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The Loneliest Jobs in the U.S.

Frustrated office worker
Image Credit: Pexels / bruce mars

The way we work is changing. These days, more and more workers are finding themselves in professional situations that leave them feeling isolated or even lonely. This can have a major impact on overall happiness and general well-being.

Earlier this year, the Harvard Business Review released the results of a survey they conducted about the loneliest jobs in America. They surveyed 1,624 full-time employees, all of whom were participants in a larger longitudinal study of more than 4,000 American workers, to find out which professionals are the most at risk for feeling lonely and experiencing a lack of social support. They also used the data to provide insights about combating workplace loneliness. Here are a few of the key findings from the report:

1. Some jobs are lonelier than others

Researchers asked participants to provide details about the degree of loneliness they feel on the job. Participants also offered details around the kinds of social support they receive on a daily basis, both at home and at work. The results revealed that some professions are certainly lonelier than others.

The loneliest work was found to be “legal practice” and researchers noted that other studies have identified high rates of depression among lawyers. Those working in the fields of engineering and science were also found to be especially vulnerable to loneliness and lack of social support. Other occupations, like marketing, social work and sales, were on the other side of the spectrum. These professionals indicated high levels of social support and feelings of connection.

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2. Certain demographics don’t matter

It’s interesting to note what doesn’t seem to factor into a job’s loneliness profile as well as what does. Researchers found that salary was a slight predictor of loneliness. Workers with an annual salary greater than $80,000 only showed about a 10 percent improvement in social support and loneliness over workers who earn half as much. Gender, race and ethnicity weren’t found to be much of a factor either. Similarly, tenure and geographic location also weren’t found to be contributing variables.

However, factors like marital status and whether or not a person has children did have a fairly significant impact on degrees of social support and loneliness. Workers who have more people around them in their personal life tend to be less lonely at work too. Sexual orientation was also found to be a predictor of loneliness. Individuals who Identified as anything other than heterosexual reported higher degrees of loneliness, and much lower social support in the workplace.

3. Loneliness takes a toll

Social isolation can have a real effect on workers. It can impact creativity, productivity and even health. Thankfully, there are some things that individuals can do to try to combat loneliness. Asking a coworker to lunch once in awhile, making more time for friends and family outside of work, or pairing up with a workout buddy just a few times a week, can make a real difference. Volunteering some of your time is another great option for reversing some of these negative feelings.

Social isolation can have a real effect on workers. It can impact creativity, productivity and even health. Thankfully, there are some things that individuals can do to try to combat loneliness.Click To Tweet

“See if there are any committees or projects that you can volunteer to be a part of,” Patricia Thompson, an Atlanta-based psychologist told Moneyish. “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.”

Employers also need to take on some of the responsibility here. If improving social support is better for workers, than it will have a real effect on a company’s bottom line too.

“When workplaces become more supportive, performance and retention improves,” the report states. “Our study found that employees who experienced above average levels of workplace social support were more likely to have received a raise sometime in the past six months. They were also less likely to plan on quitting their job in the next six months. A robust workplace support network is not just a nice-to-have — it’s become a business imperative.”

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Do you think that your level of social support impacts your ability to do your job well? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.


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