Over the past week, I have been working with someone who I met recently. He’s a wonderfully sensitive and caring man who is longing for love and companionship more than anyone I’ve known in some time. Seeing that he needed a friend, I offered him friendship, and I will admit, things have been clunky trying to make a new male friend in my 40’s. For instance, I made reservations for us to get shoulder massages and haircuts, just us guys. Initially he agreed but when I drove to his place to pick him up, he ghosted me. I found myself asking, “why is it so hard to have a guy friend?” when it occurred to me that grown men don’t know how to be friends, and this leaves them lonely.
This recent “friend fail” was on my mind as I read Avrum Weiss, Ph.D.’s article titled The High Cost of Men’s Loneliness, in Psychology Today. In it, he explains that “Close relationships with other people have more of an impact on our physical health and longevity than even our genes do”1. This feels right because I perceived that I suffered injury when my “friend” ghosted me. The injury did not seem to be tangible, however, the initial agreement followed by ghosting was a perceivable denial of connection that was impactful. Weiss continued explaining that loneliness is an “interpersonal impairment that causes significant harm in the lives of men”. On the surface, this may seem like unimportant talk, but if you are calibrated to look at life from a corporate standpoint, this issue translates to real dollars for your business.
According to Jason Wingard at Forbes.com, “Lonely workers take twice as many sick days and demonstrate less commitment and weaker performance.” Cigna’s Loneliness and its Impact on The American Workplace report was able to determine that three in five adults are lonely and that each lonely worker costs their employer nearly $4,200, a seven-percentage point increase from 20182. The average American employee spends 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime; so, really, the employer can share in the blame for creating environments that generate unproductive employees3. It is not good business to pay extra costs, per employee, for an issue that has a solution, which is team building.
The use of improv team building exercises creates space where people may learn more about one another and tap into their strengths. Often, employees may have skills that they never use at work, and these skills might have the potential to turn into something great. According to Candice Dedmon, of HRMorning.com, “Employees who get to use their strengths at work every day are 8% more productive and 15% less likely to quit”4. At the end of the day, when we choose not to connect with those around us, there are real world consequences.
When we have societies filled with lonely individuals, we have an unproductive workforce. It is important for us to remember that human connection makes “work” not feel like work, and a great way to bring about connection is through play. Imrov is exactly that, an adult play time. Remembering to play is important because play involves vulnerability. Through these vulnerable moments, connections are made, and we become better employees (and friends) to each other5.
- Weiss, Ph.D., A. (2021, November 21). The High Cost of Men’s Loneliness. Psychology Today. Retrieved November 23, 2021, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fear-intimacy/202111/the-high-cost-mens-loneliness
- Wingard, J. (2020, February 14). Loneliness Is Crippling Workplace Productivity: Here’s The Leadership Prescription. Forbes. Retrieved November 23, 2021, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonwingard/2020/02/14/loneliness-is-crippling-workplace-productivity-heres-the-leadership-prescription/?sh=233c2d498f6f
- Cigna. (2020, March). LONELINESS AND ITS IMPACT ON THE AMERICAN WORKPLACE. Cigna.Com. Retrieved November 23, 2021, from https://www.cigna.com/static/www-cigna-com/docs/about-us/newsroom/studies-and-reports/combatting-loneliness/loneliness-and-its-impact-on-the-american-workplace.pdf
- Dedmon, C. (2019, December 31). The 7 hidden benefits of team-building activities. Hrmorning.Com. Retrieved November 23, 2021, from https://www.hrmorning.com/articles/team-building-activities/
- Mineo, L. (2017). Harvard study, almost 80 years old, has proved that embracing community helps us live longer, and be happier. Retrieved June 9, 2019, from https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/04/over-nearly-80-years-harvard-study-has-been-showing-how-to-live-a-healthy-and-happy-life/