“Social distancing” is required to prevent infection. But loneliness can make us sick.” – Abdullah Shihipar
According to Cigna’s 2020 Loneliness Index, there is a loneliness epidemic in America, with three in five adults (61%) reporting they are lonely (a 7% increase from 2018). During the Coronavirus pandemic, researchers expect greater social isolation and social distancing will have negative effects on employees, especially ones who already feel lonely or isolated.
Consider the business impact of limited contact, social isolation and loneliness between and among employees during this time of uncertainty. While some employees may enjoy working from home, uncertainty is likely to increase stress, social media usage and overall connectivity. And research suggests that heavy social media users are more likely to feel alone, isolated, left out and without companionship. Like inclusion and belonging research, the findings suggest that those who feel isolated become less engaged, productive and report lower retention. In addition, when employees feel disconnected from others, they are:
- less likely to help or protect others.
- more likely to catch a cold, experience depression, develop heart disease and have lower cognitive functioning.
Leaders must address the risk factors of social distancing and look for ways to engage employees. Below are a few suggestions to use with your team and for yourself:
- Use Zoom, Skype or WebEx for staff calls so you can actually see each other.
- Schedule a video coffee break with a colleague.
- Invite a group of colleagues to a virtual nonfiction book discussion.
- Offer to mentor a new employee using visual media.
- Send encouraging emails to those colleagues who have extra stress during this time (small children, elderly parents living with them, etc.)
- Practice random acts of kindness that you thought you didn’t have time for in the past.
- Set a good recipe exchange among colleagues using basic pantry staples.
- Take a virtual walk with a friend to get your 10k steps or exercise.
- Create a team challenge for exercise, interval fasting, etc.
- Call someone who you haven’t seen in a while and/or who moved to a different department.
- Offer to demonstrate a “how to” session to a group of colleagues or your team.
Remember, as leaders, while experiencing our own concerns, we need to continue to find ways to engage and include those around us. Wishing you and your families connectiveness, peacefulness and good health.