Loneliness, disconnect, and isolation are all in a day’s work for employees in the UK, according to new research from Reward Gateway. In fact, over two thirds of employees do not feel a sense of connection and belonging at work and almost a quarter (24%) say they often find work a lonely experience.
The research, based on a survey of 1,000 employees, found that Gen Z workers - those aged between 18 and 24 - are the most likely age group to feel this way (32%). That’s over three times more than people aged 55+ (9%), despite four in five (81%) Gen Z workers having a social network at work – the most of any age group.
As more companies push for the return to office, employers should watch out: the survey also found that full time office workers are lonelier (26%) than home, hybrid and desk-less workers (25.6%, 21%, 24.6% respectively). The results suggest that the occasional ‘watercooler’ chat is no longer enough to keep staff enthused and empowered in the office.
Feeling lonely affects how well we can do our jobs; those who report as lonely are half as likely as their peers to go ‘above and beyond’ for their organisation (16% compared to 30%). Loneliness also means more leaves of absence, with lonely people twice as likely to have taken 10 or more unplanned days off due to poor mental health.
The current cost of living crisis could well be behind the disconnect of workers today. Those who say their financial well-being needs a lot of work are over twice as likely to feel lonely than those who say it’s excellent (48% compared to 20%). Their levels of stress and self-doubt are also doubled, proving the opportunity employers have to improve lives through everyday financial well-being support.
Recognition for work is a powerful solution to the problem of employees feeling disconnected. Over half of workers surveyed (54%) said this would help them feel more connected – the highest rated of all suggestions. That recognition must be high quality, however; when reward and recognition are good or excellent, employees are eight times more likely to be happy at work, compared to poor reward and recognition programmes. And when employees are recognised and rewarded well, reports of frequent loneliness, self-doubt, or burnout are slashed in half.
"The cost of living crisis is escalating the loneliness epidemic in the UK,” said Nebel Crowhurst, Chief People Officer at Reward Gateway. “Now, more than ever, workplaces can help people reset the balance – empowering connection both at work and in our personal lives. We should all expect employers to support us through recognising our hard work, and providing high quality rewards that make meaningful experiences and connections more possible."