Michael Sterling

Are You Lonely at Work? (And What That Means)

Are you surrounded by co-workers and yet somehow feel alone? Loneliness isn’t a condition of being alone – it’s a mental state. If you feel lonely at work it’s likely due to a disconnect in your workplace.


Many employers worry that employees who work remotely will feel isolated. The fact is, it’s just as likely that employees in the office feel they are an island in a sea of colleagues.


Epidemic of Loneliness


The demands of our high-paced, high-stress work life are creating an epidemic of loneliness. Many people feel they have no one to turn to, connect with and truly trust. The feeling of loneliness is subjective – some people feel lonely when others in the same environment are fine. So, this epidemic is difficult to assess and combat. The work team module, that many workplaces utilize to build comaraderie and connection, is often ineffective in making individuals feel included.


Impact in the Workplace


The repercussion in the workplace is real. Recent research published by the Academy of Management explains the loneliness-performance relationship. Feeling isolated at work results in reduced job performance, employee approachability and commitment to the organization. All aspects which have a trickle down effect to the bottom-line.


Whether you’re suffering from loneliness or working with someone who is – the results impact the big picture. Feeling forlorn leads to poor quality of work, high turnover and low client satisfaction. Just one withdrawn employee can be a downer for the entire team – mood is contagious.


Signs of Disconnect


As our interpersonal relationships become more electronic and less face-to-face, sensing who feels alone can be difficult. Here’s what to look for:


  • Less approachable
  • Self-focused
  • Poor social skills/interaction
  • Anger & mood-swings
  • Reduced quality of work


Ways to Reconnect


If you feel lonely at work, or if you manage someone showing unhealthy signs, the key is to reconnect and bridge the gap.


  • Make an emotional connection
  • Build supportive and meaningful workplace relationships
  • Show respect and earn respect
  • Model compassion
  • Be grateful
  • Communicate & Listen


As a professional recruiter and career coach, I often hear from job seekers they want a voice in their firm, a sense of value and a collaborative culture. Being heard, respected and valued are core human needs – both in our personal lives and our professional lives.


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