The Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation in the Workplace

The Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation in the Workplace

Earlier this month, United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released a new Surgeon General Advisory titled “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation.” This advisory details the astronomical impact loneliness has on the United States, and as a result, we have a public health crisis that needs our immediate attention. The advisory is backed by decades of research from the scientific disciplines of sociology, psychology, neuroscience, political science, economics, public health, and more. As we are heading towards the end of Mental Health Awareness Month, we thought it would be a great idea to share tips on addressing the Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation in the workplace, but first, here is more information you should know. 

More About the Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation

Every day, more Americans are facing the impact of loneliness and social isolation. Although loneliness and social isolation are related, they are not the same. According to the advisory report, “Social isolation is objectively having few social relationships, social roles, group memberships, and infrequent social interaction. On the other hand, loneliness is a subjective internal state. It’s the distressing experience that results from perceived isolation or unmet need between an individual’s preferred and actual experience.” Both loneliness and isolation have a significant risk to our health and longevity. They increase our risk for premature death, social isolation by 29%, and loneliness by 26%. Furthermore, the health effects of the lack of social connection can increase the risk of premature death as much as smoking 15 cigarettes daily. There is also a correlation between the lack of social connection and the increase in anxiety, depression, dementia, susceptibility to viruses and respiratory illness, and an increased risk of diseases such as heart disease (29%) and stroke (32%).

How We Can Address the Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation

Loneliness and social isolation are typically seen as an individual problem, but it is not. We are in this together. What affects an individual can affect many. The impact social isolation and loneliness can have on a person’s mental health and well-being can negatively affect their relationships with family, friends, coworkers, etc. It also has a negative effect on how they function within society, school, and career. 


As employers, leaders, managers, etc., we have a platform and voice to help those suffering. Here are a few things leaders can do within the workplace to address our epidemic of loneliness and isolation. 

The Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation in the Workplace

1. Talk About It

Discussions about loneliness and isolation are not typical workplace subjects. As leaders, sometimes we have to be the first to bring up uncomfortable topics. Consider having a health professional come in and talk about the impacts loneliness and isolation have on our health while also offering solutions.

2. Safe Space

Before you talk about a sensitive topic, be sure you have created a safe space for the subject at hand to be discussed. It is only possible to talk about or bring in a health professional to discuss isolation and loneliness if the work environment is conducive to having such discussions. 

3. Workplace Environment

The workplace environment itself can be used as a tool to support healthy social gatherings. Here are a few questions to ask yourself and your employees:


  1. Do my employees engage with one another?
  2. Do they have fun engaging with one another?
  3. Are my employees fulfilled and happy with their work environment, positions, and people?
  4. Am I supporting my employees to the fullest capacity?
  5. Do I seek other ways to help them?
  6. Do my employees feel valued and appreciated?
  7. Do they feel and know that I care about their well-being outside of work?

4. Create Pro Social Connection Policies

Create policies that promote social gatherings for families and individuals. The advisory notes policies such as “paid leave, which enables individuals to spend time with family during critical early life stages, and increased access to public transit, which allows individuals to physically connect more easily” are great ways to promote pro-connection. You can also support employees by giving them health benefits that allow access to a therapist or counseling.

5. Promote Social Gatherings

Create a board in the break room where you can pin local or nearby social gatherings and events for employees to attend together or with family and friends.

More Help?

Loneliness and social isolation are epidemics plaguing our country, but together we can address this issue by creating more opportunities to live life together. Be sure to return next week as we share more resources to help those facing this issue. 


Please reach out if you need help creating policies and procedures regarding loneliness and isolation. We are here for you. 

The Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation in the Workplace

The Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation in the Workplace

The Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation in the Workplace

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