In our current world, there’s good reason to be concerned about social connection.
Former US Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy has called loneliness a growing health epidemic. “During my years caring for patients, the most common pathology I saw was not heart disease or diabetes; it was loneliness,” Dr. Murthy said in a piece for the Harvard Business Review. “I found that loneliness was often in the background of clinical illness, contributing to disease and making it harder for patients to cope and heal.” While often neglected, loneliness has the equivalent effect on one’s lifespan as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
With the growth of the gig economy, remote work and entrepreneurship, many people are finding themselves spending the majority of their workday alone. The numbers of freelancers, independent consultants and other independent workers is exploding according to consultancy MBO. And more broadly, 43% of America’s workforce, work remotely at least some of the timeaccording to a recent Gallup poll.
“In the workplace, new models of working — such as telecommuting and some on-demand ‘gig economy’ contracting arrangements — have created flexibility but often reduce the opportunities for in-person interaction and relationships,” said Dr. Murthy. “We know that if we are to prioritize our health and the health of our companies, the workplace is one of the most important places to cultivate social connections.”
While some companies are bucking the remote work trend and bringing their employees back to the office, this isn’t the majority and it doesn’t help independent workers. For this growing sector of people, coworking is a great solution. And there’s evidence that coworking makes people happier. In a 2016 study by Emergent Research, 89% of respondents said they are happier since working from a coworking space, and 83% said they were less lonely.
As social creatures, it’s important to pay attention to be mindful that isolation and loneliness can have devastating mental and physical consequences. But the good news is that loneliness is something we can and must solve together.