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Act on 3 Steps to Improve the Quality of Your Connections at Work

One of the most prevalent challenges that workplace leaders face today is happening right under our noses as business leaders try to motivate employees to come back to the office.

Loneliness has reached epidemic proportions, to the extent that the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and the national advisory committee have proposed a framework to rebuild social connections and community in America. According to Cigna’s research:

  • One of every two Americans is experiencing measurable levels of loneliness.
  • People from underrepresented racial groups and lower incomes are more likely to feel lonely.
  • Loneliness often goes hand in hand with other mental health challenges.
  • Loneliness often results in unengaged employees, lower productivity, and decreased performance.

Depression is one of the leading causes of more than two hundred million lost workdays annually. And one of reasons people are experiencing widespread depression is loneliness.

Loneliness is a deceptive condition because we tend to believe in myths, such as, “If I’m around a lot of people all the time and keeping busy, how can I be lonely?” The reality is that feeling isolated is about the quality of your connections, according to Murthy.

Murthy says, “In the last few decades, we’ve just lived through a dramatic pace of change. We move more, we change jobs more often, we are living with technology that has profoundly changed how we interact with each other…”

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Because we’ve become a “lonely nation,” we’re bringing that mindset to work, where leaders are faced with all that it entails.

If loneliness is about the quality of our connections, improving our employee interactions becomes imperative. In support of the national framework and the obvious connection between employee engagement and a shared sense of meaning, we have to:

  • start asking how we show employees that we care,
  • raise our empathy game,
  • break down what active listening looks like, and
  • reexamine our relationship with technology when it presents a barrier to real connections.

The Office of the U.S. Surgeon General recommends three vital components of social connection. The extent to which someone is socially connected depends on multiple factors, including:


This component refers to the number and variety of relationships and frequency of interactions. Examples include your household size, the size of your friendship circle, colleagues or teams at work, and marital or partnership status.


This factor is the degree to which your relationships serve various needs. Do the different friendship structures from above provide emotional support, mentorship, and support in a crisis, for example?


This component acknowledges that you may have positive and negative aspects of your relationships and interactions. You might derive satisfaction, strain, inclusion, or exclusion from your relationships.


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