It takes more than a high salary and great benefits to keep an employee happy in their job. In fact, according to a recent report from the Harvard Business Review, some of the best paying jobs in America can also lead to high levels of dissatisfaction due to feelings of loneliness and isolation.
In a survey of more than 1,600 workers, HBR found law, engineering and science to be the top industries in which workers are at greatest risk of loneliness. For some, the results are not surprising. A previous UC Berkeley study showed that depression affects almost half its STEM graduate students.
Former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy addressed the growing challenge of loneliness at work in an essay for HBR last year. Nearly 40 percent of Americans report being lonely, and Murthy emphasized the consequences of ignoring this problem.
"Loneliness and weak social connections are associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even greater than that associated with obesity," he wrote. "But we haven't focused nearly as much effort on strengthening connections between people as we have on curbing tobacco use or obesity."
In the workplace, if employees feel isolated and alone, survey results show that they are more likely to perform poorly on the job, quit their jobs and feel less satisfied in their careers. This can cost employers $3.5 billion in lost productivity.
For many workers, loneliness is linked to a lack of support and social interaction. To help, experts say employers should find ways to make work feel more meaningful to each staff member. For example, rather than focusing on an individual win or accomplishment, company leaders should celebrate the entire team and show how everyone is working towards a common goal. When feel like they have a sense of shared meaning, the likelihood for a worker to earn a raise reportedly increased by 30 percent. Similarly, the intent to leave a job fell by 24 percent.
Career expert and founder of Google's mentorship program Jenny Blake tells CNBC Make It that if you want to take matters into your own hands to achieve workplace happiness then you can start by making time for one-on-one conversations with your colleagues and boss, or by having follow-up meetings to any tasks you are assigned. She also adds that sharing personal anecdotes that are appropriate for the office can go a long way when fostering these connections.
But if putting forth these efforts still leave you feeling lonely, then maybe it's time to consider a career change. According to HBR, occupations that involve a lot of social interactions like social work, marketing and sales, have some of the least lonely workers today.
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