Fighting Loneliness in the Workplace with Real Relationships
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Fighting Loneliness in the Workplace with Real Relationships

Fighting Workplace Loneliness with Real Connections | Benefits and Pensions Monitor

Hinge combats workplace loneliness by fostering real connection in team meetings, tackling a growing problem

Fighting Loneliness in the Workplace with Real Relationships

Twice a month, the executives at dating app company Hinge meet for a team meeting. Instead of discussing metrics and revenue, they start by talking about personal stuff.

According to The Canadian Press, during the first 30 minutes of the two-hour meeting, co-workers share their hopes and fears, discuss what worries them, what they are grateful for and how they feel.

Even at a company focused on connecting people, building real connections at work takes effort, Hinge CEO Justin McLeod said at South by Southwest earlier this year. He co-presented with Ann Shoket, whose initiative to combat workplace loneliness is called “10 Minutes to Togetherness.”

Amid what U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has called an “epidemic of loneliness,” employers and employees are beginning to confront the lack of true friendships at work.

The problem of loneliness has been growing for decades; Robert Putnam documented it in his book “Bowling Alone” almost a quarter-century ago.

Remote work has exacerbated the problem for both extroverts and introverts, says leadership expert Michael Bungay Stanier, author of “How to Work with (Almost) Anyone.”

“People have a desire to be seen and heard,” Bungay Stanier says, but on video calls, the group gets straight to the point, reducing people to “little heads in squares.” It’s hard to talk about this lack of camaraderie at work because it seems like a shameful admission, he says, but his clients are starting to talk about it.

It’s worth having these conversations, says psychology professor Laurie Santos, creator of “The Science of Well-Being” at Yale University.

In her keynote address at the South by Southwest conference, Santos cited research showing that workplace friendships and a sense of belonging are critical to employee happiness and company success.

We assume that friendships at work are “nice to have, not necessary,” she said. But the lack of connection in the workplace may be part of what makes “quietly quitting” seem appealing, because we’re not investing in what’s most important to happiness at work—our connections with others.

Some companies began paying attention to employee health even before the pandemic, often addressing the physical aspect by opening a gym or serving healthier food.

Today, more and more employers are taking care of the overall well-being of their employees, says Suzanne Heidelberger, who has managed real estate for global companies such as American Express and Fidelity Investments.

For example, employers can:

What employees can do

Employees are also looking for answers on their own, says executive coach Daniel Boscaljon, founder of Healthy Relationship Academy. Despite their desire for connection, many people lack strong interpersonal skills.

One key is working on your well-being, she says. “You can’t have a work personality and a home personality,” she says. “Who you are as a whole comes out in every place you go.”

Another strategy is to communicate with coworkers about how to best work together before a project begins, says Bungay Stanier. Discussing small habits and preferences in advance helps avoid small cracks in the fabric of the relationship that can prevent a friendship from forming.

Remember the importance of daily greetings at work, says Bungay Stanier. A simple “hello” could be the beginning of the end of loneliness.