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Loneliness – whose problem is it anyway?

Written by Jenny Scott on 11 Jun 2023

According to the most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics, approximately twelve million people in the UK report feeling lonely. Data also shows around 40% of working adults currently work either some or all the time at home.  

So, what is the connection between loneliness and a thriving workforce? When we think of loneliness in the workplace, we often think of our team members feeling disconnected or isolated, something that has increased in line with the rise of employees working from home. The impact can be lower morale, reduced creativity, and poorer communication between co-workers. It can also impact absenteeism, job satisfaction and job engagement aka productivity! 

‘It is estimated that absenteeism due to loneliness costs the UK economy around £1.5 billion a year’ 

Although Mental & Physical health can be a compounding factor, loneliness is often the result of lack of meaningful relationships with others, resulting in people feeling disconnected from the world around them.  

So, how can employers tackle loneliness in the workplace?  

1. Offer Events & Team Building Opportunities: Employers must create environments that encourage open communications and collaboration between team members. Team bonding exercises and group social activities can help to develop relationships and build trust in the workplace.  

2. Lead by Example: Demonstrate to employees that social engagement is both accepted and necessary. Lead by example and show them that building relationships is important and take the initiative to meet each team member.  

3. Promote Meaningful Interactions: Encourage meaningful conversations in the workplace and encourage time and space for them to happen. Weekly check-ins, walking meetings, coffee room chats are great spaces to have meaningful interactions in and around the workplace. 

4. Provide Flexible Schedules: Allow employees to set flexible work schedules and have the option to work from home. This will reduce stress and feelings of loneliness as they become more autonomous and can manage their own time. Remote working policies designed to let staff know what support is available when they are working at home can be helpful. 

5. Introduce Mentoring Programs: Set up mentoring and coaching programs that allow employees to form relationships with their peers. This is a fantastic way to build trust and friendships.  

6. Use Technology: Utilising technology such as chatrooms, forums, and video conferencing can be especially powerful when you have staff who work remotely. Chat spaces designated for non-work-related talk will help foster connections.  

7. Encourage Co-Working: Have employees work together on projects and tasks in creative and collaborative ways. This will give them a chance to interact with each other and build relationships.  

9. Offer Wellbeing Programs: Access to counselling services, online resources, or even an Employee Assistance Program can help to ensure employees feel supported and have the tools they need to manage their mental and emotional health.  

10. Listen to Employees: Allow employees to voice their feelings and concerns, and make sure they know that their feedback is both valued and heard. Listening to employees is a wonderful way to foster a sense of trust and connection in the workplace. 

Tackling loneliness in the workplace is important for both the individual and the employer. While it might be challenging, there are a variety of steps employers can take to ensure that their team feels connected and engaged. By ensuring open communication, listening to team members’ concerns, providing mental health support, and incorporating both traditional and virtual social activities, employers can ensure their workplace remains a healthy and productive environment.