The good news is they are avoidable and even reversible. And the benefits can have a cascading effect.
It’s in everyone’s power and interest to replace negative habits with positive interactions to improve not just our own well-being but the social fitness of our organisations and communities.
*The organisational cost of loneliness at work ..
So the question becomes: Are there ways to mitigate loneliness? Can we not only stanch the health declines but actually improve health by making people less lonely? The answer seems to be yes.
What psychologists call prosocial behavior is our best way to combat loneliness and isolation and their effects. A study of terminal cancer patients showed that patients who regularly interacted with other patients lived twice as long as those who didn’t.
Researchers in China found that leaders who show compassion to their employees (through “leader-member exchange”) can mitigate the negative effects of loneliness and thereby boost creativity.
What researchers call everyday prosociality — basically, being nice to and interacting with others — proved to be a powerful antidote to isolation in a study of workers at Coca-Cola’s Madrid headquarters.
Researchers divided subjects into “givers,” “receivers,” and “controls.” Givers were coached to perform five acts of kindness a day to designated receivers. The resulting prosocial acts benefited both groups in the short term (after weeks) and in the long term (after months).
Givers reported feeling less depression and more satisfaction with their lives and jobs. Receivers were happier. And ..
.. crucially, compared with controls, receivers were 278% as likely to engage in prosocial behaviours themselves.
Loneliness may be contagious, but so, it seems, are prosocial acts.
Our role: How we help mitigate loneliness in the workplace
Seated Massage exist as a social impact business whose mission is in no small part to actively promote prosocial behaviours in workplaces and beyond. We do this simply through the application of positive touch (corporate massage).
The resulting impact: oxytocin and other ‘feel good’ neuropeptides are released as a result of both the physical intervention (the massage) and the psychological impact (the company / employer expressing their care via the massage provision).
The key here is relationship. The massage is received whilst in relationship with the practitioner. An individual must trust their practitioner for their massage to be of any benefit. They often use their massage to unburden, to download. Their practitioner becomes a safe and trusted sounding board. No relationship is of any benefit without trust.
And the individual correlates receiving massage at work with the belief their employer really does care about them. “They are not only thinking about me, they are actively showing it and in a positive way!” The relationship is naturally strengthened.
Individual recipients are then more able to positively engage with the world around them (in this case, their workplace / colleagues / clients) being of greater benefit to all.
These relationships are not at all forced. Individuals are never required or expected to join or be part of something they don’t wish to. That never works.
The simple point is, if through a relationship where there is no vested interest, we’re given the option to feel good, to feel better about ourselves, we’ll be more likely to do good for and with others as a result.
We’re yet to meet an employer who can’t relate to this and who doesn’t want it for their workplace.
We were excited to read and highly recommend, the recent essays in the Harvard Business Review in September and October 2017 on Connecting at Work.
* Excerpt reprinted from “What do we know about loneliness and work” – by Scott Berinato, Sept. 28 2017 – The Harvard Review.