We recently wrote an article on how 80% of workers in London are miserable and a recent article in the Guardian asked that, since in a single week you can spend more time with colleagues than with your own friends and family, what if you don’t fit in at work?
Isolation in the workplace is increasingly being recognised as a problem: a Relate study in 2014 found that 42% of people have no close friends at work. This week an anonymous writer confessed to feeling alone, saying: “There’s no one at the place where I spend much of my waking life to whom I can turn when I want to confide my fears, to moan about the upper echelons, to worry away about what’s happening at home.”
The article triggered myriad responses, with many expressing similar isolation, and offering advice on how to cope. Here’s a review of readers’ tips:
Make an effort – even if you find it hard.
I make social contact by talking with co-workers about my work (and their work too). Have a bit of curiosity about what others think, what they enjoy and what they find difficult. By doing this you might be able to find better ways of working, or another perspective and they too might benefit from your experience and your perspective. It can be awkward at first, but what’s a little awkwardness compared to feeling isolated? – @Bloogy Bloog
Sport is an excellent way to meet new people or get to know your colleagues better. Do you have a squash ladder, football team, badminton group etc?
How about arranging a bake off or curry night? Or if you’re a manager of a team then why not take them out as a way to say thank you for their efforts. Alternatively, if mixing with your team doesn’t appeal, then why not hook up with other managers on the premise that you’re all overworked and need to set up a humorous therapy group to let off steam? – @Daz Ler
Take it out of the office
You can make friends at work, but to become really good friends the relationship has to be taken out of the workplace and into the social domain.
This has happened to me and I have several marvellous friends of 20 years standing and more. We phone and email or see each other regularly. – @Brusselsexpats
I would find a hobby, a pastime, something that is not to do with family or work. Easier said than done, I know, but whatever activity it is, it should be about you and you alone. I didn’t have this in my working life and I regret it.It is through having a hobby or a pastime that you love that you may well find kindred spirits. Work should not be at the centre of our being. – diegojock
Don’t worry if you’re an introvert
A lot of the technocrat generation is introvert. This is the golden age of it, so that’s my first tip; do not think you are the only one. Remember that your boss and a lot of your star performers are probably introverts too, but have simply learned coping strategies.
Did you watch the two introverts contest the tennis final yesterday? Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray manage in about the most high profile setting possible. Have you seen my nation’s massive success under an introverted leader? Her name’s Angela Merkel.
Then I tend to pull not push. I work by listening and eliciting (ie asking others for things like information and guidance). Introverts often get places by responding and adapting. This is not a sign of weakness. It is OK. – @oommph
Make sure your work cares about wellbeing
Part of the issue is organisations where colleagues socialising is not openly encouraged. In some offices people sit in silence working, or sometimes talking on the phone, but don’t actually communicate with each other. This is usually down to autocratic management, or strict, unnecessary rules on talking in the workplace.
I work in an organisation where there are staff-led socials, groups to join and things to do at lunch, in an almost collegiate atmosphere. The organisation also grants small stipends to societies so they can put on events and so forth. This helps improve workplace morale, makes staff feel valued and in turn, I believe, makes the workforce more productive. We spend so much time at work, we should all feel like we want to be there (as much as that’s possible), and the more companies can do to make their staff feel valued and included, the better. – gbrading
I work in a team of eight and we have a habit of eating lunch together every day at the same time for practical reasons, and I go on a short walk with a colleague after lunch when we indulge in talking about our favourite topics such as video games or movies etc. Those moments make my working day and make working at my company a rather relaxed affair. A bonus is that our supervisor, though a little older, is a good guy and I don’t hesitate to talk about private affairs with him. I even talked to him about possibly wanting to apply for other jobs/other companies to broaden my horizons and he was very supportive of that. For now though, I am not really compelled to leave. A good work environment is a thing to treasure, after all. – @Lentille
So,if you are feeling isolated/alone at work, you are not alone and some the above suggestions might help.