Are your employees lonely? Wellbeing expert David Price, CEO at Health Assured, offers this advice on how to combat loneliness in the workplace.
Loneliness has been described as a looming public health concern in the UK. According to a report by the British Red Cross and Co-op over 9 million people have expressed feelings of loneliness, that’s approximately a fifth of the population.
Unsurprisingly, loneliness is not limited to an individual’s personal life. Counselling service Relate conducted a survey in 2014 which revealed that 42% of workers do not have a single friend in their workplace. That’s a very sobering statistic. So, how can employers tackle loneliness in their workplace?
Engagement with colleagues
What is it that could be causing loneliness within the workforce? There are several areas of an employee’s day that should be considered when it comes to helping encourage engagement with colleagues, such as seating arrangements.
Flexible working continues to grow in popularity. Shift work, hot desking or spending long periods on the road or working from home can all contribute to restricting the amount of time employees have to interact with one another, making it hard to form close bonds.
Support systems can be put in place to assist staff in these situations. Managers should be fully trained in listening and responding to any issues that employees feel are affecting their abilities at work and maintain an open-door policy. Perhaps aspects of a job role could be tweaked to encourage more interaction with colleagues. To offer further support to employees who feel they are struggling, employers could consider using an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which are usually overseen by third-party providers and offer 24-hour free counselling and advice to employees.
Generally, employers should encourage strong networking in the workplace through the organisation of social activities. This can enable employees to interact in different surroundings, talk to colleagues they may otherwise not interact with and therefore build stronger working relationships.
People will have different interests, so it is a good idea to involve all members of the team in deciding what to do. It may also be advisable to discourage employees from eating at their desks during lunchtimes, providing a space in which they can interact socially with colleagues during their breaks.
Care should also be taken in the positioning of desks to ensure that no employee is isolated through a seating plan. Recent studies have demonstrated that candidates are more likely to pursue a role in a company if the layouts promise a less formal and open plan workspace, such as communal tables and low-walled workstations.
By taking steps that can help prevent employees from feeling lonely, employers can work to promote a positive atmosphere, assisting in retaining key staff and attracting talented individuals to their company.
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