On her first day of work, Nicole was over the moon. She landed her dream job in the legal department of a prestigious corporation. Two years later, satisfaction with her job began to erode. Not because of any issues with her job performance, but because she felt isolated at work.

Nicole felt this way because she was the only person of color in the company’s legal department and was often excluded from meetings and social outings. The lack of diversity and inclusion started to take a toll on Nicole’s self-esteem and emotional well-being in the workplace.

Can you relate to Nicole’s situation? Constantly feeling left out at work is a big deal. Not just because of the immediate impact it can have on your life.

Since you spend most of your time at your job, workplace isolation can have long-term effects. These include stress, anxiety and feelings of loneliness. Workplace isolation is prevalent in companies that lack a diverse workforce.

If you feel this way, you are not alone. In fact, a recent study by the EY Belonging Barometer suggests that 40 percent of employees feel isolated at work. Explore these four ways to overcome feelings of isolation at your company.

1. Be Open About Your Challenges

Although it may feel like it, you are not alone. It’s likely that you have friends and family that you can lean on during these challenging times. By talking about your situation with someone you trust, you can get a different perspective.

Benefits of talking about your professional challenges include:

  • Reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Eliminate counterproductive thoughts.
  • Release tension.
  • Identify solutions and strategies.

The feelings of isolation that come with being the “only one” in the workplace are real. That’s why it’s important to be open to letting other people help you overcome these feelings of isolation.

2. Become a Volunteer in Your Community

Serving as a volunteer can lift your mood and take your mind off your job. In your community, there are dozens of organizations that would be grateful to have you as a volunteer. Even if you have a busy schedule, consider donating just a few hours of your time each month.

Ways volunteering in your community can help you include:

  • Boost your mood.
  • Meet new people.
  • Develop a stronger sense of purpose.
  • Improve your relationship skills.
  • Relieve stress and anxiety.
  • Remain physically active.

Engaging in meaningful activities outside of the office takes your mind off workplace challenges. Invest your time in working for a good cause and reap the rewards of helping others.

3. Prioritize Personal Care

When you have a demanding job and family, taking care of yourself might not be the first thing on your list. Neglecting your personal needs can deplete you emotionally and physically.

Self-care isn’t a luxury that you can put off until later. It is a necessity for optimal physical and mental health.  Putting it off can lead to burnout, disease and exhaustion.

Common types of self-care include physical, social, mental and emotional. Physical self-care includes eating a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep and exercise. Social self-care includes connecting with close friends and nurturing relationships with family members.

Mental self-care includes learning new subjects, solving puzzles, playing brain games and reading books. Emotional self-care includes finding healthy ways to process feelings and participating in leisure activities.

4. Create a Support System at Your Company

Having a support system in the workplace allows you to connect with like-minded colleagues and make new connections. Improved self-esteem, a sense of belonging and reduced stress are just a few advantages of having a professional support system.

Before you select the members of your support team, it’s a good idea to think about what you want. Do you want a team that can offer professional advice? Would you like a safe place to talk about your challenges?

Make a list of the qualities that each member should possess. Be sure to select people who are committed to finding solutions – not constantly complaining about their problems. Members of your support team should possess the following qualities.

  • Trustworthiness
  • Capable of handling challenging situations
  • Resourceful
  • Motivated
  • Open to sharing information and providing feedback
  • Reliable

If you want to overcome feelings of isolation at work, it is important to be proactive. These tips can help you take control of the situation, make meaningful connections and eliminate the stress that isolation can cause.

Want to connect with other women in the legal profession? At Corporate Counsel Women of Color, our organization supports in-house attorneys who are women of color. If you are ready to build your network and connect with other professional women, join our organization today.

Explore the following resources that can help you thrive in the workplace.

  • The Bully at Work: What You Can Do to Stop the Hurt and Reclaim Your Dignity by Gary Namie
  • The Arsonist in the Office: Fireproofing Your Life Against Toxic Co-Workers, Bosses, Employees and Cultures by Pete Havel
  • Solving the People Problem: Essential Skills You Need to Lead and Succeed in Today’s Workplace by Brett M. Cooper and Evans Kerrigan

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