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Here are ten common signs of loneliness to be aware of:

A noticeable decrease in social interactions, such as avoiding gatherings, events, or even simple conversations with friends and family.

Lingering feelings of sadness or emptiness that persist over time, often without any specific cause or trigger.

A waning interest in activities or hobbies that were previously enjoyable, along with a general loss of enthusiasm for life.

A persistent feeling of exhaustion and low energy levels, often resulting from the emotional toll of loneliness.

Insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns can be a sign of loneliness, as feelings of isolation and distress can disrupt regular sleep cycles.

Heightened sensitivity and irritability, with small issues or interactions leading to heightened emotional responses.

The onset of physical symptoms like headaches, body aches, or gastrointestinal problems, which can be a manifestation of the stress and emotional burden of loneliness.

Overindulgence in social media, often as a way to seek validation or connection, but which can ultimately exacerbate feelings of isolation and inadequacy.

Difficulty concentrating on tasks or a decline in cognitive abilities, which can be linked to the emotional distress caused by loneliness.

Engaging in self-critical or negative internal dialogue, often undermining one’s self-worth and perpetuating feelings of isolation and despair.

However, people are often unaware particular work roles, environments, responsibilities and work-related relocation are often what causes loneliness.

These work conditions may cause social isolation, distort interpersonal relationships, and prevent employees from developing or maintaining social connections – all of which are a catalyst for loneliness.

The expression ‘it is lonely at the top’ suggests senior managers or chief executives are especially likely to suffer from loneliness.

Their position and associated power make authentic workplace relationships rare because they are socially and psychologically distanced from most people in their organisation.

As leaders, they are held responsible for making significant decisions. Having nobody to share the risks and responsibilities with is an implicit social deficiency that increases workplace loneliness.

Similarly, loneliness is also a classic occupational hazard for business entrepreneurs who are prepared to take risks in pursuit of goals developing their own businesses.

It appears that the loneliness experienced by entrepreneurs has not changed over 40 years. Entrepreneurs’ responsibilities for running and developing their businesses substantially reduce the time they can share with families and friends.

Entrepreneurs may also have to withhold negative information about the business and pose a strong and positive image to others in order to retain resources and support for their companies. The nature of this line of work turns them into “lone wolves”.

Loneliness is also found among employees relocated overseas by their multinational corporations. It is common among expatriates separated from their social networks, to find it difficult to develop new connections because of cultural differences, language barriers or insufficient social resources.

Remote work accelerated by the COVID pandemic has given people the flexibility to work from home but it has also worsened social isolation as a result of fewer opportunities for informal chats and face-to-face bonding with colleagues and managers.

Although most companies are keen to see workers return to offices, the continuation of hybrid forms of working creates challenges in addressing work-related loneliness as many people continue to work partly from home.

Similarly, digital technology has created another modern work phenomenon, gig work. While gig workers may enjoy flexible schedules, the nature of their work provides few opportunities to develop deep relationships with colleagues.

Given the pervasiveness of workplace loneliness and the challenges it poses, it is surprising that there is little public awareness of how to deal with it.

To stimulate more interest in this topic and to help ease this modern pandemic, our research, soon to be released, proposes resource-based solutions to combat loneliness. We also identify strategies for both individuals and organisations to deal with loneliness:

Understand your desired level of social goals

Loneliness arises when desired social relations are not satisfied by actual relations. People need to be clear about their social needs at work.

Some may be happy with a few strong relationships, some may prefer broad but weak social connections. Understanding personal social goals helps employees notice when they might need to develop appropriate strategies to battle loneliness.

Evaluate personal resources that make developing social connections difficult

Employees need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of personal factors and change them if they are preventing social connections.

For instance, is the lack of contact caused by our personality, lack of social skills, or low social motivation? As individuals, we cultivate our social connections, so we are the key to shaping them.

Do not waste daily resources

Time, energy and mood are also resources, but they fluctuate daily. They can also be used to achieve social goals. We all have regular feelings of being time-poor, tired, not wanting to talk to people or to be social.

This causes daily opportunities to develop connections to be wasted. Desired social relations are developed gradually, and we need work on this regularly to achieve our desired level of connection.

Audit work practices and identify what causes social isolation

Organisations need to acknowledge that work practices can cause loneliness for employees and find creative solutions.

For example, they could reduce work intensity and give employees time to socialise; they could help expatriates maintain old social bonds and develop new connections in their new work location.

Remove social barriers for employees by cultivating an inclusive work environment

An inclusive environment is especially beneficial for demographically diverse employees. Organisations have the power to promote and normalise inclusion, shape employees’ social behaviours and help minority groups to develop desired social ties in the workplace.

Provide opportunities for employees to have occasional and repeated face-to-face interactions

Organisations can offer a variety of socialising opportunities. These might include mentoring and support programs, social events, holiday celebrations, coffee breaks and team-building activities.

Of course, employees must be proactive and take charge of overcoming their loneliness. They can begin this by developing or expanding their repertoire of personal resources and by taking up opportunities offered by their employer.

These investments in alleviating workplace loneliness will result in employees having a stronger sense of belonging to organisations and being more productive.

There are a lot of factors that make young people feel alone. Leaving home either for school, work or as a result of japa (travelling abroad), having a cyclical life that includes work or school can be quite hectic as well as excessive social media use where we are following the lives of others whose lives most times appears better than ours.

Other reasons like, money issues and the responsibility of taking care of your bills as well as planning for the future can weigh heavily on the mental health of young adults. There is also the pressure to get married or the pressures of marriage.

Hearing the voice of people who care about you can make you feel better. There is no other generation that boasts about having phone anxiety more than Gen Zs and millennials meanwhile, calls are preferable to texts because you can hear their voice, and you are not distracted by other things.

A pet can offer a lot of emotional support, they provide you with love and you spend time taking care of them. Houseplants are also very soothing, you spend time watering them and you feel relaxed if you have a lot of houseplants around you.

Making friends as an adult is not easy, but the best way to go about it is by having people around you with whom you share mutual interests. They could be your neighbours, colleagues, or people you meet at church, mosque or the gym. You make new friends by giving a compliment and asking about their interests.

Have you ever felt lonely even though people were around you? Loneliness is a natural human condition. Embrace the feeling once it happens and know it won’t last.

One thing we all need is a community, and this is something our parents had. You need a group of people with whom you meet regularly and with whom you can share your thoughts and feelings and have fun. The best place to have that is church, mosque, gyms and any other type of social club or gathering.

Sports are usually group activities and not only would you meet new people if you go to a sports centre, but it also improves your mental health.

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