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Cigna Study Indicates Growing Feelings of Loneliness Among Employees

Cigna Study Indicates Growing Feelings of Loneliness Among Employees

Employee mental health has become a significant problem for organizations over the past decade, and the pandemic has amplified these concerns even further. Here’s what employers need to know about what is causing loneliness among employees, how it may affect the workplace, and how your organization can look to address it.


What Is Causing Workplace Loneliness?

Loneliness has the potential to impact any group of people in the workplace. In fact, a recent study by Cigna found that more than half of adults (58%) surveyed identified as lonely. 

Undoubtedly, It may be difficult for your organization to discern whether someone is dealing with specific mental health issues in the workplace. This is because, similar to other areas of health and well-being, there is no overarching cause of loneliness. 

According to Cigna, however, personal factors such as race, income, gender, or age can play a part in how some communities experience loneliness. Their survey found that:

  1. Those who were racially underrepresented were more likely to experience loneliness. 
  2. Those who earned lower annual income were more likely to feel lonely than high-income earners.
  3. Young adults were more likely to experience loneliness than seniors or older adults.
  4. Notably, there seemed to be no distinct difference in loneliness when comparing men and women.  

What can be concluded from this study is that a majority of adults are dealing with loneliness in some form or another, and it would be wise to take steps to proactively address the issue before it starts impacting the workplace.


What Problems Can Loneliness Cause in the Workplace?

It is well known that mental health issues can lead to problems at work. For starters, they can cause a dip in productivity, general engagement, and overall performance. All of these can end up costing organizations financially. According to another study by Cigna, loneliness and other mental health concerns within the workplace cost employers up to $154 billion just from employee absences alone. In fact, lonely employees are actually twice as likely to report feeling sick or under the weather.

In addition, lonely employees are also twice as likely to quit their job within 12 months and three times as likely to voice dissatisfaction in their current role. This can have a negative effect on other areas of your organization centered around recruitment, retention, and performance management.

What’s clear is that mental health can be costly from a financial and productivity standpoint. It’s also never great to see your employees struggling. The good news is that there are actionable steps you can take as an organization to help.


How Can Employers Address Workplace Loneliness?

Employees are the foundation of an organization and ensuring they are happy, healthy, and performing at their best should be an employer’s priority. 

Thankfully, Cigna has identified five factors that can help to counter the growing feelings of loneliness within the workplace. They are:

  1. Social companionship

  2. Work-life balance

  3. Satisfaction with communication in the workplace

  4. Resilience

  5. Personal connectivity

But how do you begin to take these factors and turn them into actionable plans?

Cigna outlines three areas employers can focus on to create real strategies to help ease loneliness concerns:

  1. Employee Engagement Opportunities

    • Employee engagement opportunities are a great way to promote inclusivity and foster communication within your organization. Ideas for employee engagement opportunities may include company-wide lunches, volunteer events, happy hours, holiday parties, and other social gatherings.

  2. Mental Health Benefits

    • Another way to help employees is to offer them benefits to support their mental health struggles. These may include options such as EAPs, access to counselors, and support groups. Employees will also appreciate that you are taking an interest in their mental health and offering them resources to get the help they need.

  3. DEI Initiatives

    • Finally, work on establishing or re-visiting your diversity equity and inclusion strategies. Good DEI policies should offer internal support to employees and should emphasize your organization's commitment to ensuring an inclusive and fair workplace for everyone. 

Mental health is a genuine concern and can cause significant complications for your employees and your organization. It is important to prepare for these concerns by creating policies that support your employees and help them to reach their full potential. Remember, investing in employees involves more than skills training. It should be a holistic approach, and when done effectively, it can yield outstanding results. 


Additional Resources

You can also stay informed, educated, and up-to-date with mental health in the workplace and other important topics by using BerniePortal’s comprehensive resources:

  • BerniePortal Blog—a one-stop-shop for HR industry news

  • HR Glossary—featuring the most common HR terms, acronyms, and compliance

  • HR Guides—essential pillars, covering an extensive list of comprehensive HR topics

  • BernieU—free online HR courses, approved for SHRM and HRCI recertification credit

  • HR Party of One—our popular YouTube series and podcast, covering emerging HR trends and enduring HR topics 

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