January can feel like a long, bleak month – and indeed, this week started with ‘Blue Monday’. Apparently, 21 January was the most depressing day of 2019 in the northern hemisphere. It’s a function of the fallout from Christmas festivities, such as debt, together with low motivational levels and weather conditions. While this cod psychology might not have much scientific evidence, it is certainly anecdotally true that many people avoid social situations in January.
As a result, January can be an especially isolating time for lone workers if they don’t see anyone in their working day (or night). There’s a real risk that they’ll suffer from lone worker loneliness. We thought we’d take the opportunity to look at some easy and effective ways to address loneliness in lone workers. Both the workers themselves and their managers can take practical steps to improve health and wellbeing. And it’s important to recognise the signs of loneliness, both in yourself and in your team.
Lone workers: use social media to start being more sociable
Social media is often blamed for making us feel disconnected from real life. But it 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. It doesn’t have to be work related. Saying hello to each other in the morning and sharing jokes or photos during breaks makes you feel part of each other’s working lives. You also feel like there are others looking out for you.
Staying active and making connections
Outside of work, what could you do to meet new people? Is there something you’d always wanted to learn, e.g. doing a painting course? Exploring your interests and finding new talents are great confidence boosters. It’s also an easy way to meet like-minded people. Volunteering is also a great way to channel your own loneliness into helping others. Google local charities in your area that match your own values and interests.
Staying off the booze and losing a few pounds is much more fun when it’s a group activity. Find a locl sports club such as a 5-aside football club, or maybe a weekend walking club; or start one youreself and promote it to colleagues and through social media. Just before working hours commence what about starting a weekly breakfast club to connect with others. Just try to stay off the fry-ups!
Managers: learn to spot the signs of loneliness
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.
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. And this goes both ways. If you’re a lone worker, maybe you’ve been feeling lonely for a long period. Did you have Christmasby yourself? Do you live alone and have no one to come back to? Loneliness can creep up on you without you realising. Identify where you’re feeling isolated and take positive action. If you are feeling isolated at work, talk to a colleague or your manager. If they are made aware they can take action to help you. Just because you are a lone worker doesn’t mean you have to be lonely.
Events and activities for the workplace
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. Ask the employees what they’d like to see or do. It makes people feel more involved and that their opinion matters, even if they are out in the field most of the time.
Changing the language around lone worker loneliness
It’s important to encourage a more open culture in talking about loneliness. It’s also how we talk about it. We don’t have to ‘admit’ to ‘suffering’ from loneliness, which are both common ways to describe it. People aren’t suffering from anything horrible or shameful – they’re just feeling lonely! Normalising the language around loneliness in the workplace is a big step into losing the stigma. 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. That way we’ll all feel happier and more connected.
Mental Health First Aid England's 'vision is to normalise society’s attitudes and behaviours around mental health, by developing the skills we need to look after our own and others’ wellbeing'.
Counselling Directory 'was set up by a team who know how difficult it can be to find the support and information you need'.
The Campaign To End Lonliness provides awareness and information,they 'believe that people of all ages need connections that matter'.
Marmalade Trust is a UK loneliness charitym, they 'Seek to create a society where people freely acknowledge that loneliness can exist, and will actively support those experiencing it to increase their social contact and make new friendships'.
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.
About Safe Hub
Safe Hub is an award-winning package of emergency, buddy, proactive, reactive, broadcast and virtual barrier protection for lone workers. Safe Hub supports lone and remote workers on the widest possible array of BS8484:2016 Gold Certified devices, including Android, Apple and Windows smartphones, BlackBerrys, standard mobiles, PCs, intrinsically safe devices, specialist personal safety devices and satellite phones.