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Wellbeing

Workplace disconnection between colleagues causing loneliness

By Kace O'Neill | |6 minute read

Cohesion between workers is reportedly not as strong as it could be. A lack of trust between colleagues is leading to feelings of isolation, impacting wellbeing, productivity, and business outcomes.

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TELUS Health has released a report that examines the health of employees across a number of countries. The Australian aspect of the report however revealed that nearly half (45 per cent) of workers lack trusted workplace relationships, which have been leading to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Intertwining with the issue of loneliness, 40 per cent of respondents stated that their employer neglects or does not support psychological health and safety in the workplace.

With the World Health Organisation (WHO) declaring loneliness as a pressing global threat, ramped up by isolated measures that have carried over from the COVID-19 pandemic, a spotlight is being placed on workplace relations – and how instead of lessening this issue, they are perpetuating it.

According to WHO, a large body of research shows that social isolation and loneliness have a serious impact on physical and mental health, quality of life, and longevity. The effect of social isolation and loneliness on mortality is comparable to that of other well-established risk factors such as smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.

Workplaces have been lauded as a location or avenue for building connections with other people because of the daily socialising that occurs. Some of the findings from the report highlight why this disconnect could be happening:

  • Workers are not feeling valued and respected by their colleagues and workers who report that their workplace is unsupportive are more than twice as likely to report that their mental health adversely affects their productivity at work.
  • Workers under 40 are nearly twice as likely as workers over 50 to lack trusted workplace and personal relationships.
  • Despite recent changes to the regulation of employer obligations to ensure psychological health and safety in the workplace, nearly four in 10 workers indicate that their employer does not support/are unsure about support for psychological health and safety.
  • Thirty-seven per cent of workers also do not perceive or are unsure, that harassment, bullying, unhealthy conflict, and other harmful behaviours are quickly and fairly resolved in their workplace.
  • Seventeen per cent of workers rate the mental health benefits and services provided by their employer as two or one out of five

A common theme throughout some of these key findings is the lack of support from employers when it comes to the psychological issues that their employees are facing. When employees are struggling with mental health issues and they don’t have the support or services that their employer should provide, nor do they have connections with other colleagues, leading to feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Jamie MacLennan, vice president of APAC at TELUS Health, calls upon these employers to step up and create those opportunities for a workplace culture to exist: “The absence of genuine workplace connections is silently leaving employees detached and isolated which is taking a toll on their mental wellbeing and productivity.”

“Despite the regulation of employer obligations to ensure psychological safety, our findings paint a worrying picture for Australian businesses but there is a real opportunity for workplaces to focus more specifically on both reducing risk and promoting a healthy workplace culture. This will benefit both employee wellness and encourage business productivity,” concluded MacLennan.

RELATED TERMS

Employee

An employee is a person who has signed a contract with a company to provide services in exchange for pay or benefits. Employees vary from other employees like contractors in that their employer has the legal authority to set their working conditions, hours, and working practises.

Kace O'Neill

Kace O'Neill

Kace O'Neill is a Graduate Journalist for HR Leader. Kace studied Media Communications and Maori studies at the University of Otago, he has a passion for sports and storytelling.