As we are returning to work and our workplaces, it can be hard to integrate back into socialising with our colleagues. After so long working from home to then being sat at our desks, seeing people file in, chatting to each other and laughing, it can feel lonely looking in from the outside, not feeling part of the “in crowd”. Then throughout the day, feelings of anxiety, unhappiness and stress can present due to these feelings and these then affect your work productivity. So how can we prevent this from happening and address the issue of loneliness in the workplace? Here we discuss what loneliness is and looks like, and offer some tips on how to tackle it.
What Causes Loneliness
Loneliness is a feeling that comes from being on your own or perceiving that you are on your own. It can also be caused by being isolated or shunned by others. You do not have to physically be alone to feel loneliness. In fact, it is common to feel lonely when you are in a busy place surrounded by people. Personal issues, such as bereavement or financial worry, can bring on these feelings. As can workplace conditions, like shift patterns and difficult team dynamics. Technology can also play a role such as through working remotely. This can cause team members to feel “left out”. There is also a danger that you get immersed in technology an isolate yourself.
How To Recognise Loneliness
There are no hard and fast recognisable rules about what loneliness can look like as it is a subjective experience. In their minds, the person experiencing it may feel embarrassed or afraid to share their feelings. In the sufferer’s mind, it can also be seen as a sign of weakness. Managers need to make sure that they know their staff well so that they can recognise when someone is starting to become disconnected from their work or workplace. Certain signs could be that they avoid eye contact while talking or their performance at work takes a big dip. Alternatively, some people may show their loneliness by overtly seeking physical contact with others, trying hard to join in with groups or talking about their feelings instead of hiding them. Other team members may know their colleagues really well, so managers should listen to them if they express concerns. Myths about social anxiety.
8 Tips To Beat Loneliness
The best way to tackle loneliness is to have good relationships, build connections and create a sense of community. You can address this by trying these tips in your workplace.
#1 Assess The Situation
If someone is suspected of feeling lonely then the best way to address that is for a manager to build up trust with that person. Make them see and understand that they are listened to and part of the team. If they confide in you about their feelings, look at any immediate issues that could be rectified to help that person.
#2 Encourage Time Together
Sitting at a desk all day can make you feel like you are lonely as you don’t have a chance to speak to your colleagues. Lots of offices have a “no eating at your desk” rule which is a great way to encourage staff to leave their workspace, have a proper break and also encourage socialising time amongst colleagues. This gives staff a chance to relax and chat in an informal space, therefore then preventing the feelings of disconnect.
#3 Workspace Layout
As mentioned before, an immediate fix for solving the physical feeling of being isolated could mean a change in your office layout. For employees suffering loneliness, hearing and listening to the conversation of others can be very comforting. Although managers would not want staff to become too distracted, maybe a more open-plan office would work for your business, as it is known to help combat feelings of loneliness in the workplace.
#4 Taking Time Off
Now, this may seem like it wouldn’t help but, feelings of loneliness in the workplace can result from not having any time with family or friends outside of work due to working long hours or having to work from home after the working day has ended. Taking time off and spending time with loved ones and knowing that you aren’t alone will then help to remove some of the feelings of isolation at work.
#5 Meet Together
During busy workplaces, it is hard for all members of the staff/team to come together. This is why it is important to regularly schedule meetings for all staff to attend so that there is always going to be a set time when the whole team has a chance to interact. These meetings will prevent staff from feeling like their day only involves coming in, sitting down, working and leaving. It is also a chance for the sharing of ideas which is invaluable in a workplace.
#6 Small Gestures
Acts of kindness are a big way to make someone feel cared for. These mustn’t be overlooked as can significantly help to prevent someone from feeling lonely. Just saying hello to someone will show them that their well-being matters to you. Managers should make sure that they have 1 to 1 meetings with their staff and use it as a time to talk about things beyond immediate target and goal setting.
#7 Work As A Team
Feelings of loneliness in the workplace can and will have, significant effects on people’s productivity at work. Managers should try to counteract those energy-sapping feelings of loneliness, with team spirit and camaraderie. Teams working together should have shared values and everyone should be behind those. Senior staff should watch out for unwanted behaviour, such as rudeness or bullying, and make sure that it is addressed immediately and effectively.
#8 Have A Support System
This is a strategy that will help staff with whatever they are struggling with, not just loneliness but maybe severe anxiety or depression or other life-changing situations. Every workplace should have a strong support system in place for their staff and everyone should know what that is and how it works. If there is a good support system in place and managers are approachable, then it is more likely that staff will discuss their feelings openly and ask for help when they need it. Not sure how too ? Advice on supporting people their mental health.
Interested in ensuring you are looking after your employees? Our Mental Health First Aid Training Course is essential for any businesses that want to look after their employee’s health. For more information, please get in touch.