Working From Home Is Increasing Loneliness and Depression in the Workforce

Your morning commute may seem depressing, but staying home might actually be worse

working from home
Working from home seems cozy until it gets super lonely.
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By Kayla Kibbe / January 23, 2020 11:10 am

While working from home may sound like a luxury to commuters craving a reprieve from the daily trek into the office, all that alone time may be taking a toll on employees’ health.

A new report from insurance company Cigna found that loneliness is up among Americans in the workforce, especially those in fields that require or encourage employees to work from home, USA Today reported. According to the report, the percentage of adults classified as lonely leapt up from 54 percent in 2018 to 61 percent in 2019, as determined based on answers 10,400 adults provided to the UCLA Loneliness Scale, a 20-item questionnaire to assess self-reported feelings of loneliness and/or social isolation.

The survey found that employees in creative and entertainment fields such as music, publishing, film, sports, and the gig economy were among the loneliest. The results also indicated that younger Gen Z and millennial employees tended to be lonelier than employees of older generations, perhaps because younger workers are more likely to be entering roles and fields in which working from home is becoming increasingly common.

While loneliness may seem like a relatively harmless if unfortunate emotional state, it turns out such feelings can pose major health consequences for employees, increasing risk of depression and suicide, as well as heart disease, diabetes and dementia. According to Dr. Doug Nemecek, Cigna’s chief medical officer for behavioral health, these combined consequences make loneliness a health risk comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes daily.

Lonely employees are bad news for employers too, with the study reporting lonely workers are twice as likely to miss a day of work due to illness. Unsurprisingly, lonely workers also think about quitting their job twice as often as their non-lonely coworkers.

“t’s important that we remember to give employees the opportunities to engage with others, to make sure we’re not creating work environments that make loneliness worse,” said Nemecek.

Going into work may suck, but not going into work might suck even more.

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