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Loneliness and Isolation: Fighting New Forms of Employee Burnout

Employee burnout is real. According to a Gallup poll, a staggering 76% of employees experience some form of burnout in their careers. In a survey conducted here at TalentCulture, only 5% said they had not experienced any feelings of burnout since the pandemic began.

So, what’s causing this? The usual suspects like heavy workloads are, unreasonable deadlines exist, of course. The absence of direction and feedback from supervisors and lack of upward mobility remain near the top of the list.  But two other reasons for employee burnout surfaced during the pandemic: Isolation and loneliness. And here’s the thing: Feelings of loneliness and isolation can affect one’s health in the same way that smoking 15 cigarettes a day can. In a separate study, researcher Juliane Holt-Lundstad found that loneliness is worse for you than obesity.

It doesn’t get any more real than that. Let’s discuss…

Our Guest: Amy Durham, Certified Executive Coach and Corporate Mystic

This week, Amy Durham joined me on the #WorkTrends podcast. Amy is a U.C. Berkeley Certified Executive Coach, an Emotional Intelligence Practitioner, and is the author of Create Magic at Work. Amy has been studying the impact of loneliness and isolation in the pandemic workplace, and she’s here to understand how leadership and employees can work together towards a plan to overcome the overwhelming effects these factors have on the body and mind. When I asked Amy what is causing burnout today, she got right to the root cause and the solution:

“Harvard Business Review came out with an article about ‘America’s loneliest workers.’ What they found was that the lack of workplace social support had negative business outcomes. And what’s cool is that if you bring people together, even on Zoom, it increases job satisfaction and reduces burnout.”

“Bringing people together providing social support is so important. And it’s a win-win because it improves profitability and productivity, keeps retention high and helps employees stay engaged.”

Combating Employee Burnout Through Connections

I asked Amy what leaders can do to help eliminate the feelings of loneliness and isolation as they worked from home — or anywhere else — where social support wasn’t readily available or apparent. 

“I encourage every leader to take responsibility — to have the courage to facilitate a connecting activity. For example, ask a meaningful question to kick off a meeting like ‘When was the last time something gave you goosebumps?’ and then listen, really listen, to the answer.”

“People never forget that because you actually connect with someone,” Amy added as she stressed how important that social connection is to preventing, or defeating, loneliness and isolation.

Yes, employee burnout is real. And as we identify new forms and new causes, we must pay attention. As Amy says, we must have the courage to take responsibility. And we, as business leaders and HR professionals, must act. 

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends and I hope it inspires you to make meaningful connections and provide the social support that helps combat this new form of employee burnout. I also hope you’ll learn more about this issue by connecting with our guest, Amy Durham, on LinkedIn and Twitter.