Managing workplace loneliness

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Health Assured team

09 September 2020

Things may be returning to some semblance of normality at time of writing, but COVID-19 is still definitely looming large in the minds of many. While lots of workplaces are beginning to fill back up, there are still a lot of people on furlough, and a lot of environments across all sectors with fewer people around than in March (which seems a lifetime ago, now...) 

People on furlough, people working from home and even people in an office with less bustle and noise than usual may be finding it difficult to cope. Of course, the introverts among us has had a great time—but a lot of people thrive in a busy workplace, and the strange quiet may be a little bit strange for them. 

Loneliness, at work and home, is damaging to mental health. But there are some ways you can help beat it back—even as we’re all adjusting to this ‘new normal.’ 

What can loneliness do to the workforce? 

Loneliness is far more serious than most people really think. According to some studies, social isolation can heighten health risks just as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, or suffering alcohol dependency. And it’s not just the risk of premature mortality that’s the issue—studies have shown that 68% of employees link workplace loneliness to increased stress.  

Stress—as we all know—can destroy productivity. Mental health issues, including stress and anxiety, cost the economy over £26 billion annually. It’s important, then, to know how to combat it. 

Ways to combat loneliness, both in work and remotely 

Check in 

Your people are getting on with their work, and you might think that interrupting them would be a detriment—not always the case. Just a friendly greeting, a quick chat about how people are getting on, can make a massive difference when someone is feeling the strains of isolation. 

This can be in-person at someone’s desk, a friendly wave across the retail floor or even a quick phone call/IM to someone working from home. This shouldn’t be an interruption, of course, and you shouldn’t take it personally if someone simply seems too busy to chat—you know your own employees, and can make a judgment call as to how they’re doing. 

If you have a slightly more formal method of working, you can always set up proper, meeting-based checkups on people. These can be in-person (distancing willing) or via video conferencingthe most important thing is to make sure people know they have  an opportunity to raise any concerns they might have regarding their mental wellbeing. 

Virtual get-togethers 

Lots of people have been isolated for monthsEven if they’re still working from home—and a large proportion of the workforce are, perhaps long-term—social interaction will be sorely missed with the friends and colleagues they took for granted back in the far-off days of February. 

Virtual parties, while nothing quite like a replacement for the real thing, can really help—for both remote workers and those who have come back. After all, they won’t have seen each other for a long time!  

Use the resources you have 

An employee assistance programme is the perfect resource in these slightly strange times. Health Assured offer an unparalleled service to over 50,000 organisations, covering more than 13 million lives—if you’re looking for an EAP to help combat workplace loneliness—or any other wellbeing issue—contact us today.  

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