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Loneliness in the workplace

Loneliness can affect us all at one time or another and according to a study carried out by the ONS Loneliness is more likely to affect 16-24 year olds who live alone and are on low incomes or are unemployed The Covid pandemic and in particular Lockdown had a huge impact on the population as a whole in terms of loneliness

What is Loneliness?

Loneliness is a feeling we get when our need for social contact and meaningful relationships aren’t being met.

Some people may experience loneliness from time to time but for others it may be more prolonged & deeper seated. You don’t have to be alone to feel lonely in fact some people can feel quite content being alone. Conversely you can be surrounded by family & friends and still feel lonely.

Loneliness isn’t a mental health problem but if you have a mental health problem it may impact on your feelings of loneliness for example if you avoid social situations due to anxiety you may, consequently, feel lonely. Follow this link to Mind to find out more.

Loneliness can occur due to certain life events for example moving to a new area, starting university, or becoming a parent for the first time.

One of the outcomes of the Covid pandemic is the changes in the way many of us are now working. Working from home and hybrid working are the new norm and whereas this can have huge benefits such as lower fuel costs, flexibility around childcare it can for some people create feelings of loneliness. In fact, loneliness can occur even when staff are in the physical workplace.

What can you do as an employee?

As an employee try to let someone know if you are feeling lonely, a colleague, Occupational Health, or your line manager. Try not to feel embarrassed or ashamed. Loneliness is a normal part of life and not something you have to “admit to” or are “suffering from”. Perhaps you could just say that you are spending a bit too much time on your own or would benefit from a bit more contact with your colleagues.

If you work solely from home maybe think about coming back to the office a couple of days a week or if there is no office arrange to meet up with colleagues in person or consider renting a shared workspace.

Rather than always using email consider picking up the phone and speaking to your colleagues or clients or even talking to them in person. This might even save time & long email threads.

What can you do as a manager?

As a manager it’s easy to keep an eye on things if everyone attends the workplace but if you have team members that work from home or out and about, check in with them from time to time not just to talk about work but to have a catch up and see how they are feeling. You could ask them directly how they are finding being away from the workplace and if they would benefit from more contact with their colleagues. Invite them in regularly for meetings or social events, lunchtime walks etc.

Is your workspace organised to allow for staff to connect. Even if staff have to be in separate offices or work out in the community, are there communal areas they can go to chat to team members during break times.

Reduce the stigma around loneliness to make it easier for staff members to open up about it. Perhaps loneliness could be a part of your organisation’s Wellbeing Charter. You could talk to People at Work about this.

For more information and guidance on loneliness take a look at Marmalade Trust or if you would like to speak to one of our first responders then get in touch on the number below.

Talk to a People at Work first responder and find out how we can be part of your wellbeing support. 020 3286 1545

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