1/3 of your employees may be at risk of loneliness

Most people work either remotely or hybrid, but what does this mean for well-being?

The media often tells us that remote work is great – it gives us flexibility, improves our health, fitness, and work-life balance. While this is true, we must remember that everyone is different and don’t share the same experiences.

The reality is that we are spending longer periods of time alone at home, our screen time is going up and we have fewer face-to-face interactions. Remote and hybrid working can get lonely! We polled our 70,000+ LinkedIn following and 1/3 said they experience loneliness when working remotely.

The science behind loneliness

Looking at the psychology of human behaviour, we are very social creatures – we have an innate need to belong. If our social needs are left unmet, we can feel unfulfilled. Our workplace is an integral part of our lives, it is where we spend most of our time, so ensuring that we feel a part of a group is crucial.

Yes, you may argue that if you are employed, you have a workplace, therefore a community to which you belong. But it is much more than that, you must be able to identify with a group or there is a mismatch between desired and actual social needs. Meaning, if we can’t relate or connect, we will feel lonely, isolated, and unfulfilled.[1]

the science behind loneliness

We are less connected

Let’s talk a bit more about the diagnosis of loneliness, specifically a lack of connection. The root cause is that remote or hybrid work has changed the way we interact.

Our interactions are becoming more transactional. There are fewer coffee breaks and less casual office chat. There is a social void caused by the lack of casual and informal conservations, which makes it more difficult to bond with colleagues.

Neuroscience research finds that only in-person interactions can trigger all the physiological responses required for optimal human communication. Meaning there is a deficiency in online interaction.[2]

A report from Buffer found that 52% of global employees feel less connected to their co-workers since they shifted to remote working.[3] Our own research found that while 64% said they are in constant contact with work colleagues, 35% still feel lonely at least occasionally. This supports the existing scientific research.

This explains why some of us still feel lonely: we lack connection. We are struggling to build and maintain meaningful relationships as we juggle between the online and offline world.

we are less connected

Warning signs of Loneliness

Okay, let’s get to the important bit, how do you identify the warning signs of loneliness in your employees. It is important to remember that we often don’t vocalise when we feel lonely, so leaders, please take the hints.[4]

Low motivation is one of the most obvious cues, as when we experience loneliness, we often feel ‘low’ and become unmotivated.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a great tool to explain this. In the model, the need to belong and love is the third basic requirement for motivation, it is a deficiency need. So, when this need is unmet, employees can become unmotivated.[5]

maslow hierarcy of needs

Another report from buffer found that 21% of those working remotely struggled with motivation. It is affecting over a fifth of the workforce so is an issue that should be addressed.

Low motivation can increase avoidance and withdrawal, which can compound the issue, impacting professional interactions and productivity.[6]

Key Warning signs

Low motivation



Sick days


3 ways to manage employee loneliness

1. Make the time

Schedule some time to chat with colleagues and have those casual conversations. It isn’t impossible to have a connection, we just need to work a bit harder to create a relationship.

You could have coffee breaks, lunch dates, or after-work drinks. Any activity that helps break down those barriers and makes everyone a little more acquainted.

You could even set up fantasy football, for example, there are fantasy leagues for football, golf, Formula 1, and more! Not a sports fan? Any interest group will do – cooking, film, book club. Anything that creates a group identity and connection.

The key is to create regular interactions that are meaningful, so think about more than just the big social events.

Also, if you are in a leadership position, it may be useful to have intentional one-to-ones. This can really make employees feel valued and appreciated, curbing loneliness head-on.

2. Take it seriously

If you don’t already, have a well-being initiative that tackles loneliness. There must be an awareness that loneliness exists and therefore should be embedded within company values.[7]

Loneliness is not solely the responsibility of the individual and should be a cause of concern at an organisational level. Therefore, having a social support system at work will be critical for employee wellbeing.

From a leadership perspective, it is crucial to look out for any behavioural changes and warning signs from employees that point to feelings of loneliness. Having a point of contact will also be helpful in creating a safe space where employees can be heard.

how to manage loneliness

3. Have a redesign

Design your workplace for higher levels of interactivity. Incorporate team meetings, catchups, and more collaborative work. Having a great office space will encourage more physical attendance.[8]

The actual office layout also plays a role. The best environment is one with a range of spaces where people can choose where and how they work. This means a mixture of collaborative and private or enclosed spaces. Whilst collaboration is key for preventing loneliness, it is also important that individuals still have privacy and control over their work environment.[9]

Varied seating options are also great, sofas, desks, phone booths, and nooks. They encourage a place for people to meet outside traditional office rooms. It can make team bonding more effective and can energise individuals. Different spaces or seating can also be used to signal when individuals are open to conversation and collaboration.[10]

Final Points

To wrap up, loneliness does exist and is prevalent within 1/3 of the workforce. Left untreated it can result in lower productivity, withdrawal, and higher turnover. Evidently, it is an issue that isn’t going away and needs to become a priority throughout your organisation.

Have those daily check-ins, create interest, make people feel valued, and build an environment where people feel included and energised. The real magic happens when we feel connected to each other. So, continue to drive meaningful work relationships and the rest will follow.

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        Reference List

        1. Wakefield, J.R.H., Sani, F., Madhok, V., Norbury, M., Dugard, P., Gabbanelli, C., Arnetoli, M., Beconcini, G., Botindari, L., Grifoni, F. and Paoli, P. (2017) . ‘The relationship between group identification and satisfaction with life in a cross-cultural community sample’, Journal of happiness studies, 18(3), pp.785-807.

        2. Knight, C., Olaru, D., Lee, J.A. & Parker, S.K. (2022) ‘The Loneliness of the Hybrid Worker’, MIT Sloan Management Review, 63 (4),, pp. 10-12.

        3. Buffer (2022) 2022 State Of Remote Work, United States. Available at: https://buffer.com/state-of-remote-work/2022

        4. Shields, A. (2022) Isolation And Conflict In The Hybrid Workplace, Forbes, 31 May. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/annashields/2022/05/31/isolation-and-conflict-in-the-hybrid-workplace/?sh=78bcef7028e4

        5. Maslow, A. (1943) A Theory of Human Motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), pp.370-396.

        6. Smith, K.E. and Pollak, S.D. (2022) ‘Approach motivation and loneliness: Individual differences and parasympathetic activity’, Psychophysiology, p.e14036.

        7. UK Government (2022) Guidance for Employers and loneliness. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/employers-and-loneliness/employers-and-loneliness

        8. Hadley, C. N. . (2021) Employees Are Lonelier Than Ever. Here’s How Employers Can Help., Harvard Business Review, 9th June. Available at: https://hbr.org/2021/06/employees-are-lonelier-than-ever-heres-how-employers-can-help

        9. Congdon, C., Flynn, D., Redman, M. (2014) Balancing “We” and “Me”: The Best Collaborative Spaces Also Support Solitude, Harvard Business Review, October. https://hbr.org/2014/10/balancing-we-and-me-the-best-collaborative-spaces-also-support-solitude

        10. Inc (2022) Great Office Design Can Improve Team Collaboration and Morale. Here Are 5 Ideas to Boost Your Space Available at: https://www.inc.com/heidi-zak/great-office-design-can-improve-team-collaboration-morale-here-are-5-ideas-to-boost-your-space.html