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December 22, 2020

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mental health

Working from home and loneliness: Tips on supporting staff that may be feeling lonely

Pablo Vandenabeele Clinical Director for Mental Health at Bupa shares his top tips on how to spot signs of loneliness in your team when you’re an employer or manager, along with advice on how to support your team if they’re struggling.

Pablo Vandenabeele

From time to time we all feel lonely. Loneliness is often thought of as being the result of little or no social interaction. However, loneliness does not necessarily mean being alone.

There are lots of different causes of loneliness such as lack of social contact, change, feeling misunderstood and bereavement which can affect all of us differently.

Loneliness can negatively impact our mental health, and increase your risk of mental health conditions, such as  depression and anxiety. Loneliness can also impact your working life too, and leave you feeling de-motivated and unproductive.

Since March, people have been adapting to working from home and one in four adults have reported experiencing feelings of loneliness. Working from home can be isolating for many reasons: you may feel disconnected from your team as a result of the blurred boundary between work and home life. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help reduce your feelings of loneliness.

Signs of loneliness in your team

Feelings of self-doubt

If you’re feeling lonely, you may experience self-doubt. This may be as a result of putting too much pressure on yourself, or you might find it hard to live up to your own, set expectations for your role.  If any of your team are experiencing self-doubt, they may be withdrawn, or not engage as much as they used to.

Working remotely may increase these feelings of loneliness, as there isn’t anyone there to physically encourage them.

Struggling with tiredness

Loneliness negatively impacts our wellbeing and can make it harder for us to fall asleep at night; often leaving those suffering from loneliness feeling drained.

It’s important to encourage your team to take regular breaks throughout their day.

A sense of detachment from the workplace

Often those who are feeling lonely lose interest in the things they enjoy and may seem distant at work. Not participating in work calls, avoiding contribution to conversations and a change in usual work performance such as missing deadlines can be a sign a member of your team is suffering from loneliness.

Heightened levels of stress

Often those suffering from loneliness have trouble putting their worries into perspective. You may notice a member of your team seems to be more stressed by smaller everyday tasks than usual when suffering from loneliness.

Tips on supporting staff that may be feeling lonely

Now that you’re more aware of the signs of loneliness in the workplace, there are lots of small steps you can take as a manager to ensure your team feel supported.

Make time

Being available to chat to your team when they feel as though they may need some help or advice or simply share how they feel and is important to help them feel supported.

Set aside team every week to catch up with your team on an individual basis – even if you’re busy.

Stay connected

Encouraging your team to make time to chat during the day can help them to feel connected. Making time for a regular call can help create a daily routine and provides your team with opportunities to share any positive news or achievements.

Create a virtual event calendar

Different team members may like to socialise in different ways. Creating a calendar with various virtual events such as quizzes and arts and crafts sessions provides your team with a variety of online social gatherings, so there is something for everyone!

Give positive feedback

Encouraging your team with positive feedback is a great way to help boost their self-esteem and motivation. Positive feedback is also a great way of acknowledging their hard work, especially whilst working remotely.

You can still provide encouragement and positive feedback to your team virtually, such as via an email, shoutout in an online team meeting, or a quick phone call.

Encourage your team to focus on their wellbeing

Helping your team to find techniques that help them to cope with feeling lonely or isolated is not only a proactive step in preventing loneliness, but also a great way to help your team to feel supported. This could be pointing them in the right direction to find wellbeing resources, such as mindfulness techniques or joining a virtual club or group.


Burnout podcast

Heather Beach, Founder of the Healthy Work Company, and Stacy Thomson, Award Winning Mental Health Nurse & Cognitive Behavioural Coach, discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

Subscribe and tune in the Safety & Health Podcast to discover the latest issues facing the health and safety profession, and stay on-top of the developments affecting your role, from working at height, lone working and common workplace hazards, to safety culture, behaviours, occupational health and mental health and wellbeing.

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A guide to home working

This hub has been put together by SHP, Barbour EHS and The Healthy Work Company to provide research, case studies, videos and resources to enable you to lead this transition in a way which safeguards the wellbeing of your teams and maximises the opportunity to embrace new ways of working for the future.

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