Only 8% of UK workers would tell a manager about feeling lonely at work

In research carried out by Hall & Partners, part of Omnicom’s Brand Consulting Group, 58% of UK workers said they had felt lonely at work during the last 12 months. When asked who they might be prepared to discuss their feelings of loneliness with, only 4% said they would contact their HR department, while a shockingly low 8% said they would speak to a manager. Of those prepared to speak with a manager, more men were prepared to do so, compared to women (53% vs 47% respectively).

The theme for this year’s UK Mental Health Awareness Week, which was marked last month, was loneliness. At the start of this year, Hall & Partners’ future business predictions for 2022 stated that mental health will become the most important employee engagement metric for businesses and brands.

Taking place in May each year, Mental Health Awareness Week provides a valuable opportunity and acts as an important reminder for brands and business to take an empathetic view towards staff welfare and offer, where necessary, the appropriate emotional support.

Commenting on the research, James Gambles, Director, Global Marketing & Communications at Hall & Partners said: “Everyone’s mental health has taken a hit over the last couple of years as we became isolated from family, friends, work colleagues and from the communities we live in. Businesses can play an important role in helping to alleviate loneliness and ensure the positive mental wellbeing of their staff.”

Millions of us may experience feelings of loneliness from time to time. We know that some people are at higher risk of experiencing loneliness and evidence shows the longer we feel lonely, the more we are at risk of mental health problems.

Certain jobs come with particularly high levels of stress such as serving military personnel and those working in the emergency services for example. And as we know, jobs within the creative industries are also often defined by high-pressure, demanding projects, tight deadlines etc, which can play its part in leading to burnout and mental stress. Typical roles might include broadcasters, event co-ordinators, news reporters and PR executives.

Cost to the economy

Depression is a significant contributor to the state of our mental health. Not only does it impact our physical and mental health, but it can also lead to a loss of productivity in the workplace.

According to Mental Health Foundation, 70 million days are lost each year due to mental health problems in the UK, costing employers around £2.4 billion per year.

Hall & Partners’ own research revealed that 11% of UK workers (this figure was higher in the US – 31%) had left their job last year or had thought about doing so due to mental health issues.

Loneliness and mental health

Loneliness and a lack of friends at work is one of many stressors that can contribute to a decline in mental health. Others include a lack of control over one’s job, increase in working hours and demanding job requests.

Feeling lonely and isolated can affect our mental health. It is often associated with the elderly or those experiencing bereavement, but it is not exclusive to these groups. Employees have felt particularly isolated and lonely over the last two years due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.  

In a survey carried out last month, Hall & Partners asked 1,985 full-time and part-time employed UK citizens (male/female aged 18-64 years) about their feelings of loneliness at work and the impact it has had on their mental health.

Further results revealed that men were less likely to share their feelings of loneliness with a work colleague – 46%, compared to women who were more willing to do so – 54%.

Slightly less women said they were willing to discuss the problem with their partners – 48%, while 52% of men said they would.

Workers were asked if their feelings of loneliness had impacted any of the following: In order, the results were:

Total

Stress levels   29%

Productivity     20%

Self-esteem    18%

Other              16%

Sleep pattern  12%

Relationships  5%

More women said that feeling lonely had impacted their self-esteem – 56%, compared to men – 44%. When UK workers were asked whether loneliness had affected their relationships – 56% of men said it had, compared to 43% of women.

Gambles continued: “Business leaders must prioritize employee experience (EX) and begin to think like marketers by surprising and delighting potential and existing employees if they are to avoid losing staff and joining the ‘Great Resignation’ that is sweeping the UK at present.

“People want to be understood, heard, responded to, and engaged with. They are value driven and want to be valued too. Underpinning all of this is empathy. Directly relating to the reality of people’s existence provides valuable emotional capital. Empathetic values build more emotional connections to leaders and brands.”

Kindness is key to preventing loneliness

In previous studies, Hall & Partners has carried out extensive research in to ‘Kindness in Leadership’, producing two reports on the topic in collaboration with Saïd Business School, Global Thinkers Forum and Women of the Future.

The research concluded that businesses now have a unique opportunity to support staff as they return to the workplace following lengthy periods of isolation. Businesses can show how adopting a kinder more empathetic leadership style can have a positive impact on the culture and performance of organisations

Gambles said: “Business and brands have the power to change the world, and this starts with people. It’s time to challenge the traditional conversation, which has overlooked the importance and power of kindness in leadership and the immense impact that it has in all areas of business.”

Author: Editorial Team

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