A Founder’s Guide to Loneliness at Work

Right now loneliness is in the spotlight, and a cornerstone to that is loneliness at work.

The U.S. Surgeon General released an advisory, “calling attention to the public health crisis of loneliness, isolation, and lack of connection in our country. Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately half of U.S. adults reported experiencing measurable levels of loneliness. Disconnection fundamentally affects our mental, physical, and societal health. In fact, loneliness and isolation increase the risk for individuals to develop mental health challenges in their lives, and lacking connection can increase the risk for premature death to levels comparable to smoking daily.”

The average worker spends a good portion of their week at work. The work relationships and culture we engage with are incredibly important to our well-being and sense of connectedness.

So who better to learn from than founders? 

Founders are lonely. It’s the nature of the job. Naturally, when you start something new, on your own, that no one else has done before, it’s hard to find peers you can actually relate to. Founders have to take the extra step to overcome that loneliness. 

We talked to founders—on SNP’s podcast, Think Like A Founder—who gave us three pieces of advice for combating loneliness: 

  • Find like-minded people. 
  • Rebuild your support network. 
  • Remember the vision. 

Read on to learn more…

Find like-minded people

“It’s very lonely being a founder, very lonely being a CEO…who do you talk to? Your friends don’t understand. They’re not founders. You can’t talk to your employees because you literally can’t share things with them. Nobody has the context to be able to understand the challenges and often even the successes. There is nobody to talk to. 

“So personally, I’m part of three societies of entrepreneurs called Founders, ICE, and Snowball. Everybody within those groups goes on retreats a couple of times a year and speaks a lot in between. We are all members of the same tribe of founders, which means that we all understand each other. We all live and share the same values. We can build friendships based on the journey that we are going through.

I cannot imagine going through this journey without the support that I get from my friends in these entrepreneur networks. It would be impossible. I wouldn’t have anybody to learn from because I wouldn’t know anybody who’d walked the path before me.”

Theo Saville, Co-Founder and CEO of CloudNC. Listen to Theo’s Think Like A Founder episode here.

Lesson from Theo: Find like-minded people—people who understand your challenges and successes.

This can be at any level. From your approach to work to the work itself. People who can understand your challenges as well as your successes can make you feel seen, heard, and most importantly connected. Find people who can understand your unique journey. Lean on your colleagues a bit more when it comes to the ebbs and flows of work, so you can forgo loneliness at work.

Rebuild your support network

“I left my job in finance. And it’s this dynamic where you’re on your own sort of path…you’re putting in a tremendous amount of hours…it’s isolating. You don’t have the time to invest in your friends and family, and your support system can kind of suffer a little bit because you’re not nourishing those relationships in the way that you were prior.

“As I’ve found support systems along the way I’ve been able to balance it more. At the very least,  I’m starting to rebuild my support systems around people who really understand my priorities and why I’m so driven to do what I do and the sacrifices that I make.”

James Connolly, Founder and CEO of Villa. Listen to Jame’s Think Like A Founder episode here.

Lesson from James: In times of change, sometimes old support systems break down. That’s ok. Build new ones.

Similar to what Theo shared, you should build those support systems around people who are experiencing similar challenges. Learn from them. 

Remember the vision

“I think there’s nothing better than being in control of your own destiny as a founder. That’s the truest form of it. There’s no one else. You don’t have a boss. There’s no one else to fall back on.

“But that’s like the greatest feeling in the world––that it’s just you and your team. We can make this happen. Freedom to be able to do what you’re passionate about is on one side of the balance. The other side is, it is lonely…it’s an enormous amount of responsibility. But that’s okay. That’s what you signed up for. That’s also what’s driving you to build the great thing that nobody else saw before you.”

Alicia Jackson, Founder and CEO of Evernow. Listen to Alicia’s Think Like A Founder episode here.

Lesson from Alicia: Remember the vision. Connect to your why. Let that inspire you in your times of loneliness.

Because sometimes the changes that we make are an important stage in getting us to the next place we want to be. Whether it’s starting at a new company, a reorg, or a beloved coworker leaving. Embrace it. Know that it’s temporary. And find like-minded people and new support networks to help you along the way. 

Experiencing loneliness at work? That’s ok.

“People have to realize that loneliness is a part of it, and that’s ok.” — Maureen Taylor. 

SNP’s own Co-Founder and CEO knows best. Loneliness is part of the journey. You can’t avoid it. But you can act. What you do matters. 

Find like-minded people. Rebuild your support network. Remember the vision. 

We’re all just humans looking to build connection—at home, at work, in the world. Reach out. 

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Hyatt Glasswing Overview

Hyatt tapped SNP to create a video promoting GMU Live — the onsite portion of General Manager University onboarding program. SNP traveled to Chicago for the shoot to coach the speakers on camera and capture compelling b-roll that highlighted the new general managers’ emotional, and educational journey into Hyatt.

Back in 2013, Asana was still a young company and some of their managers were experiencing leadership roles for the first time. So they needed to learn how to be, well, leaders. Like how to be more influential, directive, confident, and how to deal with conflict. Because if they could flourish then Asana could start to scale even faster (and without so many growing pains).

Enter SNP.

We started with just one 1:1 coaching relationship. But the good word spread fast. Soon enough more people from Asana’s management team were seeking our unique third party perspective, skill-based approach, and communications expertise to build their personal brand, strengthen their careers, and achieve more. (And did we mention the coaching program was a perk that attracted new talent? We didn’t? Well…) Eight years later and Asana is still scaling. And we’re still by their side helping them do it.

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