Almost 1 in 3 Australians feel moderately lonely, according to a recent report from End Loneliness Together. The organisation’s State of the Nation Report: Social Connection in Australia 2023 looked at the relationships between loneliness and isolation, along with the impact on individuals’ wellbeing including mental health. But what is the relationship between loneliness and employee wellbeing in the workplace? 

Unmasking the Loneliness Epidemic 

Nearly 1 in 4 people worldwide feel very or fairly lonely, according to a Meta-Gallup survey of more than 140 countries. In Australia, 1 in 6 report severe loneliness.  

Loneliness is often considered a personal affliction, with data revealing loneliness is significantly associated with community stigma and concealment. This misperception prevents individuals from speaking up and seeking connection. 

The implications of loneliness are far reaching, affecting all age groups and genders. People who are moderately lonely are 5.2x more likely to have poorer wellbeing than people who are not lonely. Furthermore: 

  • Only 22% of people who are lonely met the guidelines of physical activity compared with 27% of people who are not lonely.  
  • People who are lonely are 4.6x more likely to experience depression. 
  • People experiencing loneliness are 2x more likely to suffer chronic disease. 

The State of the Nation Report highlights the importance of addressing and tackling loneliness as a community, and this includes workplaces.  

Impact of Loneliness on Workplaces 

Ending Loneliness Together estimates 37% of Australian workers feel lonely. Furthermore, in their recent State of the Nation Report, 11% of people who are lonely, reported absenteeism and 31% reported presenteeism compared to those who didn’t feel lonely. Perhaps most striking of all, is that 35% of people who are lonely report overall work impairment which directly correlates with productivity in the workplace. 

A 2021 report from Curtin University found that the cost of loneliness equates to $2.7 billion each year. This cost could be due to a range of factors, including increased healthcare spending due to the poor health effects of loneliness, increased uptake of social services and lower productivity in the workplace.  

It is clear that the impact of loneliness is systemic and must be addressed. Incorporating strategies to bring awareness and combat loneliness within the workplace is vital to foster a sense of belonging, connection and boost productivity.  

Tips to Counter Loneliness and Boost Employee Wellbeing 

Promote Regular Check-ins: Loneliness isn’t always visible and may disguise as a lack of motivation. Encouraging managers to hold regular one-on-one check-ins with their employees provides a platform to voice concerns, both professional and personal, and is crucial in identifying and supporting an employee experiencing loneliness.  

Foster Social Interactions: Organising team-building activities, both online and offline, can help employees stay connected, especially in a hybrid world. Casual coffee chats, team lunches, or an office sports team can serve as great platforms. Getting involved with awareness campaigns such as Dry July or Push For Better is also a great way to encourage connection and provides a sense of purpose.  

Wellbeing Programs: Wellbeing programs not only improve the physical and mental health of employees, but they are an effective way to boost team cohesion and connection. Better Being’s 12-week group activity High Performance Program applies the gold-standard framework for workplace wellbeing – PERMA4+ model – to build relationships, create positive behaviour change and enhance performance in the workplace. Click here to find out more. 

Ready to implement a wellbeing program with tangible benefits for everyone involved?