Loneliness isn’t a big problem in America, right? If that’s what you think, unfortunately you are incorrect. Loneliness is widespread – in a recent Cigna survey, almost half of Americans surveyed reported that they sometimes or always feel alone. But loneliness is mostly an issue with seniors, right? Wrong again. Younger generations are actually lonelier than their older counterparts. Of note for employers, the survey also found that working too little or too much is associated with the experience of loneliness, suggesting that our workplaces are an important source of our social relationships and that work-life balance is important for avoiding loneliness. Given this, employers have a significant opportunity to help decrease loneliness in Americans.
So what can employers do? One area employers are focusing on is increasing employees’ sense of purpose. Individuals who feel a sense of purpose, or see their lives as having meaning and a sense of direction, have been shown to have a broad array of better health outcomes. Having a sense of purpose at work, at home, or in the community, may help individuals become more resilient and better able to bounce back from stressors in their lives. In addition to purpose, employers are considering how they can support individuals with their work-life balance – is an appropriate amount of paid time off available? Are mental and behavioral health resources in place for employees that need support? Are employees encouraged to use them? Are we connecting with our employees as people rather than as profit generators?
Loneliness won’t be reversed overnight, but employer efforts to build a sense of purpose and a healthy workplace culture, improve work-life balance, and offer mental and behavioral health resources, will make a difference and improve lives.