Key Questions to Ask to Overcome Loneliness in the Workplace

Sep 12, 2022

Loneliness is definitely an epidemic in our society, and in the age of remote/hybrid workplaces, concerns have increased.  

It is definitely important to pay attention to since loneliness impacts our wellbeing.  Our mood shifts and our energy feels more depleted, which can lead to lower levels of creativity, productivity, disengagement and fulfillment.

I was recently talking to a business leader who also pointed out this dynamic across employees in earlier stages of their career, who have spent less time nurturing relationships.

I definitely can relate to this.  Early on my career, forming strong relationships at work, particularly with global teams that I never met in person, felt like a bit of a conundrum.  I felt intimidated and so just focused on the task of the project at hand, and building relationships through credible work.  

But once I learned how to more confidently connect with people that were dispersed across the country and globe by spending a little time getting to know them better, what motivated them, and what their experiences are, “the work” became so much easier and more enjoyable!

The fact is we don’t learn these skills in school.  I had to invest countless hours myself reading, listening to podcasts, learning from coaches and mentors and experimenting to solve it.  

It took years to shift in how I communicate and learn how to form strong authentic relationships with confidence and ease. 

That’s why I know what’s possible, and I am passionate about helping people fast track this!

Accordinging to Gallup in a research study on relationships at work, employees who have friends at work are less likely to experience feelings of loneliness and are more likely to be highly engaged, increase business performance and have improved overall well-being. 

Gallup found that remote workers can feel lonely and isolated -- but it's not typical and it is preventable.

The research shows that managers are best positioned to implement the strategies that make the biggest difference for their teams -- but first, they have to know the difference between loneliness and isolation.

“Loneliness is emotional. Isolation is structural.

Loneliness is an emotional response to lack of connection -- and people can feel just as lonely in the office as outside of it.

Isolation, on the other hand, is related to access -- or lack of it."


So if you are a manager looking to better understand the environment you are creating for your employees, I recommend taking time to understand if it is one that is fostering connection or isolation.  

Here are some key questions you can ask:

"I need to know how you're getting along. So tell me…

  • Is it too quiet at home? 
  • Do you miss having people around? 
  • Do you feel left out?
  • When do you feel most alive at work?”


According to Gallup, “if the worker’s answers indicate they are dealing with loneliness, the manager's strategy must reflect the worker's personality. If he's lonely because he's shy, trying to turn him into a social butterfly is a waste of the manager's time and the worker's patience. A better bet is creating low-stakes opportunities for meaningful connections, but the manager should take the lead -- making formal introductions to colleagues, accepting the emotional labor of pre-meeting small talk, linking him with partners for projects.

If the worker is more outgoing, his manager just needs to help him open his office door, metaphorically, to visitors. Online group chats allow teams a kind of ongoing hallway chatter. Managers can set up weekly "phone trees" for remote workers organized around a workplace topic. Managers can even send remote workers a list of local coffee shops along with a small gift card: "You need to be around people to keep your energy up. Get a cup of coffee and have a great workday."

In either case, I firmly believe that managers who ask lonely employees for their opinions can gain some valuable insight. And there is always something fruitful that can come from better understanding someone and the conditions in which they can best thrive! 

These curious conversations can even turn into innovative culture discussions and build more trust with employees which in turn, will create more open and candid conversations around the business. 


Resources Inspiring Me

Are you having challenges building business relationships virtually?  Great article by HBS on How to Build Relationships Remotely that offers four pieces of expert advice for how to overcome them including:

✔️ Taking time to build personal relationships

✔️ Opening your network for people

✔️ Testing business partnerships 

✔️ Sharing expertise with trusted partners


What resonates most with you?

What People Are Saying…

Zack Abbott, Founder & CEO of Zbiotics, shares the story of the journey he went on with the entire Zbiotics team in the Connection Hour® experience to enhance their connectivity and how it impacted how they now have a better understanding of each other on a real, authentic level that has enhanced the engagement, cohesion and retention in the organization.

Complimentary gift: To help you accelerate and strengthen your relationships click here to download a free toolkit on the 3 Simple Ways to Connect Better, including some of her favorite conversation starter questions!

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