With many of us spending most of our time out of the office over the past year, it’s understandable that the number of people experiencing loneliness has increased.
Loneliness at work is not a new phenomenon, but it is one that has been highlighted and exacerbated by the rise of home working and social distancing.
This week (14 to 18 June) is Loneliness Awareness Week. Hosted by the Marmalade Trust, the campaign raises awareness of loneliness and aims to get people talking about it.
Last year, 60% of people reported feeling lonely at work, but only 1 in 4 women and 1 in 5 men would tell someone at work if they were feeling lonely (according to a study by Total Jobs).
And, as the Marmalade Trust points out, “loneliness doesn’t just affect individuals, it’s bad for business.” Loneliness costs UK employers more than 2.5 billion pounds a year, due to lower productivity levels, increased sick days, time off to care for others and staff retention.
It’s not - as traditionally thought - only those who work alone like the self-employed and freelancers who experience loneliness. The rising levels of loneliness across the board show that you can still feel lonely even when you work with other people.
How can we create more connected workplaces? The Marmalade Trust stresses that loneliness is a two way street, and it’s up to managers and the individuals themselves to work together to foster an environment of acceptance.
For leaders, it is crucial to put in good management practices in order to encourage an open, supportive and sociable culture where employees feel connected to their colleagues and organisation.
It’s important, too, to reduce the stigma around loneliness. A barrier for many people in talking about feelings of loneliness is embarrassment, lack of trust in colleagues and fear it could have a negative impact on their career.
To do this, leaders can use positive or neutral language while talking about loneliness. For example, one should say someone is ‘experiencing’ loneliness rather than ‘struggling’ with it.
Other ways to help include prioritising social time among colleagues, as well as offering training to employees and signposting employees to the support on offer.
It’s important to remember, though, that not every employee will want the same level of social contact. So, consider having conversations with new starters and existing staff about what level of social contact they want.
For employees experiencing loneliness, it’s important to be proactive and speak to someone about what you are going through.
Avoid blaming yourself for anything you are feeling, if you feel that the way your workplace is set up is having a negative impact, feel free to raise these concerns - you could be helping someone else too.
Try not to simply rely on emails, for a better connection with others, pick up the phone or head into the office if that’s an option for you. The final tip from Marmalade Trust for employees is to borrow a dog - pets have been proven to be a source of comfort, as well as giving an opportunity to get out for a walk and chat with others.
Unlocking the power of camaraderie At People Activation, we believe that creating a sense of belonging means encouraging a culture where everyone feels part of a ‘tribe’.
The more we feel connected to others, the more we feel we belong together; the more we feel that our purpose is shared, the greater the feeling that what we do makes a difference; and the more we contribute towards a greater common cause, the greater the success of the individual and the group. Activation events provide an environment that brings like-minded people into close physical and emotional proximity, creating shared moments that have real meaning for participants.
If you would like to speak to us about helping you to create a more connected workforce, get in touch: peopleactivation.com/contact.