In the modern world of work, we are surrounded by people. Teammates, managers, customers, suppliers, and even neighbouring companies who share the same office building.

These are the people we turn to when we’re having a bad day or need some advice, and there are huge benefits to this level of community and support. But recent studies have found that nearly half of workers feel lonely, and the psychological impact on our personal and professional lives is huge.

Having workplace friendships can make you better at your job, as those who are more connected to their colleagues and bosses feel more supported, less stressed, and have a greater likelihood of staying with their employer to take advantage of development opportunities within their roles.

But the office can be a lonely place if you find yourself unable to connect with your team on a personal level, especially for remote, self-employed, or part-time workers who may miss out on bonding moments outside of the traditional 9-5 working hours.

Loneliness is a major contributor to the employee wellbeing crisis, with workers lacking in social connection experiences found to be more likely to struggle with stress and burnout. Is it any surprise, then, that recent Gallup data suggests that over half of the world’s employees are quiet quitting – meaning that while retention levels may be stable, our productivity and overall happiness at work are not. Loneliness is not only affecting our morale levels but our bottom lines too.

Having people with whom we connect on a personal – rather than purely professional – level in this hybrid working world is critical, and as managers, it’s your job to create environments where community thrives even outside of office hours. Key to success here are leaders that can demonstrate real empathy and build cultures that reflect this. These are not the managers who know that a social calendar built on Monday morning calls and the odd ‘Happy Friday’ message just won’t cut it. Instead, they identify opportunities to drive collaboration, prioritise connection building, and create a sense of belonging that persists outside of the 9-5 schedule.

We know it’s not the number of connections we have but the value of them that counts, so our focus should be less on all-employee events and more on tailored approaches to fostering inclusion and belonging in the workplace. Personal catch-ups, recognition of work milestones, and even the offer of a cup of tea and a chat, when things are tough, are all examples of empathy in action. Knowing each other better helps us drive these meaningful, powerful connections and by practicing listening and understanding, we can create a sense of community where our people know they are seen and that they matter.

About the author
Mimi Nicklin is the Chief Executive of global ad agency Freedm, host of the MimiYouYou podcast, & best-selling author of Softening the Edge. Follow her on Instagram at @miminicklin. For more information visit