Loneliness at Work, School, & Home

Last week, I attended a talk by the former US Surgeon General, Dr Vivek Murthy, on “How Loneliness Is Bad For Business.” Dr Murthy made a health comparison of those intensely struggling with loneliness to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. While practicing medicine he said the most common illness he felt he saw, from those hospitalized, was loneliness. He also mentioned a study of students on 51 college campuses, which included nearly 30k surveyed, and more than 60% reported feeling profoundly alone. Another survey from several years ago reports half of CEO’s experienced loneliness that interferes with their performance.

As I was listening it struck me how the feelings of being alone and having minimal social connection, in the workplace, were similar to the descriptions that couples and families share about their feelings of disconnection at home. The inability to openly share one’s life experiences with others can be depressing, and provoking anxiety and anger. It can also create a silencing, followed by shame, and brings about issues with self-doubt, loss of voice, hopelessness, rejection, and brokenness.

Another similarity is that families and organizations have an opportunity to bring people together, share philosophies, culture, accept uncertainty, hold different perspectives, and get to know one another in a deeper way. Yet, although families tend to do a better job at it, many fail to do so – and even more so with organizations/companies – and this is when things fall apart.

For those who are in a position to reassess and make changes regarding the stability of a family, or work group, these questions may help with addressing loneliness and need for deeper connections:

-       Am I present and listening?
-       Often trying to fix or have all the answers?
-       Is there a greater need for transparency and openness?
-       Is hierarchy and power becoming a barrier to connection & inclusion?
-       Allowing for input and feedback?
-       Able to sense problems and opportunities?
-       Acknowledging mistakes and insufficiencies?
-       Balance with decision making and providing guidance?
-       Tolerating different perspectives?
-       Facing the truth or hiding/ignoring?

“You can do what I cannot do. I can do what you cannot do. Together we can do great things.” 
                                                                                                                   Saint Teresa of Calcutta