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Creating Community at Your Office

Your employees are feeling more socially isolated. Should you help?

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This story appears in the December 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

At the end of the movie It's a Wonderful Life, George Bailey realizes his life isn't so bad after all because he has many friends in Bedford Falls who are ready and willing to help him.

The rest of us might not be so lucky. A survey of nearly 1,500 Americans conducted earlier this year by sociologists at Duke University and The University of Arizona found that our circle of confidants--the people with whom we feel comfortable discussing our most important issues--has decreased by nearly one-third over the past 20 years. When we want to talk, we're relying more on our closest family members: The percentage of Americans who confide only in family members has zoomed from 57 percent to 80 percent since 1985, and the number of Americans who feel they have no one to confide in has more than doubled. The researchers concluded that the greatest loss has been in our web of nonfamily connections.

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