Young Workers’ Loneliness Affects Companies

Even before COVID-19 forced employees to work from home, many millennials and Gen Z hires experienced loneliness and emptiness on a professional level, according to a recent survey. Using the well-established  UCLA Loneliness Scale, health insurer Cigna surveyed more than 10,000 people and found that more than 80 percent of Gen Z and 69 percent of millennials not only considered themselves lonely but found that their values conflicted with their company’s.

The reasons for loneliness, at least, are likely a result of isolation due to communication styles, researchers conjectured. Younger workers tend to forego telephone calls in lieu of electronic messaging via text and e-mail, which limits one-on-one contact. The preponderance of telecommuting further adds to the sense of isolation, the survey’s authors speculated.

Another finding saw a connection between social media use and loneliness. Heavy social media users were more lonely than light social media users, confirming the theory that having hundreds of friends on social media does not help individuals feel more connected.

Related research has found that lonely workers take more sick days and miss more work as a result of stress. They also are less committed to their work and therefore often receive lower performance ratings. Loneliness can be nearly as contagious as the flu, making the problem one that managers need to heed, especially in light of the pandemic.

Discussion

  1. What problems can you foresee if a manager approached an employee to discuss that individual’s feelings of loneliness or mental health?
  2. What are some ways companies can help their employees avoid alienation and loneliness?
  3. What can employees do to help themselves feel less lonely and isolated on the job?

From The Wall Street Journal

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