As this week (15-19 June 2020) is Loneliness Awareness Week, a health and wellbeing service has outlined that people often spend the most time with their colleagues, and any changes to their work environment such as remote working or being furloughed can have a big impact on them.
Benenden Health has offered some tips on how employers can alleviate such feelings of loneliness during these times.
Create a learning and development plan:
“A significant cause of loneliness is the feeling of being left behind. As a number of businesses have either placed employees on furlough leave or reduced their hours, some employees may feel their career progression may be put on hold due to the pandemic.
“It is therefore important for employers to create assurances for both furloughed and remote employees where possible. Suggest that time away from work can be used to think about new skills, remind them of their value to the business and support them by suggesting ways that they can aid their own career development.”
Book a consistent stream of socials – and stick to them:
“If you are used to having Friday drinks with the team, or office birthday celebrations, then maintaining these activities is important for the morale, wellbeing and engagement of employees whether working from an office, from home or not currently working at all.
“Maintaining this culture is as important as ever during this pandemic, with a recent Benenden Health study finding that 35 percent of individuals feel their mental health has suffered due to COVID-19, with 38 percent saying support from employers could help ease the stress they are experiencing day-to-day.
“Organising weekly Friday catch-ups, for example, allows employees to maintain that social contact and benefits those living alone and suffering from loneliness, as this provides regular and much valued face-to-face interaction.”
Pablo Vandenabeele, clinical director for mental health at Bupa UK, a private healthcare service said how important it is to support your colleagues who are isolating on their own. However, recently Prime Minister Boris Johnson did announce that from the 13/06/20, people who are living alone in England can spend the night at another house in order to combat loneliness.
Mr Vandenabeele said:
Looking after our health and wellbeing is more important than ever as we all try to adjust to a new, normal way of working. This change to our ‘normal’ way of working may have resulted in increased stress, exhaustion or loneliness.
Working from home can be isolating, especially if people live alone. Even if they have a family around them, they may feel disconnected from their team. In our recent Wellbeing Census, 50 per cent of those surveyed agreed that their colleagues have a positive impact on their wellbeing at work.
Some tips were given by Mr Vandenabeele on how to support your team whilst working remotely, they are:
- Look after yourself, your team will look to you for reassurance and guidance, so it’s important that you lead by example.
- Be authentic, let your team know how you are feeling, as this may encourage them to talk about their own needs and concerns.
- Stay connected, working from home can be isolating and lonely, especially for those living alone. Keeping in touch with colleagues regularly can have a positive impact on their overall wellbeing.
- Have compassion, be sensitive always – you may not know the full details of employees’ personal lives.
- Be clear on support available, it’s a testing time for us all, so remind all of your colleagues what’s available to support their health and wellbeing. If you have services like occupational health or employee assistance programme (EAP) for your staff, share these around and how to get in touch with these services.
- Protect the vulnerable, If you’ve had to furlough staff during the lockdown, or if any of your team are classed as vulnerable or extremely vulnerable, think about ways you can support them.
- Remember – no two are the same, Your team are individuals with different needs. One size doesn’t fit all.
Darius is the editor of HRreview. He has previously worked as a finance reporter for the Daily Express. He studied his journalism masters at Press Association Training and graduated from the University of York with a degree in History.