Loneliness: How Women Leaders Can Help Their AG Team Move Forward

Relationships need to exist, fulfill an appropriate role, and be mostly positive, to keep loneliness at bay

By Beverly Beuermann-King

Issue: 40% of people are struggling with mental health, addiction amid the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions have left 54% feeling isolated. (Ipsos) The pandemic has kept people apart.

What can we do to help reduce the impact of loneliness as we go forward?

We were already forming fewer friendships than in the past. Previously, as life got busier, our social network got smaller and smaller. Then, COVID hit. Never before has the entire world been subjected to such collective feelings of fear, uncertainty, anxiety, and sorrow. And Loneliness Became Pervasive.

Children and teenagers, were suddenly cut off from their friends. Family members were often isolated from each other. Neighbours were no longer connecting at church, the grocery store, or local coffee shop. Physical distancing, working remotely, and lockdowns have impacted our relationships and our mental health, and it’s expected that the ripple out impact of this will be felt for years to come.

People Are Not Seeing The Light At The End Of The Tunnel

Experts say the lack of social interaction has taken a mental health toll on our teams, workers, and families. Many are feeling very fatigued and emotionally drained. The pandemic has made people more cynical compared to the early days of the crisis. And even with the rollout of vaccines across the country, it has done little to uplift the mood, according to an Ipsos poll. In fact, 43% of our employees are feeling pessimistic about a return to ‘normal’ life once the spread of COVID-19 is contained. The gradual reopening of society isn’t making social connection easier. Even deciding how to interact with others in our family, community and workplaces has created additional tension. We are in this dilemma where we are closer than we want to be to some people, and we are too distanced from others.

What Is Loneliness?

Loneliness is an emotion that brings about “social pain.” It’s the feeling you get when distressed or anxious due to a perceived lack of connection with others when you need it or want it. It is characterized by feeling unwanted, empty, and cut off from other human beings.

Relationships need to exist, fulfill an appropriate role, and be mostly positive, to keep loneliness at bay. Everyone feels lonely sometimes. When loneliness happens often or becomes chronic, as it did during the lockdowns, it can have a negative impact on our physical, cognitive, and emotional health.

Fewer meaningful relationships are being built. Our average number of close friends whom we can talk with about important issues (such as the coronavirus) has shrunk from three to two, with over 25 percent of respondents reporting they have no close friends whatsoever with whom to discuss what matters to them (Cigna 2019).  Research is showing that loneliness rates are increasing in the wake of the pandemic. Mayo Clinic investigators found a significant increase in loneliness and a decrease in feelings of friendship during the pandemic.

So What Can Women Leaders Do To Combat Loneliness?

Research shows that it is important to focus in on the right type of communication needed for building social bonds.

12 Ways for Women Leaders To Combat Loneliness:

  • Encourage regular check-ins and ensure that everyone is connecting as a family, team, or community.
  • Use online tools to keep in touch with each other.
  • Develop connection specific strategies for those working remotely or in isolation.
  • Host regular team meetings, and don’t make them all about work.
  • Add some time for fun and socialization. Look at ice breakers, conversations openers, or gamified challenges.
  • Eat lunch together. Exercise together.
  • Create outdoor walking chats.
  • Be vulnerable. Share some of the challenges that you have faced.
  • Reach out and provide emotional support when needed.
  • Know how to start a supportive mental health conversation.
  • Make yourself available for when your team needs someone to lend a friendly ear.
  • Promote the use of community resources, such as your telehealth services for those who may be struggling.

Loneliness is an important issue that has taken on increased urgency in the face of a pandemic. Loneliness will have profound consequences for how individuals continue to weather the COVID-19 pandemic. As our teams, friends, and family find their way forward, it is important that Women Leaders not overlook the strategies that can minimize the impact of loneliness on the mental health of those around them.

Connect with Beverly by visiting  https://worksmartlivesmart.com or emailing her at info@worksmartlivesmart.com.

Let us know your thoughts or experiences on this topic in the comments below!