6 ways connections at work can curb loneliness

Despite the increase in technological connectivity, today's society is overrun with loneliness. A 2010 AARP survey cited in The Atlantic found 35 percent of adults over 45 years old were chronically lonely.

Tim Lebrecht, chief marketing officer of the architecture and design firm NBBJ, suggests countering loneliness by connecting with people at the place where we spend the most time: work.

Here are six ways friends and connections at work can curb feelings of loneliness, according to Mr. Lebrecht's article in Harvard Business Review.

1. Take meeting walks. People sit between eight and ten hours per day at the office. In a TED Talk, business innovator Nilofer Merchant advocates for walking meetings. Instead of sitting in the conference room, Ms. Merchant suggests walking around and getting some exercise. While walking and talking one-on-one with a colleague, you'll feel closer to them.

2. Have lunch with someone new. "After you've broken bread with a coworker, it's hard not to say hello in the hallway, and eventually the new relationship might turn into a fruitful collaboration," wrote Mr. Lebrecht. Although some companies randomly match people up, employees can also actively find new colleagues to get to know.

3. Use surprises to brighten each day. Everyday work can grow monotonous, but utilizing the power of surprises can enhance an average day at the office. Various companies utilize surprises, including Etsy, which runs a "Ministry of Unusual Business," a secret society of employees looking to add more surprises to the workplace.

4. Be completely present. Priya Parker, founder of the visioning firm Thrive Labs, and her husband occasionally invite friends to put their smartphones away for a day and be "thickly present" rather than thinly distributed. Mr. Lebrecht suggests using a similar technique at the office. Be completely present and collaborate with colleagues on whatever happens to come up.

5. Get together outside the office. Mr. Lebrecht and the World Economic Forum's Council on Values founded a dinner series for global business leaders called 15 Toasts. The CEO of a Fortune 500 company said, "It's the first dinner I've ever been to where I went in not knowing anyone and came out feeling connected with every single person." Try networking with colleagues at a dinner or lunch outside office time, and invite new workers or those from different divisions. The event might lead to new friendships — at a conference the next day, the Fortune 500 CEO hugged everyone he'd met at the dinner.

6. Don't be afraid to talk about touchy subjects. In another dinner series entitled Let's Have Dinner and Talk About Death, facilitators encourage people to discuss touchy topics such as death. Their idea is that talking about death typically leads to talking about life, happiness and goals. "Addressing such heavy topics at work might seem like too much of a stretch, but consider getting your group together to talk about the 'death' of a project," Mr. Lebrecht wrote. Bringing people together in this way can make them feel closer.

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