Loneliness in the workplace: A mixed-method systematic review and meta-analysis

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Abstract

Background. Loneliness is a risk factor for a range of mental and physical health problems and has gained increasing interest from policymakers and researchers in recent years. However, little attention has been paid to loneliness at work, and its implications for workers and employers.
Aims. Identify workplace, health, and personal factors associated with workplace loneliness.
Methods. We searched five databases (PubMed, MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, EBSCO Business Source Complete) for relevant articles published from 1 January 2000 – 23 February 2023. Quantitative data were synthesised using narrative synthesis and random effects meta-analysis of correlation coefficients. Qualitative data were synthesised using thematic synthesis. Evidence quality was appraised using the Mixed-Methods Appraisal Tool.
Results. We identified 49 articles meeting inclusion criteria. Pooled results indicate that workplace loneliness was associated with lower job performance (r = -0.35, 95% CI = -0.49, -0.21), reduced job satisfaction (r = -0.34, 95% CI = -0.44, -0.24), worse worker-manager relationship (r = -0.31, 95% CI = -0.38, -0.24) and elevated burnout (r = 0.39, 95% CI = 0.25, 0.51). Qualitative results suggest links between loneliness and inadequate workplace social interactions and mental health problems. As most studies used cross-sectional data and few adjusted for potential confounders, the direction and robustness of the associations remain untested.

Conclusions. Our results indicate that loneliness is associated with poor occupational functioning and wellbeing among workers. Results also show that loneliness is associated with modifiable aspects of the work environment, suggesting that the workplace may offer a fruitful avenue for interventions targeting loneliness.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOccupational Medicine
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 15 Nov 2023

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