Not Only the Lonely
Mix COVID restrictions with the winter blues and the stresses of the holiday season, and what do you get? A surefire recipe for loneliness and social isolation
COVID-19 has imposed restrictions on Canadians that many are finding tough to swallow. Of course, reduced access to activities, events, and shopping outlets can be frustrating. But even more important is the pandemic’s impact on our collective emotional and mental health.
An April 2020 Ipsos poll found that 58 percent of Canadians aged 35 to 54 felt isolated because of the pandemic. Sixty-eight percent of those aged 18 to 34 felt the same way, while only 40 percent of those 55 and older agreed. Overall, 54 percent of Canadians surveyed said they were feeling isolated in the current climate.
This reality can spur feelings of loneliness. Social isolation and loneliness, while related, differ in that social isolation is a lack of social connections while loneliness is an emotional result of social isolation.
Certain demographics are more susceptible to feelings of loneliness than others. A 2019 study from Cardus found that visible minorities, those with mobility challenges, LGBTQ2 individuals, and Indigenous people were more likely to feel socially isolated than the general population.
The study also pinpointed effective ways to forge strong social and emotional bonds. The researchers found that faith-based activities were associated with lower levels of isolation, as were technology-driven solutions like social media, texting, and video calls.
Community involvement and activism have also been tied to reduced feelings of alienation. But with the global pandemic making it difficult, if not impossible, for people to interact with others in their community and workplaces, loneliness is feared to be on the rise.
Since employees who feel part of a united front are generally happier and more satisfied, and therefore contribute to a more productive workplace, it is important that workers at every level aim to make their entire work community feel involved.
4 Ways to Quash Workplace Loneliness
Whether you lead a team or are part of one, here are tips to reduce feelings of loneliness and improve social connections throughout the workday.
1. Check in with coworkers. Pick up the phone to call a coworker instead of emailing, open a virtual meeting with a bit of small talk, or schedule a team-building exercise, whether in-person or online.
2. Encourage continuing education. Taking advantage of workplace training programs can introduce you to new skills and new people while boosting your confidence.
3. Reward and recognize kindness. Small gestures, such as acknowledging a job well done on a big project, can go a long way to reminding those around you that they are valued.
4. Engage on social media. Private groups on Facebook and other platforms can keep you and your team connected and invested in each other’s lives, even when distance is a factor.
Sources: Cardus, globalnews.ca, shrm.org