It’s #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek in the UK (13-19 May 2019), an annual campaign to promote mental health. The campaign is run by the Mental Health Foundation, a charity dedicated to finding and addressing the sources of mental health problems. As we’ve discussed in previous blogs, stress, anxiety and depression are a significant factor in workplace illness in the UK. We thought we’d remind our readers of the importance of looking after mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. And in particular, it’s vital to focus on lone worker mental health.
Changing the language around lone worker mental health
For many lone workers, one particular problem can be isolation and loneliness. One key area for employers to tackle is encouraging a more open culture in talking about loneliness and mental health more generally. It’s also how we talk about it. We don’t have to ‘admit’ to ‘suffering’ from loneliness or mental health issues, which are both common ways to describe it. People aren’t suffering from anything shameful. Normalising the language around loneliness and mental health in the workplace is a big step towards losing the stigma.
Taking practical steps to overcome lone worker isolation
Lone worker loneliness doesn’t have to be an insurmountable problem. The main thing is for both employees and managers to be proactive and take steps to addressing loneliness. For instance, social media can really help create a sense of community if it’s used right. Starting a Facebook group for other lone workers is a great way to communicate, while WhatsApp groups work for contact on a daily basis. And it doesn’t even have to be work related; just say hello to each other in the morning, and share jokes or photos during breaks.
Sometimes people need a push to get involved. If you’re a manager of a team of lone workers, introduce regular events to bring your lone workers together. Do it at the company offices, or if that’s not possible, at another comfortable venue. The meet-ups don’t have to be work-related. You could put on wellbeing talks and get speakers along, or even hold a healthy cooking class. And don’t forget to ask the employees what they’d like to see or do.
Managers: learn to spot the signs of lone worker mental health issues
Make sure managers and HR teams are trained to identify lone workers who may be vulnerable. Mental Health First Aid England is a national scheme that trains people to become mental health first aiders in their workplace. Or else you could employ a company counsellor who all workers have access to.
Do you have employees who seem depressed or isolated? Are you aware of their home life situation? Lonely people often withdraw from the world and that’s where the cycle of loneliness can start. It’s important to support workers and make them feel like they have a community at work. Just because they work alone doesn’t mean lone workers have to be lonely. This #MentalHealthAwarnessWeek, why not reach out and take proactive steps to look after lone worker mental health.
Contact Lone Worker Solutions and the Safe Hub team today
Post by George Stavrinidis
George is Chief Executive Officer of Lone Worker Solutions (LWS). He believes passionately that everyone should be protected and supported at work. George supports LWS clients to make sure they enjoy the most effective relationship with the team and maximise the effectiveness of their deployment of Safe Hub.