Lunch or Cigarettes?
I’ll have lunch please.
It’s not often you get to start a blog post paying homage to the comedy genius that is Eddie Izzard, but, when you do, you take that opportunity and run with it …
So, turns out, loneliness is a nasty business. Loneliness and weak social connections can see a reduction in lifespan that is the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Goodness … I’ll have Lunch please.
Vivek Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General from 2014-2017, opens a recent HBR Big Idea series exploring the loneliness epidemic, with a contribution titled ‘Connecting at Work’. Dr. Murthy rightly orients our attempts to address loneliness in the places we spend most of our time: with family, in school, and the workplace.
Reducing isolation at work is good for business - Vivek Murthy
As I am sure you can guess, we certainly think of Lunch Roulette as a way organizations can take concrete steps to help employees create and foster meaningful connection in the workplace. Which would in turn, we would hope, contribute towards wellbeing, and the development of protective factors to offset the effects loneliness and dissociation. We’ve long held the view that everyone working in an organization has a completely legitimate opportunity for (responsibility to?) engaging with everyone else and striking up a conversation accordingly - you’re all working towards the same mission, so why on earth not, eh?
Turns out it’s hard though. Firstly, for some, taking a break, away from the desk for a break, is just not the done thing. This is mostly cultural, and can be addressed.
Experimental psychologists have suggested that there are two additional factors in play - (1) We don’t want to break the ice, possibly from fear of rejection, or because we assume that the other doesn’t want to be disturbed, and (2) That if we do make a connection, we won’t be able to end the interaction. We avoid both of these concerns with Lunch Roulette: everyone opts in - so there’s no rejection because you’re all in it together, and you know it’s going to end as you’ve signed up for Lunch with a fixed time! For the individuals in the aforementioned study that were able to get past those barriers, there were uniformly positive benefits realised.
Wanting to engage with others, and being open to others engaging with you, seems to be critical to maintaining a sense of wellbeing that could potentially help mitigate the effects of loneliness, a vitally important skill as we age into our careers and through our professional lives. We won’t just ‘end up lonely’, we’ll have made choices, the ramifications of which won’t be fully realised until much later. There’s a real opportunity (responsibility) to begin thinking about retirement, and the care of our future selves, not just financially, but socially. Perhaps a simple, but intentional, lunch with a colleague is a way to do just that. If that’s too heavy a lift, why not just try a simple ‘Just Say Hello’?
Thanks for listening,