Dealing with isolation and loneliness at work

Six ways you can reduce the impact of loneliness and isolation at work.

A single person stting alone at work

Executives, and female Executives in particular, are more prone to loneliness at work.

Loneliness and isolation are personal. While someone else can measure how isolated you are, only you tell how lonely that makes you feel. 

Some people can feel lonely in a crowded room, while others are happy to live on a deserted island. 

Loneliness is the difference between how many social interactions you have and how many you want. 

In other words, it’s subjective

Loneliness is a natural human condition that most of us experience from time to time – we are biologically wired to seek social interaction and loneliness is an indicator that we need to increase our social contact. 

But too much loneliness can lead to anxiety, depression, sleep problems, lower self-confidence and increased stress. In the work context, it can lead to health problems, absenteeism, lower productivity, lower motivation and less resilience.

And for Executives who carry the weight of leadership, who worry about internal politics, who are required to maintain high levels of confidentiality, or those who have recently been promoted with all the changes that brings, loneliness can be a significant factor in their physical and mental health. 

For female Executives, who often don’t have a peer group of colleagues with a similar background or understanding of their unique challenges, loneliness can place an even greater burden. 

As an executive coach, I frequently deal with clients who are deeply lonely. 

For a range of reasons, they feel they have no one to turn to for support who is both independent and has some understanding of their situation.

There are some important ways that Executives can reduce their feelings of loneliness.

1.    Recognise that loneliness is natural and normal, especially following promotion or taking on a new role. 
-    Owning your feelings of loneliness is the first steps towards finding a way forward. 

2.    Create new support groups of trusted peers that understand your situation.
-    While this can take time and requires the building of trust from all parties, this is the best long-term solution to over-coming loneliness.

3.    Take care of yourself.
-    Eating well, exercise, and getting appropriate sleep will help build your resilience and bring perspective to your current feelings.   

4.    Seek a mentor or coach.
-    Having someone that you can share your feelings with and work through potential solutions can be a quick win, especially someone who is used to being in a leadership role and understands the pressures you face.

5.    Take advantage of causal social interactions.
-    Connectedness not only comes from peers, colleagues and friends. Even brief social interactions with strangers e.g. saying hello, can lead to reduced loneliness. 

6.    Become an authentic leader.  
-    Reducing the burden of leadership can reduce the stresses of loneliness. Learn to delegate to and trust your sub-ordinates, to share your own personal feelings and, if you’re feeling brave, some of your fears. Not only will you often find that your team will step up for you, but that your interactions will become deeper and more ‘real’. 

Loneliness is often the curse of leadership. But with awareness, good self-care practices and surrounding yourself with the right people, that feeling of loneliness can be lightened. 

Are you feeling lonely at work? Contact me to see if we can create a real connection. 

Guy Ellis home page

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