You don’t have to be a remote worker to feel lonely on the job


Loneliness and isolation are occupational hazards for remote workers, as any remote worker (including myself) can tell you.

But loneliness and isolation also can impact enterprise employees who work in the office. That’s because we now rely so much on digital tools — such as emails, text messages, collaboration software, etc. — that we can spend all day communicating with other people right down the hall or in a nearby cubicle but never actually see them.

A global survey of more than 2,000 enterprise managers and employees shows that loneliness in the workplace is endemic and can impact personal productivity and the desire of workers to remain with their current employers.

Conducted by Future Workplace partner Dan Schawbel for his book, Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation, the survey reveals that more than half of respondents report feeling lonely very often or always because of a lack of in-person communication in the workplace.

For those less-than-empathetic enterprise leaders who might be inclined to advise those lonely workers to suck it up and get over it, this discontent can affect the organization’s bottom line. Not only can loneliness and unhappiness on the job hurt productivity, it can trigger employee departures, which can be disruptive and costly. Sixty percent of survey respondents indicated they “would be more inclined to stay if they had more friends at work,” writes Forbes contributor Caroline Ceniza-Levine.

For those enterprise leaders and human resources pros who do recognize the cost of tech-induced loneliness (and for those employees who want to take some initiative to make their workplaces less isolating), Ceniza-Levine offers five specific recommendations:

  1. Make an effort to communicate more in person. Got an idea for that new project? Wondering when the next team meeting will be scheduled? Feel like going out to lunch? Don’t text or email that information or those questions; get up and walk over to a fellow human and say those words! It’s easy (even if you’re out of practice).
  2. Show some interest in your colleagues as humans. Yes, it’s a job, but your co-workers are fellow humans with similar concerns and interests as you. Ask about their families, hobbies, backgrounds … all the things you’d want to know about friends and acquaintances outside of work. This is how you create bonds.
  3. Gather the tribe. One-on-one interactions are great, but so are group interactions. Make an effort to organize lunches or even just off-site meetings with an entire team or group of employees.
  4. Look for existing opportunities to interact. Some organizations sponsor activities such as volunteer projects for their workers. Others may simply have a softball or bowling team. Find out what’s available.
  5. If none of these opportunities exist, both enterprise leaders and employees could take steps to create some.

If all of the above sounds like a hassle, weigh the relatively minor effort involved against the real and potential cost of your personal loneliness and isolation, as well as that of your colleagues and employees. Remember, engaged and connected employees (no, not digitally connected!) are more productive and valuable to an organization than sad, lonely workers who don’t feel a part of anything.


  1. This really rings true, Chris. Great article.

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