We’re all subject to feeling a little lonely or anxious at work now and then. It’s especially hard to deal with when you’re surrounded by other people who all seem to be perfectly content. Feeling separate from others or otherwise not included in a group can begin to take a toll after a while and easily trigger other emotions.

This is part of our ingrained human nature. It’s in our DNA to want to feel a part of the group, for thousands of years this feeling ensured the survival of our ancestors. Loneliness is, in part, the feeling we have when faced with an exclusion, a hanger-on from when being alone would have meant death.

Loneliness and anxiety at Work

The UK lost 17 million working days to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in the year 2021 to 2022 and as much as 20% of the UK's workforce report they feel lonely when working.

The feeling can be pervasive. In the metaphorical painting of the workweek, it can easily colour everything grey and eat away at your enthusiasm. As enthusiasm wanes, so do energy levels and general productivity, creating a cycle of hopelessness that feels as if it’s only going to worsen.

These feelings can sometimes be exacerbated by being around others who have obviously made lasting connections with their colleagues. Seeing those around you interact positively with one another only serves to underline what you perceive yourself to be lacking. Before long, time spent thinking about your perceived exclusion numbs you to the reality of the situation.

It’s not hopeless. The world is larger than the discussion around the water cooler, and your inclusion in it might not even be the panacea you’re looking for. It’s possible to bolster yourself from within, instead of depending on outside interaction.

Understanding Yourself

A great deal of the trials and tribulations can be worked on from the privacy of your own mind. Boredom, depression and loneliness can all be attributed in part to being stuck in an unfulfilling routine. 

As humans, we’re creatures of habit. Habit can be helpful and goes some way to shape our personalities, but it’s not the same as being stuck in a rut, day in, day out. Waking up to another day that promises to be a copy of yesterday is hardly enthusing.

An incredibly powerful and simple tactic to strip away the grey filter of work routine is appreciation and wonder. Allow yourself to stop and appreciate. Feel the shift in perspective as you notice something you usually ignore.

Going through the motions of habit, especially in a work setting, is helpful to complete your daily tasks. This means ignoring a great deal of stimulus and information that isn’t necessary to follow your ingrained steps. Learning to appreciate your position in life and the fact you’re here at all affords access to a deep pool of contentment. 

Once mastered you’ll find work loneliness to be no match for this strategy.

Rule of Opposites

There’s a curious fundamental law behind everything that can be a struggle to pin down. You get what you give. You lose what you take. Everything has an opposite and tends to react in line with this seemingly strange quirk of reality.

To feel affection for someone you have to give affection. The same is true for love and friendship. Feeling ostracised at work, even if outwardly you act as if everything is normal, will ensure the feeling continues.

If you’re looking for friendship at work, give it with no expectation of anything in return. Remember everyone around you is equally as fallible as you are. Treat them with the kindness you wish to be treated with yourself and see what happens. You might be surprised!

Kindness at Work

We’re very fortunate to have an unending supply of kindness. The trick is realising this and tapping into it. It costs us nothing to offer a kind word or a smile to our fellow humans and even such a small act of humanity as that can turn someone’s day around. This is key to fostering good relationships.

Loneliness stands no chance in the face of this power. Instead of wishing to be a part of the group, pay attention to your interactions with people. Imagine yourself as the centre of your group, and tend to it like a garden. Planting seeds can be as simple as saying hello, or making someone a cup of tea.

If you’re working remotely or working from home this advice isn’t much good. Or is it? There’s positivity available everywhere once you enable yourself to be receptive to it. You are not alone. There are others in your place of work who feel just the same as you do.

Even if you work alone, you’re not barred from tending the garden of your positivity. Your energy can either be spent in reinforcing your loneliness, or opening your heart and letting people in. Expect nothing in return.

Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental Health Awareness Week 2023 this year runs between the 15th and 21st, this year's theme is anxiety.

We each have a lot of work to do on ourselves, and we all have different issues to deal with. Anxiety at work is only one of the common problems that can feel insurmountable. For the most part, despite the endemic nature of these problems, we’re never taught how to deal with them.

Thankfully, mental health is undergoing a revolution of sorts after losing a great deal of the stigma historically associated with it. The Randstad Belonging Book states that only 30% of people feel comfortable opening up about their personal mental health. This is changing.

This number is sure to continue to rise as the importance of mental health steps into the limelight. After all, we’re all in this together. We all understand what it’s like to feel low, and the myriad of reasons why that might be.

We're In This Together

Even if you're not experiencing loneliness at work at the moment, if you've noticed someone who seems down you might be able to turn their day around simply by saying hello. The trick is to treat everyone as we'd like to be treated ourselves.

Easy to remember, isn't it? 

For more advice on managing your mental wellbeing, visit our mental wellbeing at work hub page: