Saturday, August 13, 2022

How Loneliness Can Cost Your Business Success, and What Should You Do?

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Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. This proverb sums up the conundrum that many entrepreneurs face. But working long hours and doing what it takes to make your business successful isn’t always conducive to spending time with other people. However, human connection brings tangible benefits and should not be ignored.

According to Simone Heng, author of Secret PandemicConnecting with others is an important part of the success of your business. Heng is a specialist in human connections with clients such as Google, Bytedance, Salesforce, SAP, L’Oréal, TEDx and the United Nations and many more. A former international broadcaster, Heng has appeared on Virgin Radio Dubai, HBO Asia and CNBC, and she and her work have been featured on CNN and in publications such as Vogue, Elle and Harper’s Bazaar.

“If you want to be more resilient, you have to feel healthy and you have to have a human connection in your life,” Heng explained. That is why it is so important for entrepreneurs to consciously and strategically build their tribe.

The three types of loneliness

For entrepreneurs without team members, it may be more challenging to make and maintain connections. This is largely due to the fact that workplace interactions have traditionally been the main sources of connection. Without some kind of intentional daily connection, the risk of loneliness increases.

According to Bruce A Austin of the Rochester University of Technology, there are three different types of loneliness. The first, intimate loneliness, is a longing for someone with whom you can be truly vulnerable. Usually, this need can be met with a romantic partner or best friend.

Then there is relational loneliness. This can happen when people don’t feel they are part of a social fabric that they can call on when they need help. Traditionally, people turn to their colleagues to provide this kind of social protection and cohesion.

The last form of loneliness is collective loneliness. This emerges when people feel like they don’t have people around them who share their vision. “Of the three main forms of loneliness, the workplace has commanded respite for two,” Heng said. “But unless entrepreneurs intentionally foster human connection, solo entrepreneurs may struggle with collective and relational loneliness and burnout.”

The relationship between connection and energy

The reciprocal relationship between connection and energy is ingrained in human beings. “Studies have shown that our bodies have more bioenergetic resources when there are people who go on a mission or journey with us, rather than just going on the same mission,” Heng said.

Entrepreneurs often take on many tasks during their journey to build and scale a business. Traditionally, entrepreneurs could stay energized to complete those tasks by connecting with people in the office. However, the global increase in the number of people working from home makes that more challenging.

Working from home can increase productivity, but it can come at a cost. The more people experience the emotional stress of loneliness, the more depressed and anxious they can become. This in turn makes it more likely that they will experience burnout, and experiencing burnout contributes to feelings of loneliness.

The antidote to loneliness is connection

Heng’s research, along with her personal experience, have led her to one inescapable conclusion: the antidote to burnout and loneliness is connection. “Human connection makes us more resilient,” she said. “As an entrepreneur, if you don’t have the team in the workplace to protect you, you need to foster connection in some other way.”

For example, you can make it a point to develop an incredible relationship with your partner. By focusing on your significant other, you ensure that you are still part of a supportive social fabric.

You can go even further by planning to catch up with friends and family at least twice a week. Treat those appointments as if they were unbreakable, just like you treat work meetings. Consistently making time to connect with other people greatly reduces your chances of burnout.

Talking about work with your social network can also foster incredible innovation. At the same time, discussing work with (relevant) friends is a great way to make sure you don’t feel like you’re climbing the entrepreneurial mountain alone.

Learn from expats

Heng also suggested using what is known as the “village effect,” which is also the title of a book by Susan Pinker, who coined the term. This includes seemingly banal interactions, such as the nod to your barista at Starbucks, the wave you exchange with your neighbor, or the high-five you give to the person walking your dog.

“These little social cues don’t have to be super deep,” Heng said. “But they make you feel like you’re part of that all-important social fabric.” The key is not to stay in the office all day, every day. Instead, go for a walk and make friendly eye contact with the people walking past you.

“Go to a coffee shop once or twice a week to do your work.” Smile and exchange a friendly greeting with the people at the tables next to you. “If you consistently take these kinds of actions, you’ll be amazed at how much it reduces and softens any loneliness and burnout you might otherwise feel.”

This is exactly what people who move to a new country do. Expats are dropped in a new environment where they don’t know anyone. Their minds respond by telling them they are not safe because they do not have enough resources and support. And so they step out of their comfort zone to meet new people. In the same way, as an entrepreneur, you can find and nurture human connection.

Long live the connected entrepreneur

As important as social connections are in preventing burnout, their importance goes even further. “Studies show that people with strong social connections survive people who are isolated and lonely,” Heng said. The recognition we get from others fuels feel-good hormones like oxytocin and dopamine.

Implementing each of these steps will help entrepreneurs foster human connection and thus avoid loneliness. In addition, these steps are key to entrepreneurs strengthening their social fabrics, which will help them and their businesses thrive.

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