02 May 2023

The Urgency of Addressing Loneliness in the Workplace

Loneliness is a growing issue with over half (58 per cent) of employees with less than five years of work experience feeling lonely ‘all or most of the time’ according to a new study by Glassdoor[i], and over a quarter (28 per cent) of employees across all ages believe companies are now more anti-social than pre-pandemic.


Whilst older workers are less likely to experience loneliness – just 15 per cent of employees with over 11 years in the workforce feel lonely – employers need to be mindful of this trend and put measures in place to tackle it to prevent it escalating into something more serious, says Adrian Lewis, Commercial Director at Activ People HR.


Adrian says, “Many employees were forced to work from home during the pandemic which led to some feeling lonely and isolated. Now, with more workplaces offering flexible and hybrid working, some firms haven’t properly embraced this new way of working in terms of creating a sociable work environment for people to still feel part of a team. Companies need to look at how they can bring people back together again socially no matter where they are working. As this survey shows this is especially important for younger workers who are often lonely, some may never have even met their work colleagues if recruited remotely, which can lead to poor mental wellbeing.”


The mental health charity Mind highlights that feeling lonely can have a negative impact on mental health, especially if these feelings have lasted a long time. Research suggests that loneliness is associated with an increased risk of certain mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, sleep problems and increased stress.[ii]


Adrian adds, “Employers could be doing more to involve teams in regular social events, both virtually and in-person. Virtual coffee breaks or Friday drinks every week for instance offer the opportunity for people to chat with colleagues about something other than work and can involve people no matter where they are based, in the office or at home.


“Doing a monthly in-person social activity is a good idea too or having a monthly team meeting where everyone attends the office and stays on for lunch or evening drinks together. As well as promoting more socials employers also need to be able to spot the signs that someone may be lonely. One way to do this is by investing in absence management software which can enable them to see patterns of behaviour which could indicate someone is struggling.


“Someone who is lonely could feel disengaged from work or have other symptoms such as low mood or depression. This may manifest itself in them taking more time off work or regularly having a Monday off and lacking motivation after the weekend.


“Firms that can track sick leave can see if someone is taking a lot of leave and take steps to intervene. Absence management software always prompts return to work interviews too which give managers an opportunity to have a conversation in a safe space with that member of staff about their wellbeing. This may reveal issues which can be addressed and support given if needed. Without this insight symptoms are often overlooked especially if people are working remotely, which can lead to more serious problems in the long run, or people even leaving the company.”

For more information on Activ People HR visit: www.activpeoplehr.co.uk.

[i] https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/article/1818089/half-employees-feel-lonely-time-study-finds


[ii] https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/loneliness/about-loneliness/#:~:text=Feeling%20lonely%20can%20also%20have,sleep%20problems%20and%20increased%20stress.