, from technology to flexible working to changes in seating plans. But one of the fundamental misassumptions that people make about loneliness is that it’s about the number of people you speak to," she said.

"We know that this isn’t the case; it’s actually about the quality of those conversations and whether people feel like others are genuinely interested in what they have to say. Loneliness is essentially the gap between your perception of a social interaction and your expectation of a social interaction."

She added: “There can be huge physical and psychological effects of loneliness, and to make it worse people who feel lonely can become more cut off and avoid interaction, which leads to people thinking that they just aren’t interested in socialising.”

Lewis advised HR to do more to tackle loneliness. “There are lots of ways that employers can help. It’s really important that managers start to see people as people, and ask them about their personal lives and their families, not just what’s happening in the business," she said.

"Employee networks – where you encourage people from similar backgrounds or people with similar interests [to meet] – can also help people to build more meaningful relationships."