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By Emma Attenborough-Sergeant Wellness Expert at GoVida - The Employee Wellbeing Platform

It’s not easy working in isolation.  

No matter what your current set-up – home-based, hybrid, or fully onsite – the effects of the last two years are still being felt. Because relationships, connections, and our very sense of community were impacted by the time we spent cut off and confined to our own company. 

Of course it wasn’t all bad: some of us loved the chance to step back from the hustle and bustle; to bid adieu to the daily commute; to spend less time in the office, and more quality time within the cosy comfort of our own homes. But there’s no denying that, after a while, lockdown was tough on many of us. 

Which is why the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is loneliness. And that’s a theme we can absolutely get behind.  

The Loneliness Pandemic 

Over the course of the last few years, feelings of loneliness and isolation have become more commonplace than ever before.  

According to findings from the Mental Health Foundation, one in four adults feels lonely some or all of the time – but this worsened during the pandemic. In fact, research from the Mental Health Foundation found that by February 2021, 7.2% of adults (3.7 million) in the UK felt lonely ‘often or ‘always’, compared to just 5% at the start of the pandemic. And it’s not hard to see why. 

During the pandemic, even outside of the lockdowns, many of us kept ourselves to ourselves: we stayed home; wore masks when out and about; worked from home; kept socialising to a minimum; avoided crowds and gatherings; even distanced ourselves from elderly and at-risk relatives. 

In all, our community ties felt weakened; our relationships more distant. And whether you’re still working remotely or you’ve returned to the hubbub of your regular workplace, there are lasting repercussions.  

Recovering From Isolation 

In one sense, we’re having to relearn our social skills; our ability to communicate face-to-face, and in a social setting.  

Traditionally, our workplaces have been great sites of team-spirit and camaraderie – and it’s vital we get back to that (no matter what your current working arrangement). Because when you feel like an essential part of a team, you tend to perform better, and even enjoy your job far more. 

So what can you do if you’re feeling lonely? If you’re not seeing people as much as you’d like? And if when you do see people, you’re struggling to connect? 

Simple Steps to Alleviate Loneliness at Work 

  • Get out of the house: If you now have the option to work remotely, and you’re taking full advantage of that arrangement, ask yourself if working from home on a full-time basis is actually doing you good. Is it advancing your mental, emotional, and physical health? Or is it making you feel isolated and cut-off? Home-working is great in theory, but sometimes, we simply need to be surrounded by our colleagues. 
  • Reconnect with your team – beyond work: Even if you are back in the office, you might not be socialising with your colleagues as much as you once were. Post-Covid, people seem less inclined to spend time away from home – and while a greater appreciation of our home lives is a wonderful thing, balance is key. So why not organise a monthly (or even weekly) team gathering? You could try a pub quiz, go for a meal, head to the theatre, host one another at home, try out some team sports, or even find a fun activity – like life-sized Monopoly! 
  • Reassess your options: If the job that you’re in, or the company that you’re working for, no longer ignites you, gives you a sense of passion, and surrounds you with the sort of people you actively want to be around, it could be time to consider your options. We’d never casually advise jumping ship unless you’ve really thought things through, but we can often feel lonely and isolated when we’re in the wrong situation – and that extends to our personal lives, too. 
  • Intersperse your working day with things you enjoy: We tend to feel less lonely, and far less isolated, if we work enjoyable activities into our day – and no matter how busy you are, we all need regular breaks. If you’re working from home (or you can leave the office), try to get outside for a walk, or head to the gym; seeing people out and about, even if you don’t stop to chat, can give you a real community feel.  
  • Look beyond work: Sometimes, with the best will in the word, you might not find the connection you’re looking for from your colleagues. You might be very different people; or at very different stages in your life. If that’s the case, your energy would be better spent on building connections outside of work. Find out what’s going on in your community; join a group that appeals to your interests; sign up for a class – or simply make a commitment to reconnect with old friends more.  

Why it Matters 

The longer we feel lonely, the more we risk our mental health. This is particularly important in our jobs, because work takes up such a big part of our lives. 

Being part of a team, having a sense of belonging, working towards a common goal, and sharing a sense of purpose are all critical to workplace wellbeing. Of course it goes without saying that our differences ought to be celebrated, but by bringing our individual identities together in a meaningful way, we can transform work into something that strongly benefits our mental health. 

That’s one of the philosophies that GoVida was built on: to create shared joy and energy. To bring people together in a way that celebrates individuality, whilst forging healthy connections. That’s why our employee wellbeing platform is packed with personal wellness tools, as well as team challenges and bonding activities – making you feel like part of something bigger. Making you feel like part of a team.  

So if you’re struggling with loneliness right now, find out what GoVida could do for you. 

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