In this age of technology and a global, mobile workforce (not to mention rising job insecurity), workplace loneliness is on the rise. Left unchecked, loneliness can develop into severe health conditions like heart disease. A 2014 Relate survey revealed that 1 in 4 people have no friends at work. The physical effects of chronic loneliness have even been likened to smoking fifteen cigarettes a day. A lonely person is also more vulnerable in other ways: A 2017 HSE survey showed that over days lost to workplace stress are at record levels. Loneliness isn’t just bad for a person’s health – it’s bad for business.
It makes sense therefore that people who work alone are even more susceptible. It can feel like a hard topic to address when the very nature of the job is to work alone, especially in those traditionally male-dominated industries where people are less likely to talk about their feelings. There is still a sense of shame around admitting you are lonely but that viewpoint is fast changing. “Feeling lonely is a very normal human condition,” says Amy Perrin, founder of UK loneliness charity the Marmalade Trust. “There is nothing wrong with saying that you are lonely, it’s just a lack of the right social connections.”
The UK has the world’s first Loneliness Minister, and we’re waking up to the fact that loneliness isn’t just something that happens in old age. The fact is that we spend most of our time at work, so it’s vital that we don’t feel isolated. So what can you do in the workplace to tackle loneliness, either as an employer or an employee?
If you’re lonely:
Don’t suffer in silence. Recognising that you are lonely and that you need to do something about it is the first big step.
Talk to someone. Whether it’s your line manager, a colleague or someone at home, tell people if you are feeling lonely.
Be proactive. If you’re part of a team who work remotely, suggest regular social get-togethers. It can be anything from after-work drinks to a coffee club, to meeting for a weekly breakfast.
If you work alone, try starting up online communities like a Facebook group, to connect with people in a similar situation.
How to spot if someone is lonely
If you’re a line manager or employer, build up a culture of connections in your company with regular physical get-togethers. Encourage more social and team-building events – it shouldn’t always be about work.
Check in regularly with your lone workers – just saying hello or asking about someone’s day can make a big difference.
Technology has made communication more convenient but it can be at the expense of human connections. Don’t always email or message a colleague or co-worker, pick up the phone or go and see someone in person if you can.
Changing the language of loneliness
It’s great that loneliness is on the national agenda now but there’s still room for improvement. The language widely used around loneliness can still feel a bit negative: words like ‘epidemic’ are used a lot and we say that we ‘admit’ to ‘suffering’ from loneliness. We don’t have to admit to anything, we’re just feeling lonely! Loneliness isn’t a contagious disease - it’s something that everyone will experience at some point in their life. The sooner we start talking about it in a positive and proactive manner; the sooner solutions can be reached. So let’s start talk loneliness in the lone workplace! Encourage a work culture where employees feel they can talk about experiencing loneliness. Run workshops, provide the relevant resources and signposting if someone feels their mental health is being impacted and train people up on identifying signs of loneliness in themselves and others. 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.
Contact Lone Worker Solutions and the Safe Hub team today
About Lone Worker Solutions At Lone Worker Solutions, it’s our business to protect employees, managers and shareholders from the risks associated with working alone. This includes the potential hazards faced by staff who work by themselves, remotely, or out-of-sight or earshot of colleagues. When it comes to safety we don't believe in a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach; instead, we tailor our solution to each organisation's exact needs.