Loneliness and the workplace
Loneliness is something that I guess we've all experienced at some point and for many people, the pandemic and periods of social isolation and lockdown certainly didn't help.
But loneliness in the workplace is also a significant issue. I personally have felt the pangs of loneliness in a room full of colleagues; in Trustee Meetings; in Management Team meetings; in instances where I've felt alone in my experience, my opinion, my beliefs and my convictions.
But I can also tell you that feeling lonely when something great is happening is just as crushing. Having no-one to share great highs with - successful bids, successful projects, great work wins - is just as emotionally impactful as having no-one to share the bad bits with.
Despite having people around you, if those people don't understand the significance of the "thing" and how impacted the way you feel, they don't contribute anything to reducing that loneliness.
As many of you know, I spend 90% of my time working alone. I'm a company of one (hopefully not for too much longer, but that's another story) plus the long-suffering Kate, (who is a VA and actually lives about 80 miles away) and Rowan the dog. Most of that time, I am not lonely at all. But there are times when I do feel crushingly lonely.
In 2020, when the lovely Stephen Cotterill of Fundraising Magazine, published the headline findings of my Fundraiser Wellbeing research in the aforementioned Fundraising Magazine, I remember actually crying at my desk at just how proud I was of the work, of the coverage Stephen had afforded it (and me), and at how lonely it felt to feel that pride in a house with 3 other people in it, none of whom "got" how significant that was for me.
The equally lovely Dana Kohava Segal realised some of this on a phone call I had scheduled with her that day, and at her instigation, I then received wonderful videos of support and of celebration from some amazing friends in the sector who she'd suggested might want to celebrate with me. Geographically, the closest person to me in that message sharing was probably more than 200 miles away, and yet I no longer felt alone.
There is lots of formal research on the benefits of having a work squad or a work best friend. And finding and building my work "squad" has been one of the most positive and productive things I've done in my career, even before I worked for myself. Those people who "get" you and "get" what it's like in your role are worth their weight in gold. They're not sycophants - if you're the one who is out of order they will tell you - but they celebrate with you and understand why it's a celebration; they commiserate with you and they understand why it's a commiseration; they laugh with you; they think with you; and, when you need it, they kick your butt. And you do the same for them. Your work squad is essential