Two years ago, I wrote about health services company Cigna’s Loneliness Index to try to call attention to the fact that it isn’t just senior living residents who are at risk of being lonely — it’s workers, too. Since that time, the feelings of loneliness have grown among U.S. adults, according to an update to the research.

Sixty-one percent of adults now report being lonely, a 7% increase from 2018, according to the 2020 version of the survey recently released by Cigna.

“For the business community, it is resulting in less engagement, less productivity and lower retention levels,” Cigna President and CEO David Cordani said. That’s certainly not what senior living operators want or need to hear.

For the 2020 survey, Cigna queried more than 10,400 adults (not just those working in senior living), using a 20-item questionnaire based on the UCLA Loneliness Scale.

Lonely workers, according to survey results, are twice as likely to miss a day of work due to illness and five times more likely to miss work due to stress. Additionally, 12% of lonely workers say they believe their work is of lower quality than it should be, and lonely workers think about quitting their job more than twice as often as workers who are not lonely.

Some factors associated with feeling lonely, the research found, are working less than desired, not having good relationships with colleagues, and not having a good professional-personal life balance. As bad as all of that sounds — for everyone, the research suggests some steps employers can take to help workers feel less lonely and, therefore, more productive and more likely to stay:

  • Promote a culture where workers feel comfortable being themselves and believe that they have a good professional-personal life balance and can “leave work at work.”
  • Use technology to help make meaningful connections between co-workers rather than to replace in-person interactions.
  • Encourage friendships at work. Employees who said they have colleagues they like eating lunch with were less lonely, as were people who said they had a “best friend” or good friend at work.

Read the report for additional survey results and ideas.

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