Workplace loneliness – British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (BACD)Featured Products Promotional Features
Posted by: The Probe 1st November 2018
We know their partners’ names, how old their children are, and what they got up to at the weekend. We are also familiar with the minutiae of their eating habits, and how one of them eats breakfast when they arrive at the office in the morning, while another prefers to snack in the afternoon. We are even privy to their greatest successes and their most catastrophic failures. Our work colleagues: these are the people we spend most of our days with, exchanging hundreds of emails each week and collaborating on projects that can take months to complete. However, despite the large amount of time we tend to spend with our colleagues, many of us find ourselves feeling lonely amongst them.
This can not only be detrimental to our mental health – particularly in regards to depression and anxiety – but also for our physical wellbeing. Research has indicated that chronic long-term loneliness can be as adversely effective as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day, and can also increase an individual’s risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.[i]These conditions may be the reality for many people who are now living in the so-called landscape of loneliness, as it was revealed that approximately nine million people in the UK are affected by this issue – which happens to be on the rise within the workplace.[ii]
It’s almost hard to believe: how can you spend all day surrounded by people and still feel alone? Yet with the increased use of technology, heavier workloads, and the popularity of teleworking, it has become the case that some of us are lonelier than ever before. According to a survey conducted by Relate, an estimated 42% of people believe they do not have a friend in the workplace, which is a pretty sobering thought considering Britons work some of the longest hours in Europe.[iii],[iv]
There’s no doubt that the pervasiveness of technology – which is a double-edged sword – plays a huge role in the state of our loneliness. While technology can help create a secure platform from which to engage with people outside of the workplace, it can also isolate us. We now send emails or instant messages via social media networks such as Facebook or LinkedIn, using virtual workspaces to save the inconvenience of having to travel to the office to speak to colleagues in person. Increased accessibility to technology has also meant that the lines between work and social life have become blurred, with many people logging onto their laptops and mobile phones in a bid to catch up on work from the comfort of home. As a result, we are developing the habit of reducing the extent of face-to-face contact we have with people.
This is combined with the fact that “hot desking” has become a big part of our culture. A lot of people now work part-time or flexi-hours – which suits our multi-tasking routines – but means employees are arriving at or leaving the office at different times. The result is that we are unable to form personable, long-lasting relationships with our colleagues, who are ultimately regarded as complete strangers.
For dentists, the issue of workplace loneliness can be even more problematic due to the very nature of modern dentistry. Although practitioners are frequently surrounded by patients and their dental team, the increasing demand for high quality dental work has meant practitioners are facing much heavier workloads – which leaves little time to spend on positive interactivity. The British Dental Association (BDA) has found that isolation and the feeling of confinement can negatively affect practitioners’ mental and general health, which is why it has become essential for dentists to continuously engage with people within and beyond the workplace setting.[v]
One of the ways dentists can do this effectively is by joining a professional organisation like the British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (BACD), which prides itself on its inclusive membership. By becoming a BACD member, dentists can benefit from greater interaction with other likeminded individuals, who share similar passions and interests. These organisations often provide access to a variety of social and educational events, so that dentists are not only able to engage with friends and colleagues by digital means, but are also provided the opportunity to network with industry-leading experts face-to-face. This can do wonders for boosting a practitioners’ mental wellbeing, enabling them to make the most of their hours both inside and outside of the practice.
The impact that feeling lonely and socially isolated can have on the physical, mental and social health of many individuals is well documented. However, our aversion to loneliness has been the central driver to the creation of strong, stable societies. As long as we are able to recognise its effects, we can all take steps to address loneliness by creating opportunities that enable us to effectively engage with others in a healthy, positive way.
For further enquiries about the British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, visit www.bacd.com
[i]Mushtaq, R., Shoib, S., Shah, T. and Mushtaq, S. (2014) Relationship Between Loneliness, Psychiatric Disorders and Physical Health? A Review on the Psychological Aspects of Loneliness. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research. 8(9): WE01-WE04. Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4225959/. [Last accessed: 31.08.18].
[ii]Kantar Public. (2016) Trapped in a bubble: An investigation into triggers for loneliness in the UK. Link: https://www.redcross.org.uk/-/media/documents/about-us/research-publications/health-social-care-and-support/co-op-trapped-in-a-bubble-report.pdf?la=en&hash=32EDC253C12C3466CD39267417507E467A44CA2F. [Last accessed: 31.08.18].
[iii]Relate. (2014) The Way We Are Now: New study reveals our couple, family, friendships, sex and work secrets. Link: https://www.relate.org.uk/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/2014/8/20/way-we-are-now-new-study-reveals-our-couple-family-friendships-sex-and-work-secrets/. [Last accessed: 31.08.18].
[iv]OECD. (2017) Hours worked. Link: https://data.oecd.org/emp/hours-worked.htm. [Last accessed: 31.08.18].
[v]British Dental Association. (2017) The Mental Health and Well-being of UK Dentists: A Qualitative Study. Link: https://bda.org/dentists/policy-campaigns/research/workforce-finance/Dentists%20well-being%20and%20work-related%20stress/dmhb/Documents/The%20Mental%20Health%20and%20Well-being%20of%20UK%20Dentists%20A%20Qualitative%20Study%20Final.pdf/. [Last accessed: 31.08.18].