Opportunities for connection in the workplace are more important than ever to combat employee loneliness and isolation. Shaping the future of work means fostering community at work. A culture of social belonging in modern organizations is a game-changer, boosting employee happiness and total well-being. 

In 2023, the World Health Organization declared loneliness a global health threat. Nearly one in four people worldwide feel lonely, according to a 2023 Meta-Gallup survey. Workplace loneliness threatens employee health and heightens the risk of premature death. Failure to address employee loneliness tanks productivity, innovation, and growth. In the United States, loneliness costs the economy an estimated $406 billion a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And employers reportedly lose $154 billion each year due to loneliness-related absenteeism.

The answer to employee loneliness lies in stronger workplace communities. Future-proof organizations deliver a sense of safety, belonging, and fulfillment. In this article, we’ll explore how to combat loneliness, avert absenteeism and quiet quitting in the workplace, and successfully elevate employee total well-being by fostering employee connections

Here’s what we’ll cover:

What is absenteeism, presenteeism, and quiet-quitting?

Loneliness breeds disengagement. Feeling disconnected negatively impacts work performance and overall employee well-being. Unresolved absenteeism or presenteeism fuels quiet-quitting, leaving your people going through the motions with little enthusiasm or engagement. 

Strong social connections at work are your team’s secret weapon. Whether they’re facing a tough deadline or feeling overwhelmed, your teams’ cheerleaders are their trusted colleagues, ready to offer support and a listening ear. Strong teams help each other bounce back from challenges and keep everyone feeling valued and appreciated. And meaningful workplace relationships are the difference between a thriving team member and one who checks out. Build a workplace where everyone feels empowered to reach their full potential.


Employees who feel isolated or lonely may be more likely to call in sick or take unscheduled absences. Frequent employee absences create gaps in projects, delays in deadlines, and a general feeling of disconnect. 

When teammates are frequently absent, it can throw a wrench in everyone’s flow. Frustration builds, collaboration stalls, and internal communication derails. In a positive, supportive work environment, everyone stays present, energized, and engaged. 


Even when physically present, an employee going through the motions of work with limited effort or productivity is mentally absent, with little drive to contribute or collaborate with colleagues. 

Unlike absenteeism, presenteeism can be harder to detect and address. A culture of presenteeism prioritizes attendance over employee well-being. Over time, presenteeism can impact overall health (especially for those working while sick), job satisfaction, and engagement.


Failing to address absenteeism and presenteeism leads to burnout and quiet-quitting. Employees won’t resign, but they may feel apathetic toward work. They may meet minimum job requirements but will resist going above and beyond. 

Employees who feel constantly overwhelmed or stressed due to workload or lack of boundaries may withdraw to protect their well-being. Withdrawal from social interaction and collaborative activities deepens a sense of isolation. Disengaged employees may eventually seek new opportunities that offer a more stimulating and rewarding work environment.

Absenteeism, presenteeism, and quiet quitting are all related to a disconnect between employee and employer. Invest in your people! When companies level up their teams with awesome opportunities to learn and grow, employees feel supercharged and valued. Fuel the fire to excel, and show your people their unique skills contribute to a shared mission. 

How to combat loneliness in the workplace 

People crave healthy friendships and a sense of belonging. Work can provide a strong foundation for both! Today’s employees want to feel connected, valued, and part of a community. A recent Headspace survey revealed that over half (53%) of employees say work positively impacts their lives by providing a community of like-minded people. That’s a win-win – employees feel fulfilled, and companies benefit from a happier, more engaged workforce.

Ditch the myth of proximity. Supportive relationships are built on more than sharing the same space. Whether your team rocks remote work, hybrid schedules, or in-office collaborations, everyone thrives amid strong connections

The real magic lies in building a vibrant community where well-being is a top priority. More than just meetings and chats over coffee – create spaces for meaningful connections based on shared values that make people feel supported. Fostering these connections creates a domino effect of positivity, propelling everyone forward. 

1. Build connections

Forget more meetings or workplace silos: unleash the power of connection and better collaboration with strategic opportunities for interaction. Every team member brings unique strengths, and peer-to-peer and intergenerational mentorship builds trust. By collaborating on projects with shared goals, everyone connects and learns from each other.

Celebrate people who initiate connections with others and make everyone feel welcome. Flexibility and public recognition go a long way in building a robust and positive workplace culture. Create incentive wallets from participation in well-being activities to recognize community participation. A fully integrated rewards marketplace allows employees to choose where they shop, what they buy, and how they pay or redeem their rewards.

Create a company culture of connection that sparks joy for everyone! Social connectedness comes in many forms. Some people have superpowers for small talk, while others recharge their social battery with a crowd. The key is variety. Balance opportunities for casual conversations with larger, more structured events to keep everyone energized and feeling like their best, most connected selves.

2. Foster a sense of belonging 

Loneliness thrives in isolation. Companies can foster a sense of belonging by prioritizing psychological safety. When employees feel safe to be themselves, they’re more likely to enjoy mutual respect and connect on a deeper level.

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) foster employee connections in the workplace and build stronger teams. ERGs create a safe space for employees to connect based on their unique interests to share knowledge and strengthen leadership. They also create opportunities to hold events and foster open dialogue on work and non-work-related topics for a more inclusive and equitable organization.

An inclusive well-being program that goes beyond the expected is a powerful, innovative tool to foster connection. Lifestyle Spending Accounts (LSAs) empower employees, funding activities that promote social connection and combat loneliness. Whether your people are interested in movement, strengthening mental health, building healthy habits, or wellness checkups, LSA functionality is limited only by individual interest and creativity!

For example, employees can use LSA funds for a fitness class to get social while improving their health. They can also attend culture-building events and team-building activities that spark conversation and create opportunities to connect. Meditation apps, yoga classes, or mindfulness seminars can bolster well-being and help people hold space for connections.

With a purpose-built platform that includes challenges and achievements, HR can gamify and incentivize healthy, bond-building behaviors tied to your organization’s mission, vision, and values. A little healthy competition can bring teams together.

3. Promote flexibility and well-being

Today’s workforce thrives on flexibility. Empower your team to combat stress and achieve work-life harmony through remote work options and flexible schedules. Employees can connect with loved ones and strengthen social circles outside of work. Companies that opt for a compressed workweek allow employees extended stretches of free time for socializing and personal connections.

Investing in employee well-being by offering a strategic total benefits package that encourages physical activity, healthy eating, or stress management can improve overall well-being and create opportunities for employees to connect while participating in these activities. Meditation apps for post-work unwinding, gym memberships to boost endorphins. A connected, happy workforce is a productive and engaged one.

Let your people know their voices are heard, and their contributions are valued. Foster a supportive environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing ideas and thrives on a sense of belonging. This open communication fosters genuine connections, combats loneliness, and builds a truly engaged team.

By focusing on these strategies, employers can create a work environment that fosters connection, empowers employees through flexibility, and prioritizes overall well-being. This holistic approach combats loneliness, reduces absenteeism and quiet quitting, and ultimately leads to a happier, more engaged workforce.

Elevate happiness and employee total well-being.

Combating loneliness in the workplace isn’t just about avoiding negative consequences like absenteeism or quiet-quitting. It’s about actively cultivating a positive and enriching work environment that fosters happiness and total well-being for your employees. Focusing on solid relationships within your teams isn’t just a feel-good initiative. It’s a strategic investment in a happy, healthy, productive workforce.

A strong community can be a powerful buffer against stress, anxiety, and even depression, contributing significantly to overall well-being. Trusted colleagues offer encouragement, support, and a recognition of shared responsibility, making challenges more manageable. These connections cultivate a resilient and adaptable workforce.

Offering strategic lifestyle benefits (LSA) is not just investing in employee well-being; it’s actively supporting a culture of connection. Supporting a revolution in employee engagement and connection starts with inclusive benefits. Contact our team to learn more about Espresa and schedule a demo. When you empower your culture, everyone wins!

6 Strategies to Prevent Burnout and Support Employee Emotional Health


Distribute On: