A report from the Co-op and the Campaign To End Loneliness last year revealed the substantial financial costs facing employers around this problem. Workplace loneliness costs the UK economy £2.5 billion pounds every year. Alone doesn’t have to mean lonely Lone workers face a higher risk of experiencing loneliness by the very nature of their work. However, it’s essential to make the distinction between being alone and feeling lonely. Many people enjoy the autonomy and freedom of working alone; they choose to be alone. Loneliness is an entirely different feeling; you can feel isolated and unhappy because you lack the right amount of positive social interactions. Promoting a healthy workforce Lonely people are more likely to smoke, drink more than the national average, and to eat a poor diet. If you are lonely, you are more likely to withdraw from life and stay at home, exacerbating the problem. All of this can have a cumulative effect on health. It can be a delicate topic bringing up an employee’s health. One way of addressing loneliness among lone workers is to encourage a wellbeing culture. How about introducing free or subsidised healthy food, or holding wellbeing days? As well as working together, why not work out together? Encourage face-to-face interaction by starting a weekly running, walking or 5-a-side football club. Become a business champion by putting your employees’ wellbeing first. Social lives, not social media Technology is a lifeline for many lone workers, especially when it comes to safeguarding them at work. However, as vital as protecting workers is, so is having face-to-face contact. In such a tech-driven world, how do you start addressing loneliness in lone working? Groups on Facebook or WhatsApp can be a great way for people who are physically isolated to stay in touch. But it shouldn’t become the norm. How about appointing a social secretary at work? They could put on regular social events or team bonding events. Make your workplace as friendly and appealing as possible. If people like going to work, they’re more likely to stay. Or you could start a ‘buddy’ scheme. Pair up lone workers to check in with each other, both on and off the job. Talking about loneliness One way of addressing loneliness in lone working is to encourage employees to talk about it. “It is completely normal to feel lonely,” says Amy Perrin, founder of the UK loneliness charity, The Marmalade Trust. “Most people will feel lonely at some point in their life.” Employers can invest in training programmes for managers, helping them to recognise signs of loneliness, which can, if unchecked, develop into mental health issues. Make sure your HR team can actively signpost employees to helpful and relevant resources. You could also employ a company counsellor, schemes such as ‘Where’s Your Head At?’ aim to encourage employers to have a trained ‘mental first aider’ in every workplace. Many people have complicated lives outside work, so it’s vital they feel supported in their workplace. It is also important to recognise that loneliness can start on the job and not outside of it, do workers feel as though they have someone to talk to? Start addressing loneliness in lone working by making employees feel part of the team.
Find out more about loneliness at Marmalade Trust
Find out more about mental health first aiders in the workplace Mental Health First Aid
Find out more about the Campaign to End Loneliness
Contact Lone Worker Solutions and the Safe Hub team today
Post by Rob Gilbert, Chief Sales Officer, Lone Worker Solutions (LWS).
Rob's consultative and end-user-focused approach enables our clients to fully customise lone working protection for every facet of their business. He ensures that clients achieve a lasting, best-of-breed solution working in partnership with the NHS Supply Chain, and the Procurement for Housing (PfH) Framework to protect lone workers.