COVID-19: Managing employee loneliness

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Health Assured team

26 May 2020

Research has found that lonely people are 50% more likely to die prematurely than people with a good social network, making loneliness as big a mortality risk as diabetes

 

Taking place on the 15th - 19th June 2020, Loneliness Awareness Week (LAW) is an annual wellbeing event aimed at breaking the stigma attached to loneliness and “encourage people to speak about it openly and without embarrassment or fear of being judged.”

 

This LAW, we are encouraging employers to tackle employee loneliness by putting tailored wellbeing measures in place during these challenging times.

 

Loneliness and COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected our lives in an unprecedented manner. Due to the social restrictions put in place to protect us and those around us, the time that we spend with our friends and loved ones has been has been severely impacted.

 

Naturally, loneliness has become a by-product of the social restrictions put in place for many people around the world. This has been especially difficult for those living alone or who have had to self-isolate for a length of time.

 

Risks of a lonely workforce

Loneliness can often be the precursor of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. With research from Total Jobs finding that three in five (60%) employees feel lonely at work, it’s in the best interest of employers to make every effort in fighting off the spread of loneliness within their organisation.

 

In the same study, 68% of employees identified increased stress levels due to workplace loneliness. And it’s no secret that a stressed workforce is a less productive one.

 

High stress levels among employees can contribute to higher absences, increased turnover and a negative workplace atmosphere, not to mention the financial risks associated. In fact, mental health issues, including work-related stress, cost the UK and Irish economies £26bn and €1.5bn per annum, respectively.

 

Managing employee loneliness

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, the risk of employee loneliness is considerably higher than normal and the opportunity for intervention has been reduced due to the increase in remote workers and furloughed staff.

 

While it may seem like a difficult task, there are numerous ways for employers to fulfil their duty of care towards their staff during these challenging times. Here are a few suggestions...

 

Check in - Conduct regular, informal one-on-one ‘catch-ups’ with your team members. If you can’t do these in person (at a safe distance) we recommend that you host virtual meetings via video calling software or a simple phone call. Use these catch-ups as an opportunity for the employee to raise any concerns they have regarding their work life and mental health.

Virtual gatherings - With many of us living in lockdown conditions for weeks and months, social interaction will be sorely missed by many of your employees. With this in mind, hosting a virtual ‘staff party’ can be a great way for employees to interact with their friends and colleagues - improving their moods in the process.

Signpost to EAP - Make sure that you inform your people that Health Assured’s confidential helpline is available 24/7, 365. If they wish to discuss any mental health concerns, a compassionate, listening ear is just a phone call away.

 

Managing workplace loneliness during these unprecedented times is certainly a challenge, however, by putting these suggestions in place, you will see a happier, healthier workforce. Which in turn, will improve your workplace culture, productivity and overall performance.

 

 

If you would like to find out more information on any of the topics mentioned in this article, please contact Health Assured on:

UK: 0844 892 2493

ROI: 01 886 0324

 

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