ISSN 2330-717X

Does Loneliness Lurk In Temp Work?

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Recognizing that loneliness is all around, even amongst the working population, is no longer taboo. On the contrary, the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced feelings of loneliness amongst workers and the societal and academic attention therein.

A gap in the knowledge concerning loneliness at work was whether it is more apparent in temporary (versus permanent) contracts and whether it might therefore explain the association between temporary employment and job satisfaction. Researchers at Ghent University provide answers in an academic article just published in PLOS ONE.

1 out of 8 have the feeling no one at work really knows them well, even before the pandemic

The findings in this newly published article are based on a representative survey with 1,358 employees in the private sector in Flanders. Fortunately, most of these employees felt, at least before the pandemic, affiliated with their co-workers: 87.2% agrees with the statement ‘I feel in tune with the people around me at work’ and 72.8% can find companionship at work when they want it. When it comes to more intimate relationships, only 1 out of 16 employees in the private sector agree people at work are not there for them.

Nonetheless, more than 1 out of 8 of these employees indicated that no one at work really knows them well.

Temporary employees experience more loneliness at work

Temporary employees score worse on the loneliness at work statements related to intimate relationships. 1 out of 5 temporary employees agree with the statement ‘No one at work really knows me well’ and 1 out of 10 agree that the people at work are not there for them. The conclusion that temporary employees experience more loneliness at work compared to their permanent counterparts (especially when it comes to intimate relationships) remains after correcting for characteristics such as—amongst others—job tenure, gender, age, personality traits, partner, days working from home and interaction outside the organisation.

“Temporary contracts come with a lot of advantages, but it is important to recognize that there are psychosocial downsides as well.To the best of our knowledge, we were the first to empirically conclude that temporary employees experience more loneliness at work as opposed to permanent employees,” said Professor Stijn Baert (UGent).

Loneliness at work partly explains the lower job satisfaction among temporary employees

The second goal of the article is to explore whether loneliness at work may explain whether temporary workers are, on average, less satisfied with their jobs. This association was already established in the scientific literature, but its underlying mechanisms have been unclear.

Again, taking into account a multitude of important personal characteristics and job characteristics as control variables, the conclusion of the research is clear: loneliness at work indeed partly explains the association between working temporarily and job satisfaction.

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