In an age of flexible working hours, hot desking and telecommuting, workplace relationships no longer have the same solidity of the past. This has led to a concerning amount of people reporting feelings of isolation and loneliness in the workplace.
We spend a huge chunk of our week with colleagues, meaning they have the power to influence our mood. And, once feelings of loneliness begin to creep in, it can be hard to navigate out of a spiralling mindset.
Whether loneliness is making you think a job isn’t right for you or is affecting your general self-confidence, it’s important to address this pressing problem. This guide aims to help you overcome this feeling of loneliness in the workplace, so you can ensure a long and fulfilling career.
Don’t suffer in silence
Unfortunately, many people don’t want to speak up and ask for help. Some workers may fear that their unhappiness will be perceived as weakness and negatively impact their career.
However, it’s detrimental to keep ignoring the problem. It goes back to that old saying, ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’. This doesn’t mean that you should put a magnifying glass on your dissatisfaction with working relationships. Instead, try finding a common ground with co-workers and start with this.
For example, why not start by sharing a cuppa with someone? After all, it’s universally known that very little can’t be solved with a hot drink in hand – and no one ever lost friends by offering a cup of tea.
If your office layout isn’t working in your favour, try getting out of your chair to deliver messages instead of using email or telephone. Gradually increasing social interactions by meeting in person to discuss work-related matters will cut through feelings of isolation.
In doing this, perhaps you’ll start to notice a person that you click with. Remember that quality is greater than quantity. Making one good friend can be more fulfilling than having five acquaintances.
Having this person to pick you up on a down-day can certainly make the world of difference. They might even introduce you to their own work friends!
Being overly shy could come across as being aloof or disinterested, turning co-workers away from you. If you’re an introvert, there’s no point in pushing yourself to social exhaustion by trying to change your personality. Instead, start with small steps. Even starting the day with a ‘Hi!’ or ‘How are you?’ will show that you’re approachable.
Although we spend so much of our time with colleagues, it’s true that most workplaces are an unlikely mash-up of people who you’d never normally interact with.
Therefore, try to establish a common ground. It’s worth finding out if there are any extracurricular work activities that you could join in with. Team sports, for example, are an excellent opportunity to forge bonds. By joining an activity, you’ll have something other than work to talk about when you get back to the office.
Treat others how you’d like to be treated
If your efforts haven’t paid off so far, it’s crucial not to wallow in self-pity. Decide on what you can do to be proactive and overcome loneliness in the workplace.
A great place to start is to spread kindness. Nourish your peers with your full attention – the most valuable possession you can give. Especially in a busy workplace where it’s easy to feel neglected and undervalued. This will always be appreciated.
Also, don’t turn down every social invite. Think about how it would make you feel if someone constantly rejected you. You don’t have to go to every long lunch or social outing, but make your presence known when you do go. Aim for one in three at least, or the invites will stop rolling in.
Don’t get overwhelmed
If you’re feeling lonely at work, it could also be a reflection of some insecurities in your personal life. Try as we might, it’s impossible to completely avoid bringing emotional baggage from home-life to work. Moreover, sitting at a computer all day is counter-productive to creating a clear head space.
Some companies have safe spaces where employees can go to sit and take a time-out. If you’re lucky enough to have one of these, then definitely make use of it. However, many employers are having to make cuts to such well-being features.
If this is the case for you, then get creative. Go for a walk at lunch to get endorphins flowing and destress or find a park bench to take five minutes away from the office. It might be beneficial to leave your phone behind to focus on a mindful connection with your surroundings.
Don’t give up
Loneliness in the workplace can be scary and overwhelming, but it’s unlikely you’re the only one suffering. By reaching out to those around you, you’ll start to initiate the change that you’re craving. It’s not as complicated as you might think to encourage workplace connections.