Loneliness is the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (9-15 May)[i] and Adrian Lewis, Commercial Director at Activ People HR is encouraging employers to spot signs of loneliness amongst employees.
The Mental Health Foundation says loneliness has had a huge impact on people’s physical and mental health during the pandemic. According to the Campaign to End Loneliness[ii] nine million people in the UK are suffering from loneliness. They warn of the continuing impact from Covid 19 on levels of loneliness after figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in December 2021 found levels of loneliness across Britain have still not returned to pre-Covid levels[iii].
Adrian says, “The removal of social networks and the isolation of lockdowns meant more people felt loneliness. Changes to society have meant people are socialising less, some may have lost friendship networks or suffered a bereavement, plus hybrid and remote working is continuing which may not suit everyone. It’s vital employers check in on their employees so they can recognise signs of loneliness. Turning a blind eye is not a solution and can cost businesses more in the long run.”
The health risks from loneliness are considerable equating to the same risks as smoking 15 cigarettes a day[iv]. There are financial risks too with a government report[v] suggesting that severe loneliness can cost businesses £9,900 per person per year, due to the impact on wellbeing, health and productivity.
Adrian adds, “One of the easier ways for employers to spot the signs and symptom of loneliness is by investing in absence management software. This enables them to see patterns of behaviour which could indicate someone is struggling.
“For example, someone could be taking more sick leave than usual or regularly taking a Monday off. Someone who is suffering loneliness may become disengaged from work or start displaying symptoms such as stress or anxiety which is leading them to take time off.
“This software prompts return to work interviews and having insight into patterns of behaviour to hand enables managers to gently guide a conversation around wellbeing. By giving employees a safe space to open up it can be an opportunity to nip things in the bud early and offer support depending on the individual circumstances.
“There are other things employers could do as well, especially with workplaces returning to near normal. Encouraging socialising with lunches away from the office or Friday drinks are good options. People may be out of practise so company led events may give people the excuse they need to get back into the swing of socialising. It’s a chance to get to know new team members too that may have joined remotely during Covid.
“Also dedicate ten minutes during every team meeting to talk about wellbeing and life outside of work. Getting to know colleagues is great for team spirit and cohesiveness, plus it may bring up issues people have not felt comfortable discussing before and give people within the team the opportunity to offer support. Creating a supportive work culture can make a big difference to someone’s mental wellbeing.
“During Mental Health Awareness Week, we’d encourage employers to think about doing more to support the mental wellbeing of their workforce and how they could help tackle loneliness. Talking about loneliness could be the start to engaging employees and helping anyone who may be suffering to make some life changes or seek support if needed.”
For more information on Activ People HR visit: www.activpeoplehr.co.uk.