Organisation is consciously coordinated activities of two or more persons in pursuit of common purpose. It is clear from the definition that organisations are created to fulfil certain purpose and all the people working in an organisation should work towards achieving that purpose. In case employees are not able to contribute towards organisation's goal, it becomes essential on part of organisations to find the reasons and remove roadblocks if any. One such reason, which has emerged recently and has influenced the productivity and performance of employees adversely, is SEE - Social, Emotional and Existential Loneliness. Loneliness has permeated corporate world. Work from home during Covid-19 pandemic has aggravated the feeling of loneliness amongst employees as most of them don't get to meet their colleagues and don't have anyone compatible at home who they can speak their mind with. This has hampered their performance at workplace. Therefore, organisations should see to it that SEE does not disrupt the smooth functioning of the organisation or hinder the purpose for which these organisations came into existence.
Social Loneliness is a state when a person is not able to identify with any group. One feels that he does not have sufficient number of social relations or the social relations he has are worthless. Person's expectations may lead him to think he lacks quantity or quality of relations in life.
Emotional Loneliness is a state when a person is not able to establish or does not have any close relationship with any other individual. A person feels lonely when there is nobody who he can feel connected to. When an individual feels he has no emotional support in life. This can happen when a person does not have or is not able to have any stable or long-lasting relationship with anyone or is unhappily married or has lost spouse. Due to this, the person ceases to have relations with any other person.
Existential loneliness is a sense of meaninglessness. It is felt when a person starts questioning one's existence and purpose in life. He has a feeling of emptiness and insignificance. Person believes that there is no purpose in life.
Loneliness is a subjective feeling in a sense that it depends on an individual how he feels. A person may feel lonely even when he is surrounded by people and may not feel lonely even when he is alone. Loneliness is not a disease but a state of mind.
There can be several reasons for loneliness. A person may feel lonely due to personal characteristics, loss of loved ones, isolation, health conditions, and lack of movement, trauma, life circumstances and inability to form relations with people. Introverts may not feel that lonely when they are alone as extroverts. People when young may not feel that lonely as old. A healthy person may not feel that lonely as an unhealthy person. A person who can move around easily may not feel as lonely as a person who has trouble moving around. Traumas, loss of loved ones may make one feel lonely. Some people struggle to form relations with others. Isolation due to any reason like living alone or living in a deserted house or place or an isolated workstation may lead to loneliness. Lack of social connections due to increased use of social media; automation and implementation of AI and VR also have led to loneliness because people do not get a chance to have face-to-face interactions.
Loneliness can be a temporary feeling and may not last for a long period. Anyone can feel lonely at one or the other point in life due to the any of the reasons mentioned above. It becomes a cause of concern when person is not able to overcome this feeling of loneliness. Chronic loneliness may cause depression, dementia, addiction and other mental and physical disorders.
Loneliness at workplace is defined as "a subjective, unwelcome feeling of lack or loss of companionship when there is a mismatch between the quantity and quality of social relationships achieved versus desired". It is not a disease per se but it can be a cause of distress and depression, poor social support, neuroticism, and introversion. At workplace, loneliness of an individual can result in disengagement, lack of organisational commitment, loss of productivity and reduced performance. This is not just confined to the person who is feeling lonely but others too as it has a spill over effect - emotions after all are infectious and impact people around us.
Loneliness is just a state of mind. We as a person by being mindfulness change the mental states and the way we feel. Our Vedas mention about the power of solitude. Solitude is bliss. Our sages used to spend years in meditation without feeling lonely. It is suggested that we all should meditate daily to clear our thoughts and get rid of negative feelings. Companies have understood the association between wellness of employees and increased productivity. Therefore, companies like Face book, Google, CBRE, and Sony organize meditation programs for their employees at workplace. Southwest airlines is known for its spiritual culture at workplace. It has leveraged on this to increase productivity and customer base. All these programs and initiatives help in reducing the feeling of loneliness.
Vedic literature refers to "AhamBrahamanAsmi" which means I am the absolute. When a drop falls into the ocean, it no longer remains a drop it becomes the ocean. When a person realises that there is no OTHER in this universe, we all are ONE, the feeling of loneliness goes. An understanding that living being is part of the same Supreme Being, all of us are one, so, we can never be alone, will certainly help us remove the feeling of loneliness from our minds. This will make us feel complete and happy.
Dr. Shalini Wadhwa - Assistant Professor, MPSTME, NMIMS, Mumbai
Kritika Arora - Computer Science Engineer & MBA, MPSTME, NMIMS, Mumbai