Interrupt Loneliness at Work By Cultivating Belonging

Have you ever felt lonely at work? I sure have.

Given how difficult the last few years have been, it’s not surprising that study after study is finding that people are experiencing more loneliness than ever before – and the impact is profound. As you may have seen, a recent study published in “Psychological Science” found that the same part of the brain that’s triggered when a person is hungry is activated when a person is lonely. This is huge.

In my new book on the importance of cultivating belonging We’ve Got This: Unlocking the Beauty of Belonging, I share:

                [B]elonging isn’t a “nice to have,” it’s a “must have” to feel safe, healthy, and joyful. As humans, it’s part of our survival. We long for belonging. We’re wired to crave acceptance in intimate relationships and interactions with others, whether this is with our elders, siblings, relatives, lovers, friends, leaders, teammates, or classmates, and even random strangers. We both need and want to be seen and respected for who we are across all our identities.

                But we also want to feel connected to a greater whole. We deeply desire being part of a community or communities. We want union with others that’s rooted in shared purpose, meaning, and respect. But this can never be at the expense of being who we are. Belonging with others only happens when we’re being embraced for our authenticity, particularly our differences.

Given what I share in We’ve Got This, all this research has me thinking about loneliness at work. We know that employees from across cultural backgrounds have a range of experiences that cause them to feel lonely and like they don’t belong: from lacking social connections with colleagues and feeling unsupported by leaders, to being on the receiving end of inequities and struggling to be seen and heard. And of course, this can lead to feelings of loneliness at work and the impact can be significant, including heightened stress levels, decreased job satisfaction, and even increased health issues.

And this is exactly why leaders must prioritize creating cultures that are rooted in connection, authenticity, psychological safety, and trust – and, in a word, belonging. By doing this, leaders can help their team members feel part of a greater whole, where they are connected to others, have purpose for their work, are valued in what they do, and feel appreciated.

This insight underscores why DEI programming is so critical – ultimately, it both prevents and interrupts experiences of loneliness.

And now let’s go back to my original question: have you ever felt lonely at work? What do you wish your leader had done to help you feel connected and like you belong?


Learn more about how to create workplace cultures rooted in belonging in Ritu’s bestselling books We’ve Got This and The Authenticity Principle.

Dr. Komal Bhasin, MSW, MHSc, DocSocSci

Komal is bci’s Senior DEI Consultant and Mental Health Expert-in-Residence and an accomplished DEI facilitator, coach, and strategist. Komal has over 20 years of experience in providing strategic and advisory guidance and program development across a range of sectors, with a particular concentration in mental health and racial inclusion. Komal is also the founder of Insayva Inc., a social enterprise focused on providing accessible DEI and health equity support to charities and non-profit organizations.

Komal has extensive experience in creating and delivering programming in a range of DEI areas, including unconscious bias, cultural competence, mental health inclusion, psychological safety, and allyship. She is passionate about driving transformational change in workplaces and has worked closely with bci clients — corporations, professional services firms, health care providers, and educational institutions — to embed cultures of DEI within their organizations.

Komal has provided one-on-one inclusion coaching to hundreds of senior leaders and brings a unique approach that is informed by her background as a therapist. She is able to expertly handle sensitive conversations and situations and works with leaders to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to advance racial/ethnocultural, gender, and mental health-related equity across teams and organizations. Komal also offers a performance coaching program designed specifically for BIPOC leaders. This program aims to help BIPOC leaders harness their place, position, and identity to thrive in the workplace and beyond. Komal is a qualified administrator of the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI).

As bci’s Mental Health Expert-in-Residence, Komal offers tremendous expertise around workplace mental health. As a doctoral trained mental health clinician, certified health executive, and registered social worker, Komal has assisted organizations looking to advance employee mental health inclusion and well-being through offering programming on inclusive dialogue, anti-stigma, burnout prevention, psychological safety, resilience, and self-care. Komal is committed to advancing mental health and wellness across the life course; she currently serves on the board of the Alzheimer’s Society of Ontario and previously served on the board of Children’s Mental Health Ontario and the YMCA of Greater Toronto.

When Komal is not working, you’ll find her painting, cooking or snuggling with her cat.

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