Employee health and wellbeing- employee engagement - tackling loneliness
Everybody has been lonely at one time or another and it is a horrible feeling. But the scale of the UK’s loneliness is such that it is now seen as such a huge social problem. The government has announced plans to try and tackle it.
Wider social issues can be seen in microcosm in the workplace. A third of employees report not having strong relationships at work.
Helping employees overcome their feelings of isolation is important because loneliness is potentially very harmful to health. It can lead to lower immunity, high blood pressure, raised cortisol level and increased rates of depression and anxiety. Employees who feel isolated may become unwell, come to believe they aren’t worthy of attention and develop strong feelings of dissatisfaction with the organisation. This in turn can reduce employee commitment and increase their chances of leaving.
What can you do to help your employees combat loneliness?
- Make all your new recruits feel part of the team as soon as possible. Buddy them with a partner to help them settle in and build relationships. Challenge and encourage your team.
- Encourage mentoring relationships. Make it clear that you are happy to have open communication and your preferred style of managing it. When employees feel that their employer goes out of their way to understand them, it reinforces a strong sense of belonging.
- Include them appropriately. Keeping confidential information under wraps is understandable, but things like forgetting to cc someone on a department wide email or not inviting a member of your team to a partner meeting only serves to create secluded and unhappy employees.
- Be transparent. Make sure your people feel like they know what’s going on. That may mean that you have to take extra care when sending out memos. You may also need to make more of a conscious effort to provide enough information to make your employees comfortable.
Encourage good working relationships between your employees. Most people are more inclined to socialise in relaxed settings where they have the opportunity to hang out in groups. Schedule a company outing or allow employee volunteering in teams.
- Chat through some ideas with your employees about hosting some events to promote a healthy work life balance. The more chances people have to get together the more likely they are to form bonds in the workplace that are meaningful and lasting.
- The feeling you get from face to face interaction can often have a strong positive effect. For example, having a smiling face invite you to a small company get-together is more personal than receiving an email invite to the event. Encourage social interaction between your employees inside. If they’re work stations are physically fairly close by encourage them to walk over and deliver a message rather than just send a quick email. For many employees who may feel lonely or socially isolated, stepping away from the limitations of digital communication may be just what they need.
- Find out about your team. A big part of making people feel welcome and included is understanding the kind of person you’re dealing with and treating them accordingly. Some people need more than just words to feel comfortable taking that plunge. Actions speak much louder than words. Take the time to learn about your employees. Find out the things that interest them, observe their habits and tendencies. For instance, if you notice that a colleague drinks a lot of coffee, maybe buy them a cup next time you get a chance. You’ll find that the gesture makes them feel more included than if you had asked beforehand.
As a good deal of our adult lives will be spent at work, it helps to have at least one person to talk to daily. Taking the time to make these connections goes a long way in increasing the culture and productivity of the office. Make ending workplace loneliness a priority.
Download 12 Tips to Combat Loneliness
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Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this blog, nothing herein should be construed as giving advice and no responsibility will be taken for inaccuracies or errors.
Copyright © 2023 all rights reserved. You may copy or distribute this blog as long as this copyright notice and full information about contacting the author are attached. The author is Kate Russell of Russell HR Consulting Ltd.