Mental health awareness week is a chance for people throughout the UK to spread awareness about how we can all look after our mental health. Run by the Mental Health Foundation, the theme for the week is loneliness, and encourages discussion around what impact loneliness can have on individuals.
Over the past few years especially, loneliness has seen an increase due to lockdown restrictions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic with 3.7 million people saying they felt lonely (A rise of 2% from previous years).
In the workplace, loneliness can affect anyone, even in a busy environment where it may appear sociable and accommodating towards everyone. On the other hand, those who are still working remotely and estimated to have less social contact, may not be experiencing loneliness the same way. To help you to identify how loneliness can affect employees in different ways, the Mental Health Foundation make a point of distinguishing between loneliness and social isolation: ‘Loneliness and social isolation are related but not the same thing. Social isolation is an objective lack of social contacts, which can be measured by the number of relationships a person has. Someone who is socially isolated isn’t necessarily lonely, nor is a lonely person necessarily socially isolated.’
What is the effect of loneliness within the workplace?
From the UK Government’s ‘Employers and Loneliness’ guidance, it was found that the impact of loneliness was costing UK employers approximately 2.5 billion pounds every year. This was due mainly towards high staff turnover and lower productivity from staff due to poor mental health and increased illness leave.
Loneliness can be experienced as part of a work related issue such as stress from long working hours or alternatively, be an external problem, relating to home-life such as living alone or lack of social connection. Either way, loneliness can affect members of staff, no matter where they are.
The governments guidance states that ‘By tackling loneliness and supporting employees to build social connections, employers can ensure a more productive and resilient workforce.’ In other words, wellbeing, when supported, can lead towards a healthier and more productive workforce.
How can I support staff?
The ‘Employers and Loneliness’ guidance provides five key areas to help address loneliness in the workplace, relating to improving policy and how employers can better support their staff. The steps are divided into:
- Culture and infrastructure
- People and networks
- Work and workplace design
- Wider roles in the community
You can read the report here and see how it can be applied to your business. Aside from this, identifying loneliness can be challenging, especially when employees are not forthcoming in discussing their problems. Edtesa wellbeing and Edtesa reporting can assist with bringing forward issues in the workplace that may have gone unnoticed. Whether it’s providing some honest feedback to how management operates or allowing staff to anonymously report an external or internal matter that has impacted wellbeing, Edtesa can support you in tackling employee loneliness, this Mental Health Awareness Week.