Doctors, lawyers, scientists, and engineers are among the loneliest professionals, according to a new survey
The verdict is in: Lawyers and doctors are among America’s loneliest workers.
According to a new survey in the Harvard Business Review, they’re followed by people who work in engineering and science as the most isolating professions — which can result in lower job satisfaction, getting fewer promotions, a higher staff turnover rate, and a greater chance of quitting within the next six months. Workers who are single, childless, non-heterosexual or non-religious are also more likely to be lonely.
On the flip side, marketing, sales and social work are among the least lonely professions, the researchers from executive coaching consultancy BetterUp said, because they entail “high degrees of social interaction.”
The HBR paper didn’t specify the exact percentages of workers who feel isolated in these professions, but past research could shed light. “As many as one in four lawyers suffer from psychological distress, including anxiety, social alienation, isolation, and depression,” the American Bar Association wrote in a 2015 springtime edition of its publication “GPSolo Magazine.”
Doctors, too, are at high risk of social isolation and depressive symptoms; as many as 30% of medical students and residents reported suffering from depression in a recent survey. A 2017 study linked depression and loneliness as symbiotic.
Loneliness isn’t just a psychological issue. The former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy wrote in HBR that loneliness shares an association with health issues like increased risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression, anxiety, and a reduction in lifespan tantamount to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Plus, it hurts the bottom line — the cost of loneliness on the US workforce is $84.7 billion a year in lost productivity, the London School of Economics has found.
“Lonely people actually disaffiliate with their [work] environment,” said Sigal Barsade, co-author of a 2011 Wharton/California State University study which established that our loneliness makes our work product suffer. Lonely workers feel less connected to their organization, Barsade told Moneyish — and their coworkers are likely to distance themselves and thereby increase the cycle of isolation even more.
So how can employees overcome these feelings of loneliness at work? Moneyish asked workplace psychologists for their advice.
1. Go easy on yourself. “If people are highly self-critical and constantly saying, ‘I’ve got to get this right,’ people with anxiety push themselves so much that they wind up thinking that other people are thinking [negatively] about themselves,” said Dr. Curtis Reisinger, chief of psychiatry at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York.
Reisinger advised speaking with someone like a counselor to learn to stop this negative cycle and overcome your self-doubts.
2. Join groups. “See if there are any committees or projects that you can volunteer to be a part of,” suggested Patricia Thompson, an Atlanta, Ga.-based psychologist. “If your workplace is ever involved in community initiatives like corporate runs or nonprofit initiatives, sign yourself up. Volunteering can be good for your health.”
Thompson added that this doesn’t have to be a professional group — if you’re a good baker, consider joining a party planning organization and offering to supply baked goods for events, for example.
3. Find a workout buddy. “Bond over exercise,” Thompson recommended. She described a former client who suffered from loneliness, so she created “Wellness Wednesdays,” a time to go on long walks, connect, and talk about work and life.
Also read: 5 reasons to work out with your coworkers
4. Ask a coworker to lunch. “The onus is on you to start doing something about it,” if your colleagues see you as a loner, Thompson said. “Get lunch with a colleague,” just by shooting them an email to get a bite to eat together, or going over to their desk. If that’s too daunting for you, start small. “Start by smiling at people and saying, ‘Good morning,’ in the A.M. Take baby steps.”
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